|[These are the guys transporting our equipment to Afghanistan?]|
|Friday, February 19, 2010
Transportation terminals and bus stands are the hubs of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC), with 95 per cent of truck drivers, who have to be away from home for an average of 21.5 days in a month, considering indulging in sexual activities during rest time as their main entertainment.
These deplorable findings were shared at the launch of a report titled ‘A Situational Analysis of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Transport Industry of Pakistan’, organised by Sahil, an NGO working for child rights. The survey was conducted with 505 persons including 170 drivers, 169 helper boys and 166 driver hotel owners.
To determine the status of the issue and unveil the reality, the working group conducted a research in six major cities including Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Sukkur, Karachi and Quetta, where transportation hubs exist. The purpose of this research was to identify the key factors, which affect the prostitution of boys in the transport industry, and study the socio-economic and legal context in which such persons manoeuvre. At the end, the study recommends actions that can be taken to combat CSEC in the transport and allied sectors.
Highlighting the main findings of the research, chairman of the working group Dr Muhammad Tufail said though having such a relationship with women is also very much prevalent at such spots, drivers prefer young boys, as they are easily available and are cheaper as compared to women. Citing some other reasons for this preference, he said there is also no issue of pregnancy or provision of safe space for such activities with boys.
Despite the peaceful drive and availability of much better facilities on motorways, Dr Tufail said the drivers refrain from using these highways mainly because their main source of entertainment is missing on the international standard road network. “They prefer GT Road and other highways where they can enjoy the freedom for such activities,” he pointed out.
Apart from the relatives of drivers, Dr Tufial said almost all helper boys accompanying the drivers are sexually exploited. Disclosing another shameful trend at these terminals, he said the older helper boys also tend to exploit young boys that are new in the profession. He said these boys are at a high risk of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, as according to the research findings, drivers ignore using preventive measures while dealing with boys.
He said the most predominant ethnic group among helper boys and drivers is Pashtuns, followed by Punjabis and Seraikis. The helper boys are mostly adolescents in their late teens and their majority is either illiterate or had dropped out of school at an early age. He said the sexual exploitation of children in the transport sector exposes them to multiple forms of violence at different levels.
The study shows that the spaces often used for sexual activities are hotels or inside a truck, bus and trawlers, and other venues like deserted places on roadsides, fields, etc. The mean age of the helper boys with the drivers was 16 years, ranging between 13 to 22 years. Out of a total of 170 helper boys, the vast majority were Pashtu speaking (44.6 per cent), followed by Punjabi (22 per cent), Seraiki (10.1 per cent) and Sindhi (8.9 per cent).
The mean schooling of the helpers was three years, while only six per cent had completed the 10-year schooling. The main reasons quoted were poverty (43 per cent), harsh school environment (20 per cent), physical abuse at home (10 per cent) and the desire to learn a marketable skill (22 per cent).
The average salary of a helper is Rs2,000-5,000 per month. Besides salaries, some of the boys earn extra money through massage and selling sex, and good-looking boys may earn more than Rs10,000 per month through commercial sex.
In its recommendations, the study urged the government to officially acknowledge the sexual exploitation of boys, so that policies, reforms and legal provisions could be formulated to protect boys from this menace. “The root causes that add to the vulnerability of boys need to be addressed through awareness and social mobilisation programmes,” said Executive Director Save the Children, Sweden Mehmood Asghar while presenting the recommendations.
He said CSEC in the transport sector is highly prevalent and institutional. “The government should allocate more resources for the implementation of the National Plan of Action against child sexual abuse and exploitation,” he pointed out while calling for the formulation and implementation of the programmes, especially tailored for the transport industry, on the prevention of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Manizeh Bano, Executive Director Sahil, said CSEC is a global phenomenon, which lures children into prostitution and forced commercial sex, adding that in commercial exploitation, a child is treated like a sexual and commercial object. “The major practices of CSEC are forced sex, grab for early marriages, drug abuse and sex tourism, in addition to the high prevalence of sexual exploitation in shrines, schools and the transport industry.”