The Lamplighter Movement has a newly formed chapter in Pakistan. Our facilitator sends me links to videos and news articles on child sexual abuse in his country. He said to imagine child sexual abuse as bad as you can imagine it. Then multiply by four and you still won’t get an accurate picture. According to Rana Asif Habib, President of Initiator Human Development Foundation, over 150,000 children are working on the streets and approximately 50% of them are involved in child prostitution.
Manizeh Bano, Director of Sahil ─NGO working for the prevention of child abuse and exploitation─said, “Most of the children who become a part of this vicious circle are the ones who run away from their homes. Poverty, quite evidently, remains one of the most important factors which motivate children to leave the safety of their homes. However, there are several other factors─corporal punishment at school and home ironically superseding all.”
The heart weighs heavy when you think of a child having to turn to prostitution in order to eat. It is extremely difficult to break the vicious cycle of child sexual abuse. 90% of these children, once removed from that environment, inevitably return to it. Most underage prostitutes do not use contraceptives. As a result their average life span is 25-30 years.
Pakistan has no ministry for child protection. Why not? The children of today are the world leaders of tomorrow. I looked at Pakistan’s government website. They have 38 Ministries, including a Ministry of National Harmony. It has a division called the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD). Nice! How harmonious can a country be when 75,000 of their children are involved in prostitution? Do they not hold their children on the highest pedestal of their achievements? Why not? Children are our jewels in a world in desperate need of jewels. They have a division called National Commission for Human Development. Sounds promising. They seem to be involved in setting up adult literacy centers. Good cause. They have a medical camp on vaccination of Hepatitis-B for school children; they visited flood affected areas of Badin Sindh; their Chairperson met with the Federal Minister for Science and Technology. They discussed the post flood situation of literacy in Pakistan and built-in understanding to ensure rehabilitation of educational activities in the flood hit areas of Khyber Pukhtunkwa.
I checked further. They have a Ministry of Human Rights. There! Now we’ve found it! Right! I read their ten Mandates. Nowhere did I see the word “children”. I read their 18 Achievements. Nothing about children. I read their 24 Violations of Human Rights. Nothing about children. By now my eyes were getting bleary. Finally I typed into their search bar, “child sexual abuse”. I clicked on enter with hope in my heart. It sent me to a page that said, “No results found in All Sources for child sexual abuse.” I typed in “children’s rights”, and received the same answer.
I found a division called Professional & Technical Training Division. I read their lofty goal: “Making Pakistan a developed and prosperous country by attaining full potential of its citizens, through demand driven training.” I clicked on a related link called, “Commonwealth Youth Program”. It took me to a link called Asian Travel Guide. I gave up. Pakistan has a problem with child sexual abuse because they don’t think it exists!