I’ve developed this habit of watching a documentary a day. Last night I committed a huge mistake by clicking on a link on YouTube. It said- Pakistan’s Hidden Crime. I was curious. I started watching it. And it was distressing.
And before I write any further about it, I wanna make it clear that it is not about a single country. It is about the exploitation of children all over the world. In some countries it is happening at a large extent, and is coming out in the open, whereas in other countries it is still a hidden crime.
So, the documentary, a very well directed one, was about Peshawar and its street children. Peshawar is very close to Afghanistan and during the Soviet invasion and Taliban era in the country, many Afghans took refuge in Peshawar. Well, that’s a different story. The thing is that Afghanistan grows a huge amount of drugs and Peshawar being close to it, gets an easy access to these drugs.
I am a regular watcher of 101 East, a very good programme on Al Jazeera and I highly recommend it. Once, they showed about the drug problem in Pakistan, specifically concentrating on Karachi, in the south of Pakistan.
The problem is very grave. And the documentary I watched last night showed the collateral damage it does to the children who are made addicted to drugs in Pakistan. There are many children in the streets of Pakistan and they quite frequently fall prey to paedophiles.
Children mostly in the age group of 7-12, still innocent and without any knowledge of the consequences of it, are used by paedophiles, roaming freely and shamelessly on the streets of Peshawar. Mostly truck and bus drivers lure these boys in return of some money or even indulge in sexual harassment by force.
Drug dealers make innocent street children addicts and when they cannot live without drugs, these boys go to paedophiles voluntarily to sell their body. As women don’t roam about freely in Pakistan, specifically in Peshawar, taking boys anywhere with you is not suspicious and frowned upon. So paedophiles take advantage and harass innocent children.
30% of the harassed street children get infected with HIV Aids. The governor of Peshawar, former cricketer Imran Khan, said that he knew about this problem but didn’t know that it was happening at such a great extent. The police in Peshawar said that they have to deal with the Taliban and thus do not have the time to deal with the children.
Psychologists say that the excuse these paedophiles have is that they cannot do anything. They have to satisfy their desires. They try to portray themselves as the victims. Children who have been sexually harassed develop suicidal tendencies. But what adds fuel to the fire is the fact that most of these children become paedophiles when they grow up. First, they don’t know what is happening to them, then they get habitual to it and themselves indulge in it.
Horrendous, atrocious, vicious… All kinds of adjectives fall short while defining these paedophiles.
I could not sleep last night. It was this bad. The eyes of those children, the way they were describing their harassments, was too much to take. But what struck most was how casually the paedophiles narrated their experiences.
Again, this is not about one region, one country or one community. It is a global problem. In Pakistan, boys fall prey to paedophiles, whereas in other countries, it is the girls. The Phillipines has fought this problem and is still fighting. Manny Pacquiao has been a supporter of anti-child sex abuse in his country. In Vietnam too, girls are sold to brothels. These are only a couple of countries. The problem is huge. Really huge!
The first thing I did after watching the documentary was look up at the ceiling. I was so grateful to God for giving me a roof. And then I looked under me and again thanked God for this comfortable bed to sleep in. On my lap was my computer, again a blessing. I had a hearty meal, again a huge blessing.
The things we take for granted, many yearn for these. Those children in Peshawar didn’t have a place to sleep at night, no proper meals and they were unsafe.
It is our collective responsibility to protect our children. And by ‘our children’ I mean every single child we come across. We will not find peace in the mandirs, gurudwaras, mosques and churches. True peace and redemption is helping humanity.