Shocking report reveals more boys are sexually abused than girls in Pakistan's Punjab
A damning report coming from the Punjab province of Pakistan has revealed that more boys are subjected to sexual abuse than girls. The 'confidential' report accessed by Dawn newspaper has been compiled by the home department which presents a terrifying ordeal for the authorities as well as the victims.
In the first five and a half months of 2023, a total of 1,390 incidents of child abuse were reported in Punjab, out of which 959 (69 per cent) were against boys while 431 (31 per cent) were against girls.
The child abuse data was collected region-wise using the field staff. The most number of child abuse incidents (220) were reported in Gujranwala region/division followed by DG Khan (199). Other regions such as Faisalabad (186), Multan (140), Bahawalpur (129), Sheikhupura (128), Sahiwal (127) and Sargodha (103) did not fare any better.
The findings unveiled that Rawalpindi region (69) and Lahore City (89) reported the lowest crime against children than other divisions of the province.
Of the total registered FIRs, challans were submitted in 799 cases, 441 were currently under investigation and 149 had been closed/dismissed. Disturbingly enough, out of the total sexual abusers facing trial, 55 per cent were the neighbours of the victim, 32 per cent were strangers and 13 per cent were relatives.
“The child sexual abuse is influenced by a range of social factors in Pakistan, and patriarchal norms, power imbalances, poverty, illiteracy and social inequalities contribute to the vulnerability of the children," the report reads.
Majority of cases remain unreported
Although, these were not the absolute numbers as most cases did not see the light of day. The report mentioned that the unwillingness of the parents to subject their children to legal and medical hassle was one of the reasons why sexual abuse cases remained underreported.
“It is also a matter of concern that a number of cases remain unreported. In our society, fear and cultural taboos make it difficult to report the crime," read the report.
“Besides other factors responsible for the child abuse are socio-economic stresses, unemployment, low self-confidence and feelings of incompetence, loneliness and psychological unrest," it added.
An Associated Press report in 2020 noted that the majority of sexual abuse crimes against children in Pakistan took place in religious schools. There are more than 22,000 registered madrassas in Pakistan, teaching more than two million children. But many more religious schools are unregistered.
Police say the problem of sexual abuse of children by clerics is pervasive and the scores of police reports they have received are just the tip of the iceberg.
Families in Pakistan are often coerced into "forgiving" clerics, leading to an increase in such cases.