A Taboo, A Sin and a Crime

Pakistan is on my mind frequently, especially the fate of the children. We have two Lamplighter Movement chapters there, one in Islamabad and one in Sndh. I know that both chapters struggle with helping victims of child abuse and trying to keep their chapters going. One of the most informative articles I have read recently about child sexual abuse in Pakistan was in the Pakistan Daily Times on Friday March 21st. I quote from the article,

“Although Pakistan is a signatory of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and even though article 34 of the convention says, “The state partakes to protect children from sexual exploitation and other abuses including prostitution”, one out of every three children is a victim of some kind of abuse in Pakistan”.

In addition, it said the following:

“Research suggests that, across the globe, the incidence of sexual abuse of children is at least 15 percent to 20 percent; small-scale research done in Pakistan also produced similar results. Sadly, most offenders are relatives or religious teachers.”

To read this heart wrenching article see the following URL:

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/15-Mar-2014/a-taboo-a-problem-a-sin-and-a-crime

Incest has no doubt been around since the beginning of mankind. After all, who did Cain and Abel marry but their sisters? Maybe then it was necessary and accepted so no stigma or taboo was tied to it. In today’s world, it is brutal, shameful, tears the heart out of its victims and creates havoc in their lives from that moment on. It is certainly no longer necessary; back in the Old Testament it was about procreation. Now it is about power and control. Most perpetrators were victims themselves. Being a victim does not give anyone the right to repeat the horror that was done to them, on an innocent child. They have the same choices we all have. Do we sink or swim? Too many Twelve Step programs, too many books, too many therapists, and then there’s the book REPAIR Your Life, are available to heal, to recover. When God said, ‘Go and sin no more,” to Mary Magdalene it was clear the choice he was offering her.

Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has a population exceeding 180 million people. According to a report by UPI in December, 2013, experts say that terrorism, inflation, poverty, illiteracy and unemployment are among the factors creating frustration among adults, who take it out on the children. Psychologist Faqiha Rafi, who runs a private clinic in Lahore said that social disintegration is the major culprit behind such high numbers of child sexual abuse victims. It is a serious crime under Pakistani law, with possible punishment of up to life imprisonment. In most cases, the perpetrators are relatives. Shugfta Bhatti, a UNICEF child protection specialist, said that Pakistan has no child protection management system to protect against sexual abuse and that there is no exact data on children being abused in the country.

We desperately need to get more and successful Lamplighter Movement chapters started in Pakistan. The possibility of life imprisonment is a joke if there is no one there to make perpetrators accountable. I received an email this morning from our facilitator in Sndh, Pakistan. He is willing to do anything he can to help victims and says, “They have a problem in the desert areas; many people have no homes especially the woman and young girl who are victims by males of sex (assault) and honor killings.

A form of gender-based violence, an honour killing is the homicide of a family or social group by other members, due to the belief the victim has brought dishonor upon the family or community. They are known in Pakistan as karo-kari. Amnesty International cited 960 incidents of women alone who were slain in honour killings that year. In patriarchal cultures, such as in Pakistan, women’s lives are structured through a strict maintenance of an honour code; hence the necessity in the eyes of many people in Pakistan to remove the offender. Nevertheless, Karo-Kari is an act of murder and often is perpetrated in the name of, among other behaviors, immoral behavior which usually means either infidelity or being raped. A child who has been sexually abused has no chance as they immediately become an unwanted, untouchable, as if they had leprosy. According to women’s rights advocates, the concepts of women as property and honour are so deeply entrenched in the social, political and economic fabric of Pakistan that the government, for the most part ignores the daily occurrences of women being killed and maimed by their families. Sadly, doubts of the effectiveness of legal reforms in Pakistan remain.

I know that it is difficult for those of us living in the United States (which has its own huge problem with sex trafficking and child sexual abuse) who have a home and resources not available to people in Pakistan, to imagine how bad the problem is over there. As one of my facilitators from Kenya said about his country, “Take whatever number you hear about how many children are sexually abused and multiply by 100 and you will still get nowhere near the accurate number.” The same is true in Pakistan.

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