NCSW forms group to help end child abuse

National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) on Tuesday formed a core group of civil society organisations (CSOs) for initiating consolidated and sustainable efforts to end child sexual abuse (CSA).

The core group was created at an urgent meeting of civil society organisations, representatives of law enforcement agencies and human rights activists called by the NCSW Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz to discuss progress of Zainab’s case and future strategy for quick response towards any such unfortunate incident. The meeting was attended by a large number of civil society representatives and activists.

Participants of the meeting strongly condemned the incident and urged the government to take concrete measures for zero tolerance towards child sexual abuse. They urged media to respect privacy of the victim and his or her family, avoid sensationalism and ensure constant follow up of the story of such cases so that a social change can be achieved through media awareness.

Sharing the alarming statistics on CSA, Mumtaz Gohar from Sahil said that in first six months of 2017, at least 1,764 cases of CSA were reported in the country. Among them, 129 cases were reported in Kasur including 12 cases of murder after sexual assault. “Unfortunately, the number of unreported cases may be in millions,” he said.

Sharing his experience of working with law enforcement agencies and community in CSA issues, Babar Bashir from Rozan suggested raising awareness on CSA through schools.

GD Pakistan Valarie Khan said that a comprehensive National Action Plan to address CSA was formulated in 2006 which was never implemented as it was not adopted by the provinces after devolution.

The participants appreciated the formation of a committee on gender and child issues in Islamabad Police Department but said that such initiatives should be institutionalised.

Women MPs resolve

Separately, Women’s Parliamentary Caucus (WPC) met on Tuesday to find resolve to the growing incidents of sexual abuse and exploitation in the society

The nation shook by the brutal murder of Zainab was groping for solutions. Members of the WPC from across parliamentary parties in the National Assembly participated under the chairpersonship of MNA Shaista Pervez Malik, secretary WPC.

It was unanimously agreed that the prime responsibility of child rearing lies with the parents who should be sensitised along with school teachers. It was strongly recommended that community vigilance, an old cultural mechanism, should be revived and encouraged, and police reform in this regard be introduced.

It was further proposed that DNA should be the determining factor in conviction for expeditious dispensation of such cases. It was strongly recommended that special courts should be setup to deal with all such cases of child molestation and sexual abuse.

Besides, these cases should criminalised by taking them out from the jurisdiction of civil courts through appropriate legislative amendment, and that capital punishment should be given to the culprits of all such heinous crimes. The need for a strong referral mechanism was underscored with 24/7 helpline and speedy access to psycho-legal counselling. The participants unanimously agreed to establish the National Child Protection Commission at the earliest. It was also emphasised that the media, including press, electronic and social need to be sensitised for developing a responsible code of conduct for reporting in such matters.

The politicisation of these cases especially Zainab case was widely condemned throughout the meeting by every participant, regardless of her party affiliations.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2018.

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