Last week, a report was circulated by the Punjab government’s Health Department in Pakistan.
The report mentions data from January to June 15, 2023, and reflects a total of 1,390 reported cases of child abuse. Out of these cases, 69% (959 cases) of the incidents involved minor boys. More is revealed in the same report about the perpetrators. It mentions that of those facing trials for these crimes, 55% were the victims’ neighbors, 13% were relatives, and 32% were strangers. Most rape cases in Punjab were registered in Gujranwala, where 220 cases were reported.
Another alarming statistic which has been shared by sources in Pakistan, is the high level of baby abuse in Punjab. Afshan Bajwa, Chairperson of a Children Rights body, has mentioned that the state needs to take urgent step to curtail this menace, which she has blamed on socio economic issues as well as less sheltering of boys.
Sexual abuse of minors is not a new phenomena in Pakistan. In 2015, the country’s largest reported sexual crimes ring was uncovered in Hussain Khanwala village, district Kasur in Punajb. This ring was operating since 2008 and was rife with cover-ups and official failings. 284 children, from ages 6 to 10, were forcefully raped and abused on film. A gang of 17 men would record, edit and then use the footage to extort money from the villagers. Many families were unaware of this fact until the videos of these children started circulating. 90% of the reported cases were of boys. Many cases of girls remained unreported due to a larger societal stigma attached.
The cases of sexual assault involving children continued to be brought to the public arena. In 2016, 141 child offences were reported from Kasur alone.
Recently, a Facebook post by resident of Punajb in Pakistan shared that in his small town, 5 young boys have been murdered over the last 3 years for refusing to form ‘friendship’ with one notorious and renowned pedophile. Another shares that in his district, 20 boys have been murdered since the holy month of Ramzan for denying to have physical relations with older men. The areas notorious for child sexual exploitation in Punjab are Miawali, Kasur, Taunsa Sharif, whereas in KPK province, Bannu and Abottabad are famous for these kind of crimes.
In 2019, a report was shared by Dawn newspaper, on the coal mines in the town of Shahrag. Situated in a valley in Harnai district in Balochistan, Shahrag boasts “300 to 400” coal mines that are mined by “over 30,000 men.” Shahrag also has a big, ugly secret to hide: its boys are not safe from its men. Children are brought here from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and even from Afghanistan for the sole purpose of sexually abusing them. They are used as sexual partners by mature coal miners — these boys are either unable to say no to unwanted advances or need the cash offered in exchange for providing sexual services.
One adult coal miner shared the following:
“Yes, I have had sex with boys in coal mines and even outside,” says Saqib. “This is not new. Swatis and other Afghans have chhothus [young sidekicks] who are their sexual partners. I do not have one because I am a local. I cannot afford that.”
The coal mines are approximately up to 6,000 feet deep. According to Saqib, children are also not spared there.
“We do have two to three children working inside the coal mines with us,” discloses Saqib, “At the time of coal cutting, deep inside the coal mines, we, the elder coal miners, have had sex with them, too. And [all this] is routine.”
Another coal miner, 65-year-old Sira Pishi shared, “Sometimes children come themselves. “If not, then I can smell which children can be lured [into having sex.]
The mining sites are frequented by trucks which are used to transport the coal to marketplaces. These truck drivers tend to travel with a young sidekick who they can molest and abuse at will. Twelve-year-old Faqir*, for example. All day long, he sits in the driver’s seat of a truck and is only used as a sexual partner by the men. He gets 400 rupees per day as compensation.
There is an alarming increase in all crimes, specially those of the heinous kind that target children, in Pakistan. The society has lost any semblance of decency and is fast becoming devoid of ethics. Introspection is out of the questions, as they always try to find something or someone to blame for all fallacies. Under the circumstances, it makes perfect sense why the country is on a continuous downward spiral.
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