Friday, August 28, 2015

Sexually abusing children in the name of sex education

Very often we find a wolf in sheep’s clothing; it can be a doctor who gives you the wrong diagnosis or treatment to con you out of money or it can be a preacher who radicalises innocent youth seeking spiritual education. All of us are always at the mercy of someone whose occupation puts them in a position where we are likely to trust them.

Recently, a 50-year-old tutor in Lahore was arrested for sexually assaulting his pupils, and videotaping the crimes. He confessed to victimising over 20 children over the past six years while working at several academies in Lahore. He said he did it to educate children regarding sex – definitely a pathetic attempt at coming up with a retrospective justification.

Such horrible news, with the Kasur child porn scandal fresh in mind, is sure to harm parents’ confidence in sex education. But because of the Kasur child porn scandal and this incident, it is about time we realise how important sex education and being vocal about sexual issues is for our society.

Sex education aims to help boys and girls understand their body structures so that they understand the cognitive and physical changes their bodies undergo as they mature. It allows them to understand sexual activity and helps reduce the risk of negative outcomes such as unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. It is a holistic education which teaches children about self-acceptance and the attitude and skills of interpersonal relationships, while at the same time helping them develop a sense of responsibility towards others.

With the recent Kasur horror, it becomes more important than ever to promote sex education as it not only helps students understand risky sexual behaviour so that they may identify it, but also focuses on reducing such behaviour in students. It teaches children how to deal with peer pressure, how to communicate, negotiate, and assert themselves in such matters so that they are not easily coerced into engaging in any inappropriate or unwanted sexual activity.

But the noblest campaigns need to be the best thought-out ones or else some wolf would infiltrate the herd in sheep’s clothing. We cannot allow the actions of a few men dampen all the efforts made towards creating awareness.

I mentioned in an earlier article that paedophilia is a sexual orientation. This means that not everyone would engage in sexual activity with a minor and those who do are likely to be repeating offenders as feeling attraction towards a minor is not a choice for them. We must understand that it is not mere moral corruption or depravity that drives the culprit to such acts, such behaviour is caused by complex psychological elements and front temporal dysfunctions in the brain, unfortunately determined by genetics.

There is no way any country can rid itself of paedophiles, so there needs to be a registrar for sex offenders. They need to be on the authorities’ radar and be legally required to disclose their history of sexual offences which would effectively reduce their likelihood of occupying a position where they can betray a child’s trust.

Acknowledging and understanding the problem of paedophilia would help the authorities educate educational institutes and workplaces about vetting processes to distinguish sexual delinquents. Educational institutes should be required to involve the authorities when there is a complaint, instead of simply firing the employee or trying to cover up the crime like the Convent School in Islamabad did when a peon sexually assaulted a student. Adding sex education to the curriculum would move educational institutes toward assuming responsibility for contributing to the establishment and development of such a system.

But in order for such a system to work, we would need to remove the shame element sufferers of sexual assault are stuck with. For this to work, the crimes need to be reported, so that the number of sexual assaults reported in Pakistan can accurately represent the severity of the problem, contrary to the current predicament where underreported sex crimes downplay how messed up the situation is. If as many sexual assaults are reported as are committed – this coupled with a society which is increasingly vocal about such issues – would move the state towards taking substantial steps.

Think about this. Families of the Kasur child porn ring’s victims paid millions of rupees to the criminal to keep their ordeal a secret. When they threatened to upload videos of their victims’ torment on the internet, people not only paid them but victims were manipulated into bringing them more victims. The Lahori offender did the same thing – he threatened to spread his victims’ videos and had his victims bring him more children.

If you think this is horrible, think about for how long they have been dodging the law and increasing the number of their victims, sometimes through existing victims, just because people are too ashamed to be vocal about this issue. All because we stigmatise sex and shame the victims of sexual assault.

The element of shame worsens the ordeal for the survivors. A major reason why we hide sex crimes is our fear that the victim’s prospect of finding a spouse would be harmed. That is true in an ignorant society, but sex education can help make the newer generations more vocal, understanding, considerate, and mature enough to accept and support victims of sex crimes.

Earlier this month, a teenager who was abducted and gang raped, committed suicide after the police not only refused to help him, but taunted him as well. Such behaviour is a crime itself and it is disturbing that the gravity of such crimes is incomprehensible for so many members of our society that even our police force consists of men with such views. It is easy to call such people ignorant and inconsiderate but the truth is that they too, in their childhood, were not educated to comprehend the gravity of such crimes, nor have they undergone any sensitivity training.

This is not a problem the government can tackle on its own – this issue requires widespread change in social attitudes across the spectrum. By openly engaging in discourse over this issue, we would increase introspection in society and let the authorities know that this issue is too big to be ignored. The more openly we can talk about it, the more incidents will come to light and we will know that it is not a few occurrences here and there, but a substantial national problem.

We need to collectively wage a jihad against this ill by education, open discourse, and de-stigmatisation. The best way to go about it is to educate the newer generations, as it is easy to raise them without stigmas than to remove pre-existing biases.

It’s 2015. We must get there and we can only do it together.

from The Express Tribune Blog

No comments:

Post a Comment