Sexual abuse of young boys and girls in Pakistan’s madrassas (Islamic schools) continues to be both pervasive and suppressed, according to the latest “Cruel Numbers” annual report by Sahil, a child-protection NGO operating in four of the country’s main provinces.
A recent Associated Press (AP) probe provided accounts of the rampant pedophilia, allowed to go unchecked due to a combination of factors, among them the fact that most of the victims are from poor and vulnerable families. Those who do try to complain are often bribed or threatened into silence. As a result, the head of Sahil said, the 359 cases reported by the media over the past decade are “barely the tip of the iceberg.”
A mere fraction of sexual-abuse allegations has reached the court adjudication stage, and only a handful of the perpetrators in those cases have been indicted; very few have been convicted. Islamic judicial officials, and even civil court judges, usually urge those accused of sexual abuse to offer “blood money” to the victim or the family in exchange for withdrawing the complaint and “forgiving” the perpetrator.
In addition, well-connected violators reach out to community leaders, particularly in rural areas, and persuade them to pressure parents of victims into keeping silent by accusing them of bringing shame to their villages or warning them that they will be subject to counter-charges of blasphemy.