Child Sexual Abuse and Lack of Sex Education

In order to establish a strong link between prevailing child sexual abuse cases and lack of sex education we must first head onto define the term Child Sexual Abuse itself. According to the World Health Organisation Report of Consultation on Child abuse prevention Child Sexual abuse maybe defined as:

“Child sexual abuse is the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society.

Child sexual abuse is evidenced by this activity between a child and an adult or another child who by age or development is in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power, the activity being intended to gratify or satisfy the needs of the other person. This may include but is not limited to: — the inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity — the exploitative use of a child in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices — the exploitative use of children in pornographic performance and materials” (Consultation on Child Abuse Prevention,1999)

In the paper What’s in a name? -Defining child sexual abuse by (Liz Kelly) 60 women were interviewed and they were asked if they had negative sexual experience in their childhood.

The questions asked were very broad in nature which gave women the room to define sexual abuse in their own words. This helped them identify common terms and it also helped define new categories for definitions.

The incident was reported of the time when they were 16 years old. 89% of the women call at least one such incident. The variables for the definition of child sexual abuse were the age of the victim, the age of the offender, nature of abuse. It also takes into account that does not discriminate based upon the gender of the victim.

After recognition of the meaning of the phrase child sexual abuse we must head on to the understand a very pertinent fact that child sexual abuse stands distinct from other forms of abuse due to its different dynamics. Firstly, the offender may be someone in close vicinity to the child and maybe someone the child would trust. Furthermore, child abuse may occur over prolonged periods of time until it normalizes due to the offender’s constant manipulation. Many of these cases go unreported as Children lack the basic understanding of the subject matter.

The prevalence of the subject matter can be understood by shedding light onto the statistics of child sexual abuse cases in Pakistan and worldwide. “Worldwide, around 15 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 have experienced forced sex in their lifetime. Boys are also at risk, although a global estimate is unavailable.” (‘Sexual violence – UNICEF DATA’, 2019). The NGO Sahil compiled a report of child sexual abuse in Pakistan which revealed horrific and shocking details of the extent of the issue at hand. The report says that “3,445 children were abused in Pakistan in 2017 and almost 9 children were abused daily” (Sahil,2017). However, these numbers may just be the tip of the iceberg as the many cases might go unreported due to the subject matter being a taboo in the Pakistani Society. Even though Pakistan has ratified the Convention on rights of Child we still do not see the situation improving in terms of sexual violence against children. The international and local statistics highlight the severe gravity of the issue and explains to us why this issue is of relevance and requires attention and instant modifications in the current status quo.

We need acknowledgement of the fact that there is severe underreporting of Child Sexual Abuse cases in Asian countries such as Pakistan and these reasons are mostly accounted to cultural barriers and societal taboos. The stigmatization of this particular topic especially in our region can be assessed with the views of Shamim Akhtar and Phillip Gilligan in their paper Cultural barriers to the disclosure of child sexual abuse in Asian Communities. In the Paper they argue that in Britain there is underreporting and mishandling of Child Sexual abuse cases among people of a particular geographical background namely the Asians. The author says that Asian culture is restrictive and conservative in nature. They tend to ignore and hide such cases in order to avoid turmoil within the family and would not want to tarnish the respect of the family. “Hofstede (1984) reports that Pakistani culture is conservative, in an attempt to reduce uncertainties of life in a more turbulent and vulnerable context” (Gilligan & Akhtar,2005). The paper further headed on to discuss the fact that how izzat,haya and sharam were more valued than children going through child sexual abuse. Consciousness about respect, honor and shame was so important that parents were ready to invalidate their child’s experiences and in many cases forgive the offender so that the family name wouldn’t be stained. The writer further states that the terms respect, honor and shame are not coined in reference to what they mean but rather they are derived from the community’s set of beliefs and regulation. These words transform from being a quality within an individual to a set of jewels he/she must wear at all times to be the perfect individuals the society wants them to be. In addition to this the article talks about the concept of Haya and modesty as an imperative aspect in a Muslim individual’s life. The concept of Haya limits discussions around topics pertaining to sex and that’s why many children feel ashamed of discussing incidents of harassment around adults Many people quote Hadith relating to it however what we need to understand is that this perspective of protecting Haya by not talking about child abuse is wrong in various mannerisms. The paper also highlighted the strange fact that even though people from these communities were hesitant to discuss sexual topics they were very open about shunning child sexual abuse and harsh punishments being offered to them. However in terms of taboos being cast aside some work is being done as assessed by Syed H Abidi, Muhammad Raees and Syed Ali(2015), “In subsequent years the media broadened the public’s comfort zone to a point where families felt less embarrassed when a documentary about sex, or a message promoting reproductive health, was broadcast in the early evening. Interactive educational websites and blogs now offer accurate information and online support on matters pertaining to sexual and reproductive health” (p.2). Even though this might seem comforting but such campaigns and media only have access to urban areas thus people in rural areas are stil unaware of such media efforts and we must note the fact that most of child sexual abuse occurs within rural areas of Pakistan. In the end it is the children who have to bear the brunt of the result of social stigmatization and societal taboos. Towards the end they end up believing that they were at fault for being sexually abused and they must fix something within themselves to be able to set things right.

The next paper that was reviewed was Violence against Children: A Challenge for Public Health in Pakistan. This paper uses Pakistan as a case-study to look into violence against children. Most research done in Pakistan is observational, descriptive, and anecdotal with data collected through survey methods and interviews with small sample sizes. Interviews were taken of the large families based in the rural areas of Pakistan where there seems no sort sex education prevailing. Illiteracy in the rural areas lead to such violence against children especially because people are not aware of the severe affects such acts against the children. It not only affects the children and their families but also it leads to numerous diseases in the society and the overall slowing down of the economy. The global estimates reveal that infants and very young children, aged 0 to 4 years, are highest risk in low income countries compared to high income countries. This indicates that poverty is also a factor of violence against children. Interviews revealed that not only poverty but other factors such as poor legal protections, illiteracy, large family size, and unemployment, create an enabling environment for violence against children. Lack of empirical data makes it difficult to assess the magnitude of this issue (Haider & Malik,June 2007).

After having established the issues surrounding discussion of child sexual abuse cases in Pakistan, sex education must be defined and its parameters should also be set. Sexuality Education has been defined by the World Health Organization and has been discussed in the paper Sexuality education- what is it? (2010) as:

“Learning about the cognitive, emotional, social, interactive and physical aspects of sexuality. Sexuality education starts early in childhood and progresses through adolescence and adulthood. It aims at supporting and protecting sexual development. It gradually equips and empowers children and young people with information, skills and positive values to understand and enjoy their sexuality, have safe and fulfilling relationships and take responsibility for their own and other people’s sexual health and well-being. (WHO 2010 )”(sexuality,2010).

It is utmost important for individuals to receive sexuality Education within a safe and sound environment rather than having to explore on their own and risking their safety. “Good-quality sexuality education has an impact on positive attitudes” (Tanton et al. 2015). In this era of shrinking world and globalization we need to move past the informal way of sexuality education and we need to have a more uniform and high quality curriculum to tackle the issue. Even though parents, friends are imperative in one’s learning processes and to learn through them is inevitable and important however they are incomplete as they may not talk about all the things that need to be discussed and implemented e.g the physical aspects and the emotional aspects. Above all we need to understand that provision of sex education and knowledge of one’s own body and basic biological functions is a human right that must not be denied to anyone around the world. “Sexuality education does not deprive children of their ‘innocence’. Giving children information on sexuality that is scientifically accurate, non-judgmental, age-appropriate and complete, as part of a carefully phased process from the beginning of formal schooling (including kindergarten and pre-school) is something from which children can benefit” (sexuality,2010).

According to an article published in the Daily times Mohsin Saleem Ullah (2017) sex education in Pakistan is a necessity that we cannot avoid at this point in time. He states that even though the topic itself is taboo in the Pakistani Society the number of crimes relating to sexual violence and especially sexual violence against children are on a rise. He further stated that presence of NGOs abroad such as BHP Billiton are putting the Pakistani government to shame as these NGOs are the ones providing basic sex education to children in rural areas. Also he reiterated that due to absence of a sex education curriculum in Pakistan many Children resort to pornography and information from friends which are not reliable in any terms.

In the research paper Sex Education-A course in high school English the writer emphasizes on the pertinence of sex education and in contrary to the popular belief that sex education belongs at home it stated that it should be part of the High School English curriculum. According to William E. Klingele (1973), The High School Journal, Vol. 57, No. 3 , “The teacher, as a leader and counselor, will find innumerable methods which are quite effective in teaching English when sex is the main material to utilize. Students can be directed in research activities in which individual reports dealing with various topics such as sex crimes, VD, illegitimacy, etc. can be the source for speech activities, discussions, and themes. As a topic for developing the writing skills one would have to search to find one that is of more interest to the high school student than is the topic of sex” (p.3).

In the paper The role of the family in child sexual abuse prevention program the authors Mariamne H. Whatley and bonnie Trudell, examines the role of parents as both the participant and a problem in school sex education. Family which involves both a parent or a “caretaking” adult can be responsible for and committed to a caretaking relationship with a child. Thereby being pertinent in defining a child exposure to the issue. Klein and Hickman have called for educating parents about child sexual abuse (1986), which is important in part of prevention and is more affective in an isolated classroom experience. One study found (swan, press, and briggs,1985), on account of being offered attending a play on child sexual abuse. 75% of parents surveyed were positive and none were negative. This can also encourage educators in drawing parental support, to avoid parental displeasure. Whereby, parental input is at the heart of designing such programs. The limitations of study is where such programs. The limitations of such study is where parents are also potential abusers and the “stranger danger” has limited educational value.

Next the paper that was reviewed was Child sexual abuse: prevention or promotion? By Rebecca M Bolen. The article offers a different approach the grave matter of child sexual abuse, it claims that instead of targeting potential victim of child sexual abuse we should also highlight and bring into light potential offenders and target them with prevention program. The article questions that have prevention programs reduced abuse it acknowledges the success of prevention programs, that empower children to tackle potential child abuse situations and they feel capable to ward of dangerous situations they might land in. The child abuse program were initially directed towards children because they were initially directed towards children because they were initially directed. The child abuse program were initially directed towards children because they were the immediate victims and their safety had to be increased at all cost.

Secondly, recognizing offenders is extremely difficult even some of them might depict similar patterns in their actions and thought process but others were seemingly regular individuals. Finally, we must consider the current prevention programs and re-evaluate their effectiveness in light of modern research behaviors.

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