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January 12, 2018

Call for inclusion of educational material in curriculum to address sexual abuse


January 12, 2018

KARACHI: Expressing outrage over the horrific rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kasur, members of civil society gathered at Karachi Press Club on Thursday to protest child sexual abuse and demand justice for the deceased child.

Artists also joined up with the civil society and held a press conference where they stressed on the urgency of including educational material in school curriculum that would create awareness among minors about sexual abuse and how to deal with it.

There is an urgent need to create a dialogue about such incidents to prevent them from happening again in the future, said singer and human rights activist, Shahzad Roy at the press conference. He was referring to the brutal murder of Zainab, who went missing from her Kasur neighbourhood on January 4 and was found dead in a heap of trash a few days later. An autopsy report has confirmed that the minor was raped and sodomised before being choked to death. “We are saying that sexual abuse cases happen everywhere from our very homes to educational institutions, including seminaries,” said Roy. “We are not pigeonholing the problem. Rather we want the state to help create awareness among children and parents hence basic education regarding body autonomy and consent needs to be a part of the curriculum.”

Earlier at the protest, Mayor Waseem Akhtar had said that the perpetrators should be sent to the gallows and that NGOs which are against capital punishment calling it human rights violation need to keep those reservations aside in such cases so that a strong message can be sent to people who do such things. At the presser, activist Jibran Nasir said that while legal measures are important and the perpetrators should be brought before the law, systematic moves also need to be made to protect everyone against sexual abuse.

“If hanging the culprit solved problems then there would be no rapists or killers,” said Nasir. “So while punishment according to the legal system is important in its own right, it’s also necessary to break the silence surrounding these instances.”

He added that it is often forgotten that people who have such vile intentions can also be blood relatives so parents need to educate their children and give them enough room so they can trust their parents enough to tell them if an unforeseen incident occurs.

Nazo Peerzada of Aahung, a non-governmental organisation working on sexual and reproductive health for the past 15 years, spoke about the life skills based education programme that it runs in several schools to raise awareness among youth and children about abuse. “We help children understand body autonomy, so that they not only learn about what good and bad touch is but also know when they have to say no [to someone],” said Nazo. “We hope to empower school and non-school going children by teaching them these skills.” Giving more details about the programme, another representative of Aahung said that its involves a participatory set up in which children are free to ask questions and share their experiences with the instructors, which helps them develop critical thinking. She added that the course covers all aspects of reproductive health, including early and forced marriages and prevention of violence.

“Prevention of violence is the key here because children and young people need to be empowered enough to protect themselves without needing constant monitoring,” she said.

The Aahung representative further said that the content should be made part of primary and secondary school curriculum because children have the right to receive information about their bodies and how to protect themselves from sexual abuse.

Addressing concerns about the victim and their family’s privacy in such cases, both women agreed that although it was encouraging to see the media bringing them into the limelight, it was also incumbent upon journalists to be sensitised so that they focus on maintaining confidentiality as well.

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