Children at risk – 15 Dec 2022

HOW diseased must we be as a society that, four years after little Zainab Ansari`s gruesome ordeal galvanised the nation, incidents of child abuse, rape and murder still remain a regular feature of the news cycle? It is alarming how frequently incidents involving the rape and murder of children appear to be occurring in recent days. At least three stories in this paper on Wednesday alone concerned heinous crimes against children. In Karachi, police arrested a six-year-old girl`s adult neighbour for raping and killing the child and dumping her body in an abandoned house outside the metropolis. She had stepped out of her house to buy something from a vendor. Another story concerned a case involving an 11-year-old`s alleged rape by her stepfather.

After being convicted earlier, the stepfather was exonerated of the charge because the Sindh High Court saw deficiencies in the case investigation.

The third of the stories highlighted an unfortunate reality that needs to be discussed more. The chief justice of the Federal Shariat Court, who has been hearing a case pertaining to the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act of 2018, wondered at one point whether the state was doing enough to protect transgender children, as they are most vulnerable to exploitation. `It is unfortunate that these children are abandoned by their own families and, as a result, they are abused by criminals and fall prey to paedophiles and other predators in our society,` Chief Justice Syed Muhammad Anwer remarked. The court also made the helpful suggestion that we should have special homes for such abandoned children where they can be protected and looked after. It is inexcusable that such facilities do not already exist. Have we learnt nothing about the need for proactively protecting our children against some of the worst forms of violence perpetrated by human beings? Important strides were made through the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Act of 2019, which was meant to reduce kidnappings, quickly recover children and also increase awareness about the dangers they face. However, its implementation has left a lot to be desired. It is imperative that we introduce our children to concepts like `stranger danger`, `good touch, bad touch` at a very early age as a minimum means to ensure their safety. The government must launch a nationwide awareness campaign regarding this menace and educate parents and guardians to protect their children and wards against the dangers they face.

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