Pakistan Needs Comprehensive Law to Combat Child Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse is a silent crime committed under the veil of disguise. Almost all the developing countries are facing this problem. The only effective mechanism in a civilized society to protect children against sexual crimes is the criminal justice system of a country. The criminal justice system needs legislative developments to prevent and curtail child sexual abuse and to protect children against sexual crimes more effectively and strictly.
Child sexual abuse is a serious problem in Pakistan. The forms of child sexual abuse as covered in the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 are molestation, sodomy, rape, sexual abuse without penetration and abduction for sexual abuse which sometimes resulted in murder of the child.
The existing penal laws do not understand child sexual abuse, particularly Section 377, Pakistan Penal Code 1860, which only defines unnatural offences. There is need for comprehensive law to fill all these gaps through appropriate legislation including protection, prevention and procedural steps. There is a need to amend the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 in order to include the best interest of child, just like Section 28(2) the Constitution of Republic of South Africa which states that a child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.
Pakistan needs to develop its criminal justice system by introducing legislative interventions addressing child sexual abuse, similar to the criminal justice system of South Africa which aims to bring all matters relating to child sexual abuse in one uniform statute, criminalize all forms of sexual abuse, replace the certain common law sexual offences and also introduce and replace them with new sexual offences irrespective of gender, protecting complainants of sexual offences and their families from victimization, establish a co-operative response between all relevant government departments with the element of accountability like The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007 (Act 32 of 2007) South Africa. This Act ensures more effective, sufficient investigation and prosecution of offenders by introducing existing sexual offences and creating new offences. This Act also properly recognizes the needs of sexual abuse victims by timely, effective and non-discriminatory prosecution together with a coordinated and uniform approach between relevant Government Departments and accountability of Government officials. This Act also created a National Register for Sexual Offenders (NRSO). Sexual offences Courts were constituted by an amendment in section 55A of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007 by the Judicial Matters Second Amendment Act 43 of 2013. These factors are lacking in the criminal justice system of Pakistan. Therefore, instead of amending the existing laws such as the Pakistan Penal Code, 1960, Pakistan needs one comprehensive and uniform statute like the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007 South Africa which will combat child sexual abuse more effectively.
The prevention of child sexual abuse, the protection of victims, the rehabilitation of victims and the delivery of justice, are not isolated issues. The achievement of these objectives requires a coordinated response of all the key players, which include the police, the prosecution, Courts, medical institutions, psychologists and counselors, as well as institutions that provide social services to the children. The protection of children from violence and abuse thus requires an integrated and coordinated approach. This would result in an effective, responsive and speedy criminal justice system to combat child sexual abuse in Pakistan.