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STREETS OF SHAME Rape Culture in India, Nepal, Pakistan

The shocking reality of child sexual abuse

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Thousands of people of all religions, ages and social backgrounds demonstrated in the capital yesterday against the rape and death of a six-year-old girl.

Puja Sah, from Bara District (southern Nepal), was raped by 28-year old Kanhai Gupta, on 20 February.

She was found unconscious and admitted to hospital in Kanti, but passed away on 10 March as a result of the traumas she suffered.

Such a crime has been met by widespread condemnation throughout the country. More and more people are calling on the government to pass legislation that would impose life in prison on convicted rapists and confiscate all their property.

Fr Bill Robins SJ, former provincial of the Jesuits in Nepal, took part in the march. "It is hard to believe that a six-year-old girl can be raped," he said.

"Sexual violence and other crimes are increasing in a society that is increasingly devoid of spirituality. The government and society should give more emphasis to the spiritual sphere."

Several human rights groups have announced various protests, until the culprit is convicted. "Some Nepalis have called on Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala to execute the attacker by hanging. Nepal does not have the death penalty for rapists, but I promise that he will be get the maximum sentence," Nepal's prime minister said.

Under the Criminal Code of Nepal, a rapist can get 10 to 15 years in prison if the victim is under 10; 10 years if the victim is between 11 and 14 years; 6 to 10 years in prison if the victim is between 14 and 16 years; between 5 and 8 years if the victim is under 20; and between 5 and 7 years if he or she is older than 20.

"My daughter has become a victim," said Badri Narayan Sah, the dead child's father.  "The government needs to implement new laws to protect this country's daughters."

"We shall not perform the funeral rite until the authorities assure us that the rapists will face life in prison and confiscation of their property," he added

According to official police figures, at least two or three cases of rape are recorded every week in Nepal.

This year’s International Women’s Day on March 8 was marked in India by the protest against Indian government’s decision to ban India’s Daughter, a BBC documentary about the savage gang rape of a Delhi student in December 2012.

Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old medical student along with a male friend, boarded a private bus to go home after watching a movie. Soon after, the young woman was brutally raped by five men and a juvenile on the bus, after they beat her male friend unconscious.

She later died from her injuries.

The ban on the documentary saw India divided along both gender and ideological lines.

While right-wing male backers of the government swamped social media with denunciations of the BBC and western media as anti-India, many women and the liberal left in India expressed outrage at the ban.

G. Pramod Kumar, senior editor at said it best:

“It’s no secret that India has a horrible record of crime against women and that the country is the fourth most dangerous place for women in the world. Rape is one of the most common crimes against women in India and the UN human rights chief had called it a national problem.”

However, this was not the only story of its kind in the news on International Women’s Day.

A 19-year-old Saudi woman who was gang raped by seven men in 2006 was re-sentenced by a Shariah court to 200 lashes and six months in jail.

The Saudi teen had gone to meet a male friend and was sitting in his car when two vigilante youths questioned them.

On finding out the two were not related or married, they carjacked the vehicle and drove them to a secluded area, where she was raped and her friend was assaulted.

After the 2006 rape trial the guilty men were given lenient, custodial sentences, while the rape victim was sentenced to 90 lashes.

The woman’s lawyer appealed the punishment of the rape victim to a higher Saudi court.

Instead of overturning it in recognition she was the victim of a crime, the court more than doubled her sentence.

According to the website, Saudi Arabia has defended the controversial decision to punish the victim, saying she was at faul.

The report said the “charges were proven” against the woman for having been in a car with a “strange male.”

Not to be outdone, gang rapists in Pakistan upped the ante by not just raping a 23-year old woman, but also making a 40-minute video that has gone viral.

Author Rafia Zakaria, expressing her fury in the Karachi newspaper DAWN, wrote:

“(In Pakistan) it is no longer enough to gang rape a girl; it is also necessary to make a video of it. And what good is that visual record, if it is not shared with the world? The men of Pakistan await, their fingers eagerly pressing buttons and sliding over screens, goaded by insatiable appetites that crave the violation of a woman’s body. They watch it again and again, they share it with friends.”

Miles to go, sisters, before we rest. Until then, we hang our heads in shame.

A number of child rapes have been reported in just the past couple of months. Early last month, the body of a six-year-old boy was found in a mosque.

According to reports, the little boy had been raped repeatedly before his body was abandoned. A man who had come to the mosque to pray said that he had seen the boy’s body and told the mosque administration about it.

Among the people who are being investigated is the mosque’s chief cleric. The same month, a seven-year-old girl was found raped and stoned to death, according to news reports. Similarly, in November last year, a five-year-old girl was gang-raped in the Islampura area of Lahore. This incident is said to have taken place inside a school.

No school, no mosque and no madressah in the country features programs against child sexual abuse or discusses self-defense strategies.

Schools, mosques and hospitals are thus all unsafe for Pakistan’s children, and so are the streets, particularly for the kids who live on them. Last year, “Streets of Shame,” a documentary focusing on the street children of Peshawar, revealed just how precarious and devoid of innocence their existence is.

Numbering over a million, these street children live at the mercy of pimps and handlers who rent them out. Nine out of 10 street children are believed to have been sexually abused.

The truck drivers who ply the highways in their brightly colored vehicles are said to be the instruments of the terror inflicted on them; indeed, according to numbers quoted in the documentary.

Ninety-five percent of truck drivers admitted that having intercourse with a young boy was one of their favorite pastimes during rest breaks. In the words of human rights lawyer Zia Awan, “This is happening everywhere, in the big cities, small cities, in the villages and towns.”

It should come as little surprise then that children are being raped and their bodies dumped on roofs and trash heaps and open fields all around Pakistan. And horrible consequences for the victims when others discover they have been raped are not unusual either.

In the documentary, when the older brother of the young boy learns that his brother had been gang-raped, he declared that this was “his own sin” and that he would have burned him alive if he had found out. The blame of rape, even if the victim is a child, is squarely on the victim. Instead of catching the culprits, society deems it correct to eliminate the person who has already suffered.

The law helps accomplish the task. In late 2010, the Federal Shariat Court declared that the provisions of the Women’s Protection Act of 2006, which prevented rape victims from being prosecuted for adultery or fornication under the Zina and Hudood Act of 1979, were unconstitutional.

In its judgments the court declared that Section 11, 28 and 29 of the Act attempted to “override” the provisions of the Zina and Hudood Ordinance. Parliament was given until June, 2011, to pass new provisions but it never did. Hence, the cumulative effect of the court’s decision was that if a rape report is filed and the requisite four adult male witnesses are not provided, the complaint can still be converted to one under the Zina and Hudood Ordinance.

Since the horrific attack on the Army Public School last December, much is being said about the country’s responsibility to its youngest and most vulnerable. Every now and then, this new resolve is featured in pictures and articles in which children from this or that school are seen learning drills so that they know what to do when their school faces a terror attack.

Trainings held in various provinces have taught children to evacuate buildings, learn emergency first aid and even to use firearms, lest they have to take on the attackers themselves.

The lessons of Peshawar have been that in a society riven with terror, innocence is a luxury that a Pakistani child cannot afford; guns are everywhere ― children may as well learn to use them.

The terror of rape, however, is the unspoken scourge that no one is willing to acknowledge and whose taint is so great as to render victims, even when they are children, utterly worthless in the eyes of a Pakistan that otherwise professes to love them.

No school, no mosque and no madressah in the country features programs against child sexual abuse or discusses self-defense strategies that children could use against the predators who lurk all around them. Perhaps, secretly, Pakistan has already concluded that these children simply don’t have a chance.

If this is true, the girl battling for her life against septicemia at the Lahore Children’s Hospital is doomed already, perhaps she is better off dead than living in a country that couldn’t care less about her ordeal.

'Once, there was a boy on the bus and everyone had sex with him,' confesses Ijaz who admits to raping 12 different children during his career as a bus conductor.

'They invited me. And he was that kind of boy anyway.'

Sexual abuse in Pakistan is rife. An estimated four million children in the country are forced into work from an early age due to poverty and of those, more than a million live on the streets where they are easy prey for men like Ijaz.

A recent survey of 1,800 men found that a third believe that not only is raping little boys not a crime, it's not even a bad thing to do. 

As a result, an estimated 90 per cent of street children have been victims of sexual abuse at some point in their lives.

One such boy is Naeem, 13, who has been on the streets, off and on, since running away from his violent brother who repeatedly beat him following their parents' death. He was eight at the time.

His world is one of drugs and violence. He talks casually of a street where you'll find 'all the paedos'. 

He is addicted to heroin and regularly abuses his own fragile body, cutting and stabbing himself in an attempt to deal with his anger. 

Although he has sold himself to pay for drugs, he also tells, with tears in his eyes, of a time when he was attacked by a gang of men.

'I was lying here sleeping and four people grabbed me and threw me into a car,' he sobs. 'One was a bus driver, the others were heroin addicts. All four of them raped me.'

Many of Pakistan's abusers are bus drivers. One man who knows this all too well is Hassan Deen, an entrepreneur who rents beds - and sometimes boys - to drivers at Peshawar's largest bus depot.

'A bus driver rents a bed from me and he says he'll pay an extra 50 (50p) or 100 rupees (£1) if I can get him a boy,' explains Mr Deen.

'There's often a kid wandering the streets alone. We tell these boys we'll provide food and shelter if they come with us. That's how we lure them in.'

Others, addicted to the cheap heroin that pours across the border from neighbouring Afghanistan, will have sex with these men for a price. 

'If I don't make enough money picking trash, I sell my body,' admits Naeen. 'The first time I sold myself, I didn't have any money. 

'So I did it three times with a man and in return, he gave me 3,000 rupees (£17). I was eight and a half. I was little.

'The first time I did it, I hadn't eaten for two to three days. Afterwards, I cried all night, asking myself, "What have I done?" I did this to myself to make some money.'

And Naeen isn't alone. Another street child, nine-year-old Akeeb has also been approached by men on the street but has so far managed to escape.
'I don't get scared if I have a friend with me,' he says. 'I get bothered a lot by the bus driver, the van driver. They tell me to climb on the roof of the bus and do bad things with them. Sometimes they offer me a soft drink in return.'
Unsurprisingly, the impact of this abuse on the children is severe. Along with psychological problems, a Save the Children report showed that as many as one in 10 are murdered by the men who abuse them.
Others go on to become abusers themselves, among them 13-year-old Naeem.'There was a boy, about 10 or 11,' he confesses, shame-faced.
'I took him to the cinema and spent money on him and he was OK with it. But when we left the cinema, he said he didn't want to do it anymore so then I grabbed his hand and forced him.'
Although there are laws in place to protect children, police rarely bother themselves with the plight of the street children, with many saying that the ever-present threat of Taliban bombs trumps saving small boys.
One man who might be able to help is politician Imran Khan.
'It's one of the most sad and shameful aspects of our society,' he says. 'I'm totally embarrassed by this. It's really shameful for us that we have not been able to protect them.'
For now, boys like Naeem continue to fall victim to predatory paedophiles like serial rapist Ijaz, a man who claims to want a 'good woman' for a wife one day and children of his own.

Director Mohammed Naqvi and British producer Jamie Doran's film Pakistan’s Hidden Shame depicts the shocking reality of sexual abuse faced by small boys in the Northern areas of Pakistan.
The documentary shows the "dark reality of a society living in denial."
Set mainly in Peshawar, the film shows homeless boys of different ages recalling their experiences of sexual exploitation.
In an interview with CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour, the director of the documentary told her what puts children at risk in Pakistan and around the world.
"Pedophiles by their very nature are inadequate, it's about power over children."
"Where these individuals are able to use and abuse vulnerable children, Pakistan in particular because of the poverty. That's one of the other factors that really plays here."
In the documentary, the narrator introduces Pakistan as 'one of the most important Muslim populations, a democracy, a nuclear power and a supporter of the Western bloc.' But it soon reveals the silence and denial on one of the most taboo topics: pedophilia.
The documentary alleges that 9 out of 10 children in Peshawar have been victims of pedophilia. It also contains interviews with truck drivers who have committed such crimes.
Shockingly, one of the drivers admits, without any remorse, to having raped 11 or 12 boys.
Doran also questions Imran Khan whose party Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) formed the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which has Peshawar as its capital.
"It's one of the most sad and shameful aspects of our society. I am totally embarrassed by this and that we have not really been able to protect them," Khan said.
Disturbing Rotherham child abuse report
The release of the documentary overlaps with the alarming revelations of a report released from Rotherham, the Northern English town where abuse, grooming and trafficking of 1,400 girls by predominantly Asian men over a 16-year period.
According to Reuters, the independent report last week exposed the scale and graphic nature of the crimes and raised difficult questions about whether timidity about confronting the racial aspects of the abuse had prompted authorities to turn a blind eye.
Some of the victims, mainly white girls in social care homes, were as young as 11 and were plied with drugs and alcohol before being trafficked to cities across northern England and gang-raped by groups of men, predominately of Pakistani heritage, the report said.
Those who tried to speak out were threatened with guns and made to watch brutal gang rapes. Their abusers said they would be next if they told anyone. One girl was doused with petrol, her rapist threatening to set her alight.
The report added that senior managers in social care "underplayed" the problem while police regarded many victims with contempt. 

Pakistan’s Hidden Shame: Documentary reveals horrors of pedophilia in K-P DAWN.COM SEP 04, 2014 

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