A Senate committee has been informed by the NGO Sahil that there was a 32 percent increase in cases of child sexual abuse in the first six months of 2018 as compared to the same period the previous year. The committee was also informed by the Ministry of Human Rights that 3,445 cases of abuse against children were being reported on average annually. For the past several years, Sahil has been noting an increase in such incidents across the country. Experts say that the increase in cases may also be linked to an increased incidence of such issues being reported by families rather than being covered up. There is, however, still a problem in identifying the perpetrators or bringing them to justice, something that various organisations monitoring child abuse have noted. The problem of abuse within households of course remains almost completely hidden.
The Senate committee too has noted that there is a large number of children who remain out of school, with some of them on the streets; these children are at particular risk. Police have also complained that even when they remove children from the streets they often make their way back, often due to the prevailing economic situation in households and the poor condition of public-sector schools from which the dropout rate remains at around 50 percent by the fifth year. The question of child protection following the 18th Amendment is now a provincial matter. This makes it imperative that all the provinces set up mechanisms to provide shelter for homeless children, return and rehabilitate runaway children to their homes and sensitise the police to the need to protect children of both genders. The Child Protection Bureau established in various cities of Punjab has been working for this purpose but quite evidently judging by the figures more effort is required. The PTI government must make it a matter of priority to look into the issues of child protection and also to ensure that its ministers are interested in, and working towards finding solutions, when such significant data is brought forward.