A SEVEN-YEAR inquiry into child sexual abuse in Britain has revealed some shocking truths: that the reprehensible practice is rampant; that institutions and politicians have prioritised reputations over the well-being of young people; that the abuse is hidden for decades; and that protection measures are poor. The scale of the abuse, say social care experts, is an “ever-increasing” problem. The investigation began in 2014 after a string of child abuse cases became public, including the shocking case of abuse involving late BBC star Jimmy Savile. It found that children were being abused in institutions such as the Catholic Church, the Church of England and Westminster and that the rich were treated differently — even protected when it came to their involvement in child abuse.
Though the extensive inquiry is a first step towards acknowledging and chronicling the serious abuse against children, it is clear that Britain has its work cut out for it. The conclusions reached by the authorities at the helm of this inquiry are harsh, and involve prosecuting those who fail to report abuse, but they are absolutely necessary in a society that has often criminally failed to protect its most vulnerable members. As the UK mulls its next steps, the repercussions of unchecked and rampant abuse there has repercussions for other parts of the world — especially Pakistan. In 2019, it emerged that Sohail Ayaz, a convicted paedophile who had served jail time in Britain, was deported to Pakistan. But due to the absence of a mechanism by which the UK and Pakistan could share information on sex offenders, Ayaz managed to slip through the cracks. As a result, he resumed his criminal activities and was eventually arrested — but only after 30 cases of child sexual abuse were reported. As the UK prepares to deport two Pakistani members of the infamous Rochdale grooming gang after they were stripped of their citizenship, there has to be a moment of reckoning for the Pakistani authorities. Too often the cases of child abuse that make it to the mainstream media are followed by complacency. During the PTI government, there was talk about a child sex offenders register — similar to the one that exists in the UK — but it is unclear how this is maintained and made accessible to parents and caregivers. This has to change. The UK and Pakistan must not only share information, they must also adopt a zero-tolerance approach and do everything in their power to protect children.
Published in Dawn, October 31st, 2022