Celebrities push for solutions to prevent child sexual abuse in light of Farishta case

Pakistani celebrities are trying to encourage reform to bring down number of child sexual abuse cases

Uneeba Waqar
(L-R, starting 2nd L) Zeba Bakhtiar, Shehzad Roy, Mahira Khan, and Younus Khan (not pictured) address a press conference here in Karachi, Pakistan, May 23, 2019. Twitter/Shehzad Roy (@ShehzadRoy)/via Geo.tv

KARACHI: Pakistani celebrities on Thursday suggested reforms to bring down the number of child sexual abuse cases in the country especially in light of the Farishta rape and murder case that has left people outraged.

Addressing a press conference here, the artistes — including Zindagi Trust founder and singer Shehzad Roy, actors Zeba Bakhtiar and Mahira Khan, and cricketer Younus Khan — pressed for better collective conscience and social awareness.

They demanded the Child Protection Unit be resumed and life skills-based education (LSBE) be introduced in the syllabus.

Saying such heinous crimes are shameful, Mahira Khan underscored that there needed to be training and learning for children in terms of inappropriate touching, consent, discomfort with certain adults, among other things.

Zeba Bakhtiar and Younus Khan, explaining how such incidents are swept under the carpet and survivors silenced in Pushtoon culture since they are considered to dent honour, urged for major changes by speaking in Pushto language.

Roy, on the other hand, also called for special training of police personnel in cases of rape and child sexual abuse and said Social Welfare Departments around the country should be set up.

Farishta went missing on May 15, according to her family, who claimed that police officers refused to file a missing person report until May 19 when a first information report (FIR) was registered and, even then, a proper search was not initiated.

When her relatives went to the police station, they said, the station house officer (SHO), instead of looking for the girl, had alleged that she had run away with someone. They police officers also had the family's children clean the police station, the FIR stated.

Late Farishta's body, brutally raped and murdered, was recovered after four days on May 20 by locals, who subsequently informed the police.

An FIR was lodged against the station house officer (SHO) for Shahzad Town and other police officers for negligence in the case, and called for action against officials involved for criminal negligence.

Police later said they have arrested a close relative of Farishta but did not provide further details. They say that the scope of the investigation has been widened.