Parents, teachers, civil society need fight against child sexual abuse

Zubair Qureshi

Schools are the first line of defence against child’s sexual abuse and collaborative efforts are needed to deal with the menace. Head of Institute of Psychiatry and World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Mental Health Training and Research at Benazir Bhutto Hospital Professor Dr. Fareed A. Minhas expressed this while talking to the audience in an awareness seminar titled ‘“Unkahi” – Child Sexual Abuse.’

The institute organized the seminar with an aim to bringing together mental health professionals, social workers and schools to fight jointly against child abuse.

Besides a good number of psychiatrists, representatives from St Ainee’s Convent, Siddique Public School, St. Mary’s School, Beaconhouse School System, Child Protection Bureau and NGOs including Sahil and ROZAN attended the seminar.

Prof Minhas made it clear that fighting against child sexual abuse was a collaborative effort and the Institute of Psychiatry alone was incapable to deal with the magnitude of the problem; thus a partnership with NGOs and schools is inevitable.

Dr Ambreen Ahmed from ROZAN appreciated the efforts of the institute for taking the initiative and explained that child sexual abuse was an activity in which an adult, or an older child, uses a younger child in a sexual way. There is a common misconception that child abuse is only rape; it is a more comprehensive phrase that also includes non-touching activities like showing pornographic material etc., she said. She shared the prevalence of the problem; 1 in 5 girls and 1in 20 boys in the USA while according to local research, although very preliminary, 1in 10 children in Pakistan may be effected. These may be gross underestimates due to underreporting as a consequence of the stigma attached with the menace, she said.

All children are at risk, she vehemently declared. We have an inherent tendency to think that bad things will not happen to our children. Boys as well as girls are at risk at any age.

Socioeconomic factors, localities, and nationalities do not make any difference to the demographics, she said. There are those who are more at risk including girls from 6-12 years of age, boys from 11-15 years of age, children working as domestic help, street children, children in transport industry, in institutions, mentally and physically handicapped children and children in single parent families, she said. Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Head of the Child
Psychiatry Unit at Institute of Psychiatry Dr Ayesha Minhas talked about the institute’s manual on Parent and Teacher Training Programme which is in evolution and is designed according to our culture.