Child Safety Crisis: 2,534 Kidnappings and 891 Cases of Sexual Abuse Reported in Punjab Last Year

In a comparative analysis covering the years 2022 and 2023, Lahore has emerged as one of the leading districts in Punjab concerning child safety issues, with significantly higher rates of child abduction, sexual assault, and homicide compared to other districts. According to a comprehensive report by the Sustainable Social Development Organization (SSDO), the Punjab police recorded 3,780 crime cases against children in 2022, which increased to 4,200 in 2023, marking an 11 percent rise.

These crimes encompassed a range of offenses, including child trafficking, forced marriages, physical and sexual abuse, kidnapping, murder, and child pornography. The SSDO report highlights a sharp increase in various forms of child victimization. Child trafficking cases surged from 49 in 2022 to 108 in 2023. Although forced marriages slightly declined from eight cases in 2022 to five in 2023, this reduction was not significant. Instances of physical abuse rose from 83 to 157, while reports of sexual abuse increased by 30 percent, from 621 to 891. Alarmingly, the number of kidnappings remained high, with 2,539 cases reported in both 2022 and 2023. Additionally, child homicides increased from 468 in 2022 to 493 in 2023. The incidence of child pornography remained constant, with 12 cases reported in both years.

The report further details the frequency of these crimes, noting that in 2023, on average, seven children were abducted daily, approximately 17 children were sexually assaulted weekly, nine children were victims of homicide weekly, and three children experienced physical abuse each week. Furthermore, an average of two children were trafficked weekly throughout the year.

Lahore has gained significant attention across various crime categories. Notably, in the category of kidnapping, Lahore reported the highest number of cases, totaling 840, followed by Sialkot with 194 cases and Gujranwala with 143 cases. Similarly, in incidents of sexual abuse, Lahore again led with 346 reported cases, followed by Sheikhupura with 76 cases and Bahawalnagar with 61 cases. Additionally, Lahore maintained its lead in child homicide cases, registering 61 cases in 2023, followed by Faisalabad with 32 cases and Gujranwala with 26 cases.

In terms of physical abuse, Sialkot reported the highest number of cases, totaling 37, followed by Faisalabad with 16 cases and Sheikhupura with 11 cases. Toba Tek Singh recorded the highest number of trafficking cases, with 51 incidents documented, followed by Chiniot with 35 cases, and Lahore again featured with six cases. Regarding child pornography cases, Chakwal reported the highest incidence with three cases, while Jehlum and Mianwali each recorded two cases.

Syed Kausar Abbas, the organization’s Executive Director, highlighted that these figures were obtained through a Right to Information request with the Punjab Police under Article 19-A of the Constitution and the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013. He emphasized the likelihood of under-reporting and stressed the need for enhanced police surveillance and community engagement to identify perpetrators of child abuse and sexual violence.

Abbas underscored the importance of a proactive judiciary in ensuring the conviction and stringent punishment of offenders through expedited trials. He emphasized the collective responsibility of stakeholders, including individuals, communities, and authorities, in safeguarding children from violence and exploitation, underscoring the imperative for concerted action to effect meaningful change.

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