“Pakistan’s Hidden Shame,” a documentary produced almost entirely by a Pakistani team, exposes the pervasive problem of rape and prostitution of underage boys on the country’s streets.
While it has already made waves in Japan, Australia and the UK, it has yet to be broadcast in Pakistan itself.
The documentary depicts an unending cycle of stolen childhood, drug addiction and poverty. The scale of the problem is brought to light through a series of shocking confessions and accounts by both victims and perpetrators of child abuse. Bus conductor Ejaz confesses to raping on buses “about 11 or 12 kids” aged between eight and 10.
The film discloses some of the bus stations and truck stops where men prey on young boys in the north-western city of Peshawar, revealing that “95% of truck drivers admitted that having sex with boys was their favorite entertainment.”
The documentary focuses on the story of 13-year-old Na’eem, to highlight the grim reality of how the victim can become the perpetrator if help and support are not provided in time.
The film was broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 and coincided with the publication of a report into the widespread child abuse, grooming and trafficking of 1,400 girls by people of Pakistani heritage in the northern English town of Rotherham.
Media outlets have drawn a link between the issues in the film and the ongoing debate following the Rotherham scandal, discussing whether this is a specific issue within Pakistani communities.
Pedophilia in different countries
In an interview with CNN’s Christian Amanpour, filmmaker Jamie Doran said: “Culturally they’re the same… In Pakistan you’re having the abuse of young boys, largely because young girls aren’t available, and in the UK that’s different.
If you really delve into the reasons behind this, you’ll find in such societies the role of women is so meager that their power is almost non-existent, and every survey in recent times has linked the lack of female power to pedophilia.”
Akeela Ahmed, a Muslim family specialist at the Christian Muslim Forum, told Al Arabiya News: “Examining abuse in Pakistan is useful in that it reminds us that men who abuse and exploit children or women do so with a sense of impunity and absolute disregard for the female gender… “
A theme in both cases is that the victims were most likely living in poverty, with little or no support from wider society. Indeed, the children in Rotherham and Pakistan were regarded as second-class citizens.”
However, she added: “We have to be careful in drawing cross-cultural comparisons across differing societies… It’s not their ethnicity that made them commit these crimes, but the fact that they had the opportunity to prey on those most vulnerable in society…
If we solely concentrate on their ethnicity and racialize the issue, one will then become blind to the other myriad factors that contributed to the prolonged and sustained abuse.”
Whilst the message remains clear in the documentary that such abuse of the vulnerable stems from a sense of inadequacy and a desire for power over the powerless, the film depicts a bleak outlook for the future of Pakistan’s existing generation of young and vulnerable street boys.
Unless there is a sense of urgency amongst Pakistan’s policy makers and Political figures heads, it seems that there remains little hope for change.
In a society where religious views against paedophilia exist alongside fearless perversions against vulnerable children, the film tries to uncover hard truths and solutions.
Unless it is broadcast in Pakistan, it remains to be seen whether a growing international audience is enough to challenge the country’s unspoken taboo and denial of the issues raised.
For the time being, Pakistan’s shame remains hidden.