Mohammed Naqvi and Jamie Doran’s documentary film (airing on Channel 4 in the UK tonight), “Pakistan’s Hidden Shame,” takes a devastating look at one of Pakistan’s biggest taboos – the sexual abuse of boys. It relates, with sensitivity and compassion, the stories of the young boys who suffer the abuse, the men who harm them with little remorse or guilt, and the small band of social workers, human rights activists, psychologists and medical practitioners who are desperately trying to rescue these damaged boys and keep them together, one child at a time.
Pakistan is a country where sexuality is obsessively repressed, and women have little chance for gender equality – a World Economic Forum report recently named Pakistan the world’s 2nd worst country for equal opportunities for women. The film contends that these two factors have resulted in the horrifying practice of bachabaazi, or pedophilia, as men with sexual needs that can find no other outlet end up abusing vulnerable young boys who wander on the streets, earning money for their families, or having run away from their homes or places of employment.
In this conservative capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, boys are forced to work on the streets because of desperate poverty. Their freeedom of movement and easy access to public places like truck stops, streets, and cinemas makes them the main targets of pedophiles. But this could happen anywhere in Pakistan – Karachi, Rawalpindi, Lahore, or the myriad villages and towns in every province – and it does.
Zia Awan, the lawyer and famed human rights activist, provides a sobering account of how widepread the problem of pedophilia is, while psychologist Rukhsana Malik gives her perspective on how children are first traumatized but then become numbed in the face of the onslaught. And Ghulam Qadri, the Country Director of Save the Children, provides the key to understanding the practice: most of the abusers, he says, were themselves abused as children, so cannot sense any wrongdoing in their actions.
|Jamie Doran interviewing Imran Khan|
Most Pakistanis would prefer to deny the existence of pedophilia, but the sobering weight of these experts’ words make it impossible to live in such denial. Yet the experts, and Afzal, the selfless care worker, display a refreshing openness in talking about the issue. So too does Imran Khan, head of the PTI, the political party that rules Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who professes surprise at how bad the problem is, then promises to create a task force to tackle it. With some progressive Pakistanis willing to accept that there is a problem, perhaps all isn’t lost for the street children – but it will be a tremendous struggle to implement laws and make an uninterested police enforce them.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
The filmmakers had tremendous support from Pakistani NGOs “who work tirelessly for the betterment of these children,” says Mohammed Naqvi. “These included http://www.sparcpk.org http://aastrust.org and http://sahil.org. If you would like to contribute and learn more about these groups- please do get in touch. Sahil’s Executive Director Ms Manizeh Bano can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org”
Here is a blog by filmmaker Mohammed Naqvi on his experience filming the movie. His observation that absolute, desperate poverty makes for an alternate moral paradigm in Pakistan is one of the most profound observations I’ve ever come across.
Thank you to Laura Kramer at Clover Films for the images of the filmmakers and the film.