No justice – 06 May 2023

There is a photo – mainly circulated on Twitter a few days back – of a man standing outside a police station, wearing a garland. Generally, one would have moved on from it, had the Twitter posts not specified who the man in question was: a retired school teacher from Khairpur (Sindh) who has recently been acquitted in a rape case that was initiated against him in 2020. Sarang Shar had made the news in 2020 when a video and photographs of him raping a ten-year-old boy had gone viral. The father of the raped child had at the time ensured that the teacher – who tried to escape – was arrested after at least two FIRs were filed against him on rape charges and under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997. According to preliminary reports, the acquittal was done after the victim retracted his statement. After some outrage on social media, representatives of both the federal and Sindh governments came into action and have promised that the man will face justice. In a tweet, Murtaza Wahab, the spokesperson for the Sindh government, said that provincial authorities “will be filing [an] appeal as soon as [the] written judgment is issued. So far just a short order acquitting Sarang Shar, clearly shown to be molesting the child in a video, has been announced by [the] court. Chairman Bilawal is also following up on this issue.” While this news is welcome, it is important to point out that such cases are not new in this country. The powerless are often coerced into either forgiving the criminal or withdrawing the case altogether.

For how long will the weak continue to suffer in this country? The video evidence is right there, which is what makes the acquittal both disappointing and disturbing. We will now just be releasing rapists who masquerade as teachers, helping them gain easy access to vulnerable children? If even with video evidence all over social media the accused is allowed to be set free in less than three years, what hope do we hold for other forgotten victims of other predators?

According to ‘Cruel Numbers’, an annual report complied by Sahil, an NGO working for the protection of children in Pakistan, a total of 4,253 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in 2022. Abuse against children often goes unnoticed in the country and even when noticed most parents prefer not to file complaints for fear that such cases will bring shame to the family. In the absence of trained psychologists in the country, victims of such abuse carry the scars of the trauma they went through for a long time. The government has to step up and send out a loud and clear message that it has zero tolerance for such crimes. From Kasur to Khairpur, our children are easy prey for predators. It is time our justice system came forward to protect this country’s children.

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