Little Abused Souls Await Justice
In every civilized nation of the world children are regarded as innocent, special and valuable assets through whom significant societal transformation occurs. Due to this very reason they have the right to life, survival, development, education, protection, physical existence, identity and nationality, and therefore must be protected from all forms of harm, abuse, neglect, violence, maltreatment and exploitation.
The horrific and gruesome incident of child abuse in Kasur has left us all, the Pakistanis, astounded. It is hard to digest the fact that in Ganda Singhwala, a small village near Kasur where almost everybody knows each other, this heinous crime of child sexual abuse took almost ten years to unveil itself. Pakistani media organizations estimated that 280 to 300 children most of which were boys were victims of sexual abuse, after the discovery of hundreds of video recordings showing children being coerced to perform sex acts. The scandal involved an organized crime mafia that sold child pornography to porn sites and in return blackmailed and extorted relatives of the victims. Up till now no proper investigation has been made and rumors are that the police and other officials of the government are trying to hide the facts of the incident which is considered to be the biggest child abuse scandal in the history of Pakistan.
Talking about the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 first, it is pertinent to mention here few fundamental rights that are enshrined to protect its citizens in general and children in particular to which the state is duty bound to enforce the same. Article 3 provides “State shall ensure the elimination of all forms of exploitation and the gradual fulfillment of the fundamental principles…” Article 4(1) states that a person “…enjoy the protection of law and to be treated in accordance with law is the inalienable right of every citizen…”, Article 14(1) states “The dignity of man… shall be inviolable.”, Article 25 explains that “(1) All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law and (2) there should be no discrimination on the basis of sex and that (3) nothing in this Article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the protection of women and children”.
On the contrary, while acknowledging the fact that there are no specific laws relating to child sexual abuse and its definition, there exist some codified penal provisions in Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 that “implicitly” cater for such horrendous incidents mainly including section 377, which deals with unnatural offences elucidating that whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than two years nor more than ten years, and shall also be liable to fine; section 375(v) which speaks of rape, committed when a man has sexual intercourse with a woman, with or without her consent when she is under sixteen years of age. The punishment for such offence is death or imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than ten years or more than twenty five years and shall be liable to fine; section 351 dealing with the offence of assault; sections 359 and 362 dealing with kidnapping and abduction of children under the age of ten and fourteen years and section 367A kidnapping or abducting in order to subject a person to unnatural lust. The offender shall be punished with death or rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to twenty five years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Other relevant laws include section 4(r) of The Police Order, 2002 providing that it is the duty of police officials to aid individuals who are in danger of physical harm particularly women and children and the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance, 2000 relating to accused who are juvenile to be treated in accordance with the Ordinance and proper procedure envisaged in it.
All these laws are intact but inadequate at the same time and keeping in mind the evil and sensitivity of child sexual abuse our criminal justice system needs to improve and laws need to be updated to meet the new challenges since the basic and the foremost purpose of the criminal justice is to save the society from evil and free it of crime. This could only be done if the criminal law be interpreted, applied and enforced in a manner to achieve these objectives.
It is, therefore, essential to draft and make a comprehensive legislation covering all elements of child sexual abuse. It is pertinent to mention here that a Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2014 is already introduced in National Assembly through which ‘Child Pornography,’ ‘Sexual Abuse’ and ‘Cruelty to child’ are defined and made as separate offences. Such legislation must pass through both the Houses and be made law expeditiously. On the contrary, the matter if not properly investigated by the JIT, which probably just delay the matter, it may be referred to the Military Courts. Moreover, an Anti-Child Sexual Offences Unit should be established in every police subdivision, a monitoring cell should be established at the District Police Office for monitoring and collecting data, forensic laboratory should fully equip with latest equipment and the investigation should be conducted by a sub-inspector, who will be responsible for recording the statement of the child victim and registration of the First Information Report (FIR). The duty police officer shall register the first information report (FIR) in the same words as narrated by the victim child and the investigation officers should be supportive and co-operative to the child and the family and duly perform their duty.
The crux of the matter is that the victims have lost their valuable and priceless dignity and for that every institution and all stakeholders including the civil society, families and children themselves need to act up together in order to achieve justice and to create an environment in which each and every child in Pakistan is safe and protected from abuse and exploitation not just at the hands of some strangers but within and outside the family, relatives, teachers and friends. The state has the responsibility to eliminate exploitation, eradicate social evils, treat both the victims and the accused (of the recent scandal in particular) in accordance with law, avoid discrimination, bring forth the facts of the incident and provide justice to the people of the heinous act by treating all equitably.
Let Justice be done though the Heavens fall! And it must be done expeditiously!
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which she might be associated.