A number of celebrities, some in attendance while others sharing their thoughts via recorded video messages, extended their support to the campaign against child abuse at a presser organised at the press club on Friday where they called upon the government to implement all relevant laws related to children’s rights.

They also urged the government to appoint trained staff at hospitals to handle cases of child abuse, establish separate reporting desks for child abuse cases at police stations and make changes in the school curriculum to help children understand and report abuse.

The press conference was organised to launch a film campaign on child abuse by Angeline Malik, the producer and director of the venture.

“A few years ago, the numbers of child abuse cases were only a matter of stats for me until I went to Kasur and met a victim of child sexual abuse,” Malik said, explaining what motivated her to launch the campaign.

Sharing the victim’s psychological trauma, she said the girl had developed strong fears and screamed whenever a door slammed in the home or she heard her mother’s voice.

“No child should go through what she experienced. That’s why I launched this campaign so that our voices are heard,” Malik said, while appreciating the support of her colleagues and Sahil, a non-profit organisation working for child protection.

Referring to the Zainab Alert Bill passed by the National Assembly two years after the Kasur killings, she said that while that’s good news, the important thing was to see the law being implemented in letter and spirit.

Continuing on the same point, she cited Pakistan’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and said the country still lagged far behind in its implementation.

To a question, she said it’s the first film on the subject and more would follow on the same theme to create awareness and raise a collective voice against the heinous crime.

Samina Ahmed said child abuse was a grave crime and its growing incidents should be a matter of concern for everyone.

“Ideally, children should be raised in a healthy and secure environment. To me, making children understand about good and bad touch is like snatching part of their childhood [but unfortunately we need to do this as we don’t live in a perfect environment],” she observed.

On the Zainab Alert Bill, she said apparently its jurisdiction was restricted to the federal capital and the respective provincial governments needed to do their legislation on this subject.

Faraz Khan, a member of the advisory board of Muhafiz, a digital app for reporting threat/s to support groups and institutions including the law enforcement agencies, underscored the need for changing societal mindset and making institutions law-abiding bodies.

Sharing her sentiments, Bushra Ansari demanded brutal punishment for perpetrators of child abuse and said they should be subjected to the same pain, torture and injuries that they inflicted upon their victims.

“[The] death penalty is not enough for offenders of such heinous crimes as this punishment inflicts pain for a moment. Such offenders should be subjected to horrifying, brutal death so others don’t dare indulge in such inhumane acts,” she said, while asking government to direct educational institutions, including the religious ones, to install cameras at their premises.

Ansari was of the opinion that the matter of child abuse was interlinked with many social issues including growing population and there was a need to make people understand the importance of and practice family planning.

Zeba Bakhtiar said child abuse was a complicated matter and, unlike common perception that it had more to do with the lower-income households, it was prevalent in all sections of society and needed an in-depth psychological approach to understand the reasons behind it and come up with the right solutions.

Among those who had recorded their messages were Ushna Shah, Hina Bayat, Saman Ansari, Ahmed Ali Butt, Alyy Khan, Sarwat Gillani, Samiya Mumtaz, Rasikh Ismail, Salma Hasan, Suzain Fatima and Nida Yasir.

Originally published in Dawn, January 11th, 2020