Sexual exploitation is not unusual in Pakistan, however, rising trend of the monstrous crime ‘rape’—especially rape of minors—is alarming and needs immediate attention of the government and a deterrent punishment.

In a recent heart-rending incident, a seven-year-old Zainab was reportedly sexually abused in Kasur. This is the fresh incident of statutory rape in which a minor girl fell prey to pedophilia. The black-hearted man just to satisfy his concupiscence ruined the life of the girl by his evil act.  This is disgusting!

According to SAHIL, As many as 11 cases of child sexual abuse are reported from across Pakistan every day. Due to poor implementation of child protection laws, zero conviction, a faulty and delayed justice system, sexual frustration and other reasons, rape cases of minors are increasing with an alarming trend. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), an incident of rape occurs every two hours in the country.

Section 375 and 376 of Pakistan Penal Code defines rape as (A man is said to have committed rape, when he has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the five following descriptions, (i)against her will. (ii)without her consent, (iii)with her consent, when the consent has been obtained by putting her in fear of death or of hurt, (iv)with her consent, when the man knows that he is not married to her and that the consent is given because she believes that the man is another person to whom she is or believes herself to be married; or (v)With or without her consent when she is under sixteen years of age.

The law appears to be significantly more progressive than the picture painted by the statistics. But despite all of this the law still has a long way to go before it will have a tangible impact on the lived experiences of Pakistani children’s. For the law to create real societal change, it needs to be used effectively by human rights groups and civil society to build public pressure against perpetrators of violence against children.  In my view, this was a result of public pressure and outrage over zainab’s rape and murder. Without this, it is unlikely that justice would have been served.

As such incidents highlight, there is a clear gap between the law and reality. This is due to a lack of law enforcement, a weak criminal justice system, lack of political will and lack of public pressure. The parliament in Pakistan largely consists of landed aristocrats and rightist religious forces who propagate and deny from this reality. Civil society lobbies for children’s rights, however due to the power of religious forces in Pakistan they are unable to make mass progress. Ultimately, attitudes towards children, inside and outside of parliament need to change for violence against children to decrease. Awareness needs to be created about the recent progressive legal changes that protect children from violence, and all violent practices against children must be loudly denounced in order to shift attitudes. Without these efforts, the law remains largely irrelevant despite its potential to create positive change In order to put a full stop to the shameful crime, the government needs to take serious steps and law-enforcers need to implement the law in its true letter and spirit. Under Pakistan Penal Code section 376: “Whosoever commits rape shall be punished with death or imprisonment of either description for a term which shall be not less than 10 years or more, than 25 years and shall also be liable to fine.”  To counter rape cases, rapists should be whipped and stoned to death in public so that no one in the future, dares to commit this heinous crime.

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