Pakistan’s Hidden Shame: the director’s cut

Friday, September 12th, 2014 10:15:56 by


The sexual exploitation of children across Pakistan is as insidious as it is taboo. A new documentary, Pakistan’s Hidden Shame, attempts to bring public attention to an issue that is otherwise rarely mentioned. The documentary, which reveals the horrors of pedophilia, was recently aired on the UK’s Channel 4.

Mohammad Ali Naqvi, the director of the documentary, is an internationally-celebrated filmmaker with over 25 prestigious awards and honors.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Naqvi said that Pakistan was a party to the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of a Child and arguably had a concrete legal framework for the protection of children rights. Despite this the country astoundingly had an upwards 1.5 million children living on the streets, of which an estimated 90% have been sexually abused.

“The Pakistani state has failed in implementing laws to protect these children and has demonstrated a profound apathy,” he said, adding that this shamefully perpetuates the message that we barely care about our children.

Naqvi takes a step forth towards highlighting the dreadfulness of pedophilia as he interviews Naeem, a 13-year-old runaway kid and veteran of the streets of Peshawar, as one of the key subjects of his documentary.

“Naeem told us of an experience in which he was gang raped,” Naqvi added, saying that when his elder brother found out that Naeem had been the victim of a sex crime, he responded by saying that it was his own sin and had he known about this earlier, he would have burnt him alive. “We are honourable people,” Naeem’s brother commented.

Naqvi believes that this attitude, in varying degrees of intensity, permeates through parts of our society. The abused are further victimised and held responsible, all for the sake of some antiquated concept of tribal honour. With such a toxic environment, no wonder the victims remain silent and cases are under-reported.

The director stresses upon the importance of backing NGOs  (Non-govermental organisations) who work assiduously for the betterment of these children, as one of the short-term immediate goals to tackle child abuse.

“NGO’s like SPARC, Sahil, and Aas Trust, to name a few, are doing great work alongside understanding the complexities in treating these children,” he said adding it was equally imperative to hold our government responsible for enforcing the actual laws in place.

“We as a collective society have to change our approach; we have to stop silencing victims or being in denial. This is the long term goal. If we don’t highlight these issues, we reinforce the message that this is not a big deal,” he said.

Expressing the readiness towards the screening of Pakistan’s Hidden Shame, the internationally acclaimed director said that the film had been aired in various countries and was not just limited primarily to the West.

“It is absolutely imperative that we screen the film in Pakistan,” Naqvi said, adding that his producer, Jamie Doran, was willing to offer this film for free to any Paksitani channel that was interested in airing it.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2014.

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