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Child Protection Bill

Two years after the gruesome murder of a nine-year-old rape victim Zainab Ansari the National Assembly (NA) approved the Zainab Alert, Recovery and Response Bill, 2019 on Friday. The bill is a piece of legislation with the primary objective of tackling the issue of widespread sexual abuse of the children in the country. On the one hand, it is an attempt to discourage and curtail the menace of child abuse by detailing out the punitive measures against the offenders. On the other, the bill also recognises lethargic and negligent behaviour on police’s part, as it proposes taking action against officials who try to cause unnecessary delay in investigating such cases.

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However, the bill is yet to be passed in the Senate. Senate’s approval of the bill will pave the way for setting of Zainab Alert Response and Recovery Agency where missing child cases will be reported and which will generate an automatic alert. Hopefully, the Senate will pass the bill without further delay. It is worth mentioning that child abuse, particularly sexual violence, is one of the most pressing social issues facing our nation. Such crimes are tragic reminders of the failure of the state and call for a complete overhaul of our intent towards child protection.

But only time will tell if the bill aforementioned can change the on-ground situation. The law will be an addition to the complex framework of legislative tools at our disposal, which the state often fails to utilise effectively to curb the growing phenomenon of child abuse. Nevertheless, the passed bill is a specialised one specifically aimed at deterring the predators from abusing children will surely help in reducing the cases of rampant child sexual abuse.

Surely, there was a dire need of specialised legislation for ensuring the protection of our children; the issue will not subside by making laws only. There is no simple way forward to curb this menace. The solution needs to be multi-pronged. Now that the government has come up with a law that solely deals with the issue of sexual abuse, the next step should be the initiation of a public dialogue against the issue at hands. Last but not least, the national curriculum needs to be redesigned to educate children about child abuse and its various forms in a better way. This way, the society and state by pointing out the fault lines and working together can fix the problem of child abuse.

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