October 22nd, 2020 

Bureau report


PESHAWAR

In order to put a stop to child sexual abuse, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has decided to amend the Child Protection and Welfare Act 2010 by including severe penalties.

After formal approval by the Cabinet, the bill will be presented in the Assembly. The amendments include the public hanging of those convicted of child sexual abuse, the establishment of a forensic laboratory, the creation of ten to fifteen categories or degrees of sexual abuse in examinations, banning the use of cellphones and other electronic devices in schools, and creating awareness in communities through lady health workers. The amendments also propose that child sexual abuse be made an unpardonable offense.

“The culprits should be punished according to the law, and create some sort of deterrence so that our coming generations, our daughters, sons and every member of society, are protected,” said Kamran Bangash, Special Assistant to the Chief Minister of KP on Information and Higher Education, during a press briefing.

Opposition parties are in line with the government in taking steps to address the rise in incidents of child sexual abuse in the region.

A committee was formed under the directions of the Speaker of the provincial assembly, which included all members,” explained a member of the KP Assembly, Sardar Hussain Babak of the Awami National Party (ANP). “Several recommendations were put forward to amend the law, including the inclusion of life imprisonment, while the KP government was urged to ensure the implementation of the existing law. The committee members and all participants agreed that we need to determine the root cause for such crimes in our society and their worrying increase.”

While children’s rights groups have called for collective efforts to prevent child abuse and sexual exploitation, they also assert that public executions are entirely unconstitutional.

“To execute a convict by hanging, to make a spectacle out of it by broadcasting it or recording videos of it, has no provisions in the Constitution of Pakistan,” posited Imran Takkar, a child rights activist in KP. “Should the amendments be passed, and a convicted felon is hanged and his video circulated among the community in a misguided attempt to dissuade such crimes, it is likely that the convict’s family or counsel will challenge this in the court. And when the judge, according to what has been ordained by the Constitution, rules the making of such videos illegal, then all the resources and efforts put into making the law in the first place will have been squandered.”

There has been a 16% increase in the number of child sexual abuse cases being reported across the region this year – in the past twenty months, around 370 such cases were recorded in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of which 20 involved the murder of the victim after rape. Well over half the cases, that is 234 incidents were reported in five districts, among which Nowshera, Mardan, Peshawar, and Dera Ismail Khan are the most sensitive regions.

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