HOW TO PROTECT CHILDREN AGAINST ABUSE

Child abuse is one of the most ignored issues in Pakistan despite its seriousness. The number of reported cases has been increasing which is now getting the attention of people. Child abuse can result from physical, emotional or sexual harm and can result in both short term and long term injury. In many cases, the children are not even aware that they are victims of child abuse.

Different types of child abuse

Child abuse takes many forms such as physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and even emotional abuse which may be as harmful as physical abuse.

Physical abuse is deliberately hurting a child or injuring her/him. It may not always be done with the intention to hurt a child and might even be justified as being a form of discipline. However, it still constitutes as physical abuse if the disciplining is fear-based and done while acting out in anger.

Neglect is also a form of child abuse where a carer of the child fails to provide conditions which are essential for the healthy physical and emotional development of a child.

Emotional abuse, which is also called psychological abuse or maltreatment is the most common form of child abuse. It includes acts of omission, not showing love and affection, humiliation, setting unreasonable expectations, etc.

Child sexual abuse is when an adult, adolescent, or a child, abuses their age, authority or power to manipulate a child into a sexual act or expose them to inappropriate sexual content or behavior. Child sexual abuse can occur through threats and physical force, but in some cases the abuser may manipulate the child into believing that it is an act out of love or that the child ‘asked for it’. All children are vulnerable to sexual abuse; however girls and disabled children are even more likely to be abused. Abusers can be both male and female; with some being serial perpetrators while others might be more opportunistic or situational.

Bullying: It is very important that children are protected from various other dangers as well such as bullying at school or outside. It is possible that children are picked on or teased by other children who may be stronger. They may also be physically hurt by them. In some situations children do not feel confident enough to talk to their parents about it, or may even be embarrassed or threatened by the bullies. There are also cases where children are exposed to inappropriate situations simply because they are accompanying their older siblings or other adults where they may experience inappropriate things. These could range from adult movies to drugs or even abusive language and violence.

Identifying signs of child abuse

It is not always easy to identify the signs of child abuse as it is not always obvious. A child might not open up to anyone about what is going on. This could be because they are scared that the abuser might hurt them if they were to find out, they might not have anyone to tell or fear that no one would believe them. Additionally, the person who abused them may be someone they love and want to protect. Unfortunately, in many cases the children are not aware that what is happening to them is abuse.

If children show a sudden and unexplained change in behavior, mood, or school performance, cry a lot for no reason, have eating or sleeping problems and complain of constant aches and pains, it is important that the families or caretakers take notice. A child who is, or has been, abused often shows excessive interest in violent or sexual activities, may have unexplained injuries, wet his/her bed frequently and/or feel discomfort in relation to an adult or another older child. For older children, specifically teenagers, they start showing unexplained changes in mood, signs of depression, unexplained fears of certain places and people, violent behavior, sudden and unexplained drops in school performance, sudden and excessive changes in eating and sleeping patterns, self-harming behavior, lying or running away from home and sometimes unexplained, unnecessary or excessive gifts or money from older children or adults.

Victims of sexual abuse are affected in a number of ways and these effects can vary depending on the severity of the abuse, age of the child, relationship of the abused child to the abuser and most importantly, the support that a child receives from people around her or him. The emotional effect on children can manifest itself in the form of age-inappropriate behavior such as thumb sucking, scratching and picking at skin or nails, conduct disturbances, anxiety issues, nightmares and impaired social interaction and academic problems.

How to support children including psychological and emotional support

It should be our responsibility as parents, teachers, and caretakers to ensure that we try to prevent child abuse. One of the biggest reasons children are so vulnerable is because of their inability to speak about this to someone older. Since this topic is very sensitive, many parents and adults feel uncomfortable talking about such issues. However, if we educate our children about Child Sexual Abuse we would be able to prevent it or address the situation in a timely way if they were to ever encounter it.

It is very important that these children are given specific information that is age-appropriate about sexual abuse so that they can recognize such behavior. They should be taught techniques to handle such dangerous situations and encouraged to open up about it if something like this were to happen. What helps the most is educating children about the private parts of the body that need to be protected and why. They should also be wary of the differences in touch such as good touch, bad touch, and secret touch. Children should be taught how to say no to any sort of touching that makes them uncomfortable, and finally, they should be given unconditional love and support.

Our support makes a lot of difference in the life a child who has been sexually abused. By making the child feel like it was his or her fault, not believing them, showing anger towards them or being emotional only makes it worse. It would be helpful to use phrases that show them that you are there for them, that they are not to be blamed and that you believe them.

Maha Rauf is a qualified developmental and applied psychologist with a masters degree from Turkey. she has a diverse experience of research and counseling of children and adolescents. She also has experience of working with children with special needs and learning difficulties, and has benefited many by developing customized study plans and strategies to facilitate and promote learning. She is currently working as a Special Education Coordinator/Counselor at Beaconhouse Newlands Campus, Islamabad.
She is available to provide support and guidance, and can be reached at maharauf@gmail.com

LAWS ON CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

Who is a child?

Definition of a child varies according to the jurisdiction. For the purposes of child labour laws, any person who has not yet reached the age of fourteen is a child. In another labour law a child is defined as a person under the age of 15. For the purposes of discussion on child sexual abuse, age of a child is limited to 18 years in Sindh and 16 in other jurisdictions.

What is child sexual abuse?

Legal definition of sexual abuse is provided is Section 377A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), 1860 as:

Section 377A PPC, Sexual Abuse:

“Whoever employs, uses, forces, persuades, induces, entices or coerces any person to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in fondling, stroking, caressing, exhibitionism, voyeurism or any obscene or sexually explicit conduct or stimulation of such conduct either independently or in conjunction with other acts, with or without the consent where age of person is less than eighteen years, is said to commit the offence of sexual abuse.”

Any sexual activity between a child/adolescent and an adult, with or without physical touch is termed as child sexual abuse. Whoever makes another person engage in, or assists another person engage in acts under this section will be liable of criminal action under this section..

Consent

Under Clause (V) of Section 375 PPC, sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 16 years would automatically be rape. The law however lacks a similar provision for male children.

Forms of Abuse

Sexual Abuse

Other than the definition provided in PPC, sexual abuse is also defined within the terms of domestic relationships in Sindh and Balochistan, under the Sindh Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2013 and Balochistan Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2014.

Exposure to Obscene and Sexually Explicit Material

Section 292A. Exposure to seduction:

“Whoever seduces a child by any means whatsoever with an intent to involve him in any sexual activity or exposes him to obscene and sexually explicit material, document, a film, video or a computer generated image or attempts to do the aforementioned act, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year and may extend upto seven years or with fine which shall not be less than one hundred thousand rupees and may extend upto five hundred thousand rupees, or with both.”

Under Section 292A of the PPC, three specific types of actions constitute an offence:

  1. The act of seducing a child to involve him in any sexual activity (the word seduction is not defined under the law resulting in it having a wide definition);
  2. Exposes him to obscene and sexually explicit material, document, a film, video or a computer-generated image;
  3. or attempts to do the aforementioned act.

A child does not need to be actually seduced or have actually seen/watched any of the obscene and sexually explicit material. An attempt by the perpetrator to seduce a child or exposing him to sexually explicit material is enough to constitute an offence.

Incest

Sexual contact within the meaning of Section 377 of PPC, with a child by any of the family members is considered sexual abuse. Also sexual abuse with legally married husband or wife below the age of 18 would amount to an offence under this section.

Kidnapping and Abducting

Section 364A of PPC deals specifically with cases of kidnapping of children below the age of fourteen.

Child Pornography

Child pornography has been specifically dealt with under Section 22 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016. In addition to criminalising child pornography, it also allows the aggrieved person, (guardian where the child is a minor) to remove, block or destroy any material identified as pornography under this section.

Child Prostitution

There is no definition of child prostitution in Pakistani legislation. Provisions from PPC can be used to prosecute exploiters of child prostitution as the Pakistan Suppression of Prostitution Ordinance of 1961, that deals with the offence of child prostitution, does not comply with international standards.

Rape

Section 375 of the PPC 1860 defines rape as an intercourse with a woman by a man. In case where the victim /survivor has not reached 16 years of age, the existence of consent would be immaterial and the act would amount to rape.

Sex within a marriage where the bride is less than 18 years of age in Sindh and less than 16 years in jurisdictions other than Sindh, also amounts to rape.

Child marriage

A child marriage is defined as a marriage to which either of the contracting parties is a child.

Currently there are three laws operating across the country on child marriage i.e. the Federal law which is operational in the Islamabad Capital Territory, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; in Sindh; and in Punjab. The primary difference between them is with regards to sentencing, definition of child and liability.

Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929

Section 2, Definitions:

In this Act, unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context;

  • “child” means a person who, if a male, is under 18 years of age, and if a female, is under 5 [sixteen] years of age;
  • “child marriage” means a marriage to which either of the contracting parties is a child;

Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013

Section 2, Definitions:

In this Act, unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context:

  • “child” means a person male or female who is under eighteen years of age;
  • “child marriage” means a marriage to which either of the contracting party is a child;

Punjab Child Marriage Restraint Act 2015

Section 2, Definitions: In this Act:

  • “child” means a person who, if a male, is under eighteen years of age, and if a female, is under sixteen years of age;
  • “child marriage” means a marriage to which either of the contracting parties is a child;

Punishments

Section 377B of the PPC contains penalty for the offence of sexual abuse

Section 377B PPC, Punishment:

Whoever commits the offence of sexual abuse shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years and liable to fine which shall not be less than five hundred thousand rupees or with both.”

Section 292A of the penal code criminalises exposure of children to seduction recognising it  as a form of abuse.

Section 292A PPC, Exposure to seduction:

“Whoever seduces a child by any means whatsoever with an intent to involve him in any sexual activity or exposes him to obscene and sexually explicit material, document, a film, video or a computer generated image or attempts to do the aforementioned act, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year and may extend upto seven years or with a fine which shall not be less than one hundred thousand rupees and may extend upto five hundred thousand rupees, or with both.”

Section 364 A of the PPC details punishment for kidnapping or abduction of a person under the age of fourteen.

Section 364A, Kidnapping or abducting a person under the age of fourteen:

“Whoever kidnaps or abducts any person under the age of fourteen in order that such person may be murdered or subjected to grievous hurt, or slavery, or to the lust of any person or may be so disposed of as to be put in danger of being murdered or subjected to grievous hurt, or slavery, or to the lust of any person shall be punished with death or with imprisonment for life or with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to fourteen years and shall not be less than seven years.”

Under sub-sections (2) and (3) of Section 376 of the penal code, whoever commits rape of a minor or a person with mental or physical disability, will be punished with death or imprisonment for life and fine. In case of a ‘gang rape’ each of the perpetrators will be punished with death or imprisonment for life.

Section 376, Punishments for rape:

(2) When rape is committed by two or more persons in furtherance of common intention of all, each of such persons shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life.

(3) Whoever commits rape of a minor or a person with mental or physical disability, shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life and fine.

(4) Whoever being a public servant, including a police officer, medical officer, or jailor, taking advantage of his official position commits rape shall be punished death or imprisonment for life and fine.”

Section 376-A criminalises disclosure of identity of the victim / survivor of rape. Printing or publishing the name or any other details of a victim or a survivor which may make known the identity of the victim or a survivor of rape is punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three years and with fine.

Section 376A. Disclosure of identity of victim of rape, etc.:

(1) Whoever prints or publishes name or any matter which may make known identity of victim, against whom an offence under sections 354A, 376, 376A, 377 and 377B is alleged or found to have been committted, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Any printing or publication under the order of the officer-in-charge or the investigating police officer of the police station, or under the order of Court, or by or with the authorization in writing of the survivor or by or with the authorization in writing of natural or legal guardian of a victim or a survivor where the survivor is a minor or of unsound mind is exempted by the law.

Under Section 3 (iii) of Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance, child trafficking is punishable with imprisonment which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine. In case the commission of the offence under this clause involves kidnapping or abduction of the survivor / victim, the term of imprisonment can extend to fourteen years with fine.

Section 3, punishment for human trafficking: The human trafficking shall be punishable as under:

“(iii)         Whoever knowingly purchases, sells, harbours, transports, provides, detains or obtains a child or a woman through coercion, kidnapping or abduction, or by giving or receiving any benefit for trafficking him or her into or out of Pakistan or with intention thereof, for the purpose of exploitative entertainment by any person and has received or expects to receive some benefit in lieu thereof shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine:

Provided that if the commission of the offences under this clause involves kidnapping or abduction or any attempt thereto of the victim, the term of imprisonment may extend to fourteen years with fine:

Provided further that plea, if any, taken by the biological parents of the child shall not prejudice the commission of offence under this clause.”

Enhanced punishments are given when in addition to the trafficking and other offences under the law, the victim is kidnapped or abducted or any such attempts are made. Biological parents are not exceptions to the law and are therefore liable under any section of this law if involved in the trafficking of their child.

Cyber crimes

Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 

The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 creates offences which fall into categories of sexual violence.

Section 19 of the 2016 Act deals with offences against modesty of a natural person and minor.

Section 19, Offences against modesty of a natural person and minor:

“(1) Whoever intentionally and publicly exhibits or displays or transmits any information which–

  1. superimposes a photograph of the face of a natural person over any sexually explicit image or video; or
  2. distorts the face of a natural person or includes a photograph or a video of a natural person in sexually explicit conduct; or
  3. intimidates a natural person with any sexual act or any sexually explicit image or video of a natural person; or
  4. cultivates, entices or induces a natural person to engage in a sexually explicit act, through an information system to harm a natural person or his reputation, or to take revenge, or to create hatred or to blackmail, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years or with fine which may extend to five million rupees or with both.

(2) Whoever commits an offence under sub-section (1) with respect to a minor shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years and with fine which may extend to ten million rupees:

Provided that in case of a person who has been previously convicted of an offence under sub-section (1) with respect to a minor shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of fourteen years and with fine.

(3) Whoever produces, offers or makes available, distributes or transmits through an information system or procures for himself or for another person or intentionally possesses material in an information system that visually depicts–

  1. a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct;
  2. a person appearing to be a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct; or
  3. realistic images representing a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine which may extend to five million rupees or with both.

(4) Any aggrieved person or his guardian, where such person is a minor, may apply to the Authority for removal, destruction of or blocking 12 access to such information referred to in sub-sections (1) and (3) and the Authority, on receipt of such application, may pass such orders as deemed appropriate including an order for removal, destruction, preventing transmission of or blocking access to such information and the Authority may also direct any of its licensees to secure such information including traffic data.”

Section 21 criminalizes cyber stalking making it punishable with a maximum term of five years of imprisonment and/or with a fine extending to ten million rupees.

Section 21, Cyber stalking:

“(1) A person commits the offence of cyber stalking who, with the intent to coerce or intimidate or harass any person, uses information system, information system network, the Internet, website, electronic mail or any other similar means of communication to–

  1. follow a person or contacts or attempts to contact such person to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such person;
  2. monitor the use by a person of the Internet, electronic mail, text message or any other form of electronic communication;
  3. watch or spy upon a person in a manner that results in fear of violence or serious alarm or distress, in the mind of such person; or
  4. take a photograph or make a video of any person and displays or distributes it without his consent in a manner that harms a person.

(2) Whoever commits the offence specified in sub-section (1) shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to one million rupees or with both:

Provided that if victim of the cyber stalking under sub-section (1) is a minor the punishment may extend to five years or with fine which may extend to ten million rupees or with both.

(3) Any aggrieved person or his guardian, where such person is a minor, may apply to the Authority for removal, destruction of or blocking access to such information referred to in sub-section (1) and the Authority, on receipt of such application, may pass such orders as deemed appropriate including an order for removal, destruction, preventing transmission of or blocking access to such information and the Authority may also direct any of its licensees to secure such information including traffic data.”

Section 22 of PECA criminalizes child pornography. This offence is punishable with a term extending to seven years in prison and/or a maximum fine of five million rupees.

Section 22, Child Pornography:

“(1) Whoever intentionally produces, offers or makes available, distributes or transmits through an information system or procures for himself or for another person or without lawful justification possesses material in an information system that visually depicts-

  1. a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct;
  2. a person appearing to be a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct; or
  3. realistic images representing a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct; or
  4. discloses the identity of the minor,

shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine which may extend to five million rupees or with both.

(2) Any aggrieved person or his guardian, where such person is a minor, may apply to the Authority for removal, destruction of or blocking access to such information referred to in sub-section (1) and the Authority, on receipt of such application, shall forthwith pass such orders as deemed reasonable in the circumstances, including an order for removal, destruction, preventing transmission of or blocking access to such information and the Authority may also direct any of its licensees to secure such information including traffic data.”

If the victims / survivors in Section 19 or 21 of PECA are minors, the perpetrators are given higher sentence.

The punishments for child marriage vary according to jurisdiction. The persons liable under the laws are an adult marrying the child, the person solemnizing the marriage; and the parent or guardian or any person having charge of the child, whether lawful or unlawful.

Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929

Section 4, Punishment for male adult above eighteen years of age marrying a Child:

“Whoever, being a male above 2 eighteen years of age, contracts a child marriage shall be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to one month, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.”

Section 5, Punishment for solemnising a child marriage:

“Whoever performs conducts or directs any child marriage shall be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to one month, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both, unless he proves that he had reason to believe that the marriage was not a child marriage.”

Section 6, Punishment for parent or guardian concerned in a child carriage:

“(1) Where a minor contracts a child marriage, any person having charge of the minor, whether as parent or guardian or in any other capacity, lawful or unlawful, who does any act to promote the marriage or permits it to be solemnised, or negligently fails to prevent it from being solemnised, shall be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to one month, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both:

Provided that no woman shall be punishable with imprisonment.

(2) For the purposes of this section, it shall be presumed, unless and until the contrary is proved, that where a minor has contracted a child marriage, the person having charge of such minor has negligently failed to prevent the marriage from being solemnised.”

Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013

Section 3, Punishment for male contracting party:

“Whoever, being a male above eighteen years of age, contracts a child marriage shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to three years but shall not be less than two years and shall be liable to fine.”

Section 4, Punishment for solemnizing a child marriage:

“Whoever performs, conducts, directs, beings about or in any way facilitates any child marriage shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to three years, but shall not be less than two years and shall also be liable to fine, unless he proves that he had reason to believe that the marriage was not a child marriage.”

Section 5, Punishment for parents or guardian concerned in a child marriage:

“(1) Where a parent or guardian or any other person in any capacity, lawful or unlawful does any act to promote the child marriage or permits it to be solemnized, or fails to prevent it negligently, from being *solemnized, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to three years but shall not be less than two years and shall also be liable to fine.

(2) For the purposes of this section, it shall be presumed, until contrary is proved, that where a child has been contracted into a marriage, a person having charge of such child failed to prevent the marriage from being solemnized.”

Punjab Child Marriage Restraint Act 2015

Section 4, Punishment for marrying a child:

“If a person, not being a minor, contracts child marriage, he shall be liable to punishment of simple imprisonment which may extend to six months and fine of fifty thousand rupees.]”

Section 5, Punishment for solemnizing a child marriage: 

“Whoever performs, conducts or directs any child marriage shall be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to [six months and fine of fifty thousand rupees], unless he proves that he had reason to believe that the marriage was not a child marriage.”

Section 6, Punishment for parent or guardian concerned in a child marriage: 

“(1) Where a minor contracts a child marriage, any person having charge of the minor, whether as parent or guardian or in any other capacity, lawful or unlawful, who does any act to promote the marriage or permits it to be solemnized, or negligently fails to prevent it from being solemnized, shall be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to six months and fine of fifty thousand rupees:

Provided that no woman shall be punishable with imprisonment.

(2) For the purposes of this section, it shall be presumed, unless and until the contrary is proved, that where a minor has contracted a child marriage, the person having charge of such minor has negligently failed to prevent the marriage from being solemnized.”