26 Oct 2022

91pc cases of sexual violence go unreported in media

Islamabad : According to research by the Sustainable Social Development Organisation (SSDO) and the Centre for Research, Development and Communication (CRDC), kidnapping of women, rape and sexual abuse were the most frequently occurring cases of violence against women and children in September.

Official data from the police was collected by submitting a ‘Right to Information’ request to the provincial police departments across the country, where a response was received from all provinces, expect Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Furthermore, SSDO also conducted daily media tracking of 13 of Pakistan’s most widely read newspapers to gauge the attention devoted to such issues in the mainstream media.

A staggeringly high 844 cases of kidnapping of women were registered with the Punjab Police in September alone. This statistic is incredibly alarming as it would mean that on average, 28 women are kidnapped every single day, meaning at least one woman is kidnapped every single hour.

Additionally, 491 women were raped across the province of Punjab in September according to the Punjab Police; meaning over a hundred women were raped every single week, with an average of 16 women raped daily. On the other hand, according to media tracking, only 43 such cases were reported in Punjab.

Therefore, over 91% of cases of sexual violence go unreported in the media, which can lead to a false sense of security, despite the very high prevalence in reality. Around 105 cases of murder of women were lodged with the police throughout the province, whereas only 6 cases were reported in the media. As with earlier discussed indicators, the media reporting is incredibly minuscule in comparison to the actual number of cases happening, highlighting that there is a significant gap in reporting, as only 5.7% of cases were mentioned in news reports.

The findings show that 268 children were sexually abused this month in the country’s largest province according to the data received from the police, along with 4 FIRs of child pornography. However, media reporting on this issue was astonishingly meagre, with only 6 cases (2.2%) cases reported.

Another exceedingly alarming statistic was that 239 children were kidnapped in Punjab, but once again, media reporting was paltry, with only 28 cases, i.e. 11.7% cases, being reported in the 13 most widely circulated newspapers of the country.

Similarly, 105 cases of child labour were also reported to the police in September, yet the percentage of media reporting was remarkably low, with only 10 cases (9.5%) being reported in the media. Moving onto Sindh, 261 women were kidnapped or abducted throughout the 7 seven districts of Karachi in the month of September alone according to the police, yet media reporting was still lagging behind as only 31 cases of kidnapping were reported from the entire province. A further 40 children were also kidnapped in the Karachi Division, while 24 women were subject to domestic violence, 12 were sexually abused and 11 women were trafficked.

For other provinces, slightly lower number of cases were reported, probably owing to the smaller population size. 22 cases of physical violence against women were reported according to the Balochistan Police, whereas only three cases were mentioned in our sample of newspapers, meaning the media only picked up 13.6% of cases that occurred. FIRs of 15 cases of kidnapping of women were lodged with the police, while the media only managed to report a little over half of the cases (8). When it came to children, 4 children were kidnapped and 3 were subject to sexual abuse, along with one case of child pornography. Similarly, in Islamabad, the most frequently reported crime against women in the capital city of Islamabad was kidnapping, with a total of 27 cases. The media only managed to report on less than half of these cases (10).

Yet, for other indicators, the media reported higher numbers than the police. This can be seen in the case of rape, where media tracking demonstrated that 12 cases occurred in Islamabad, while the police data only detailed 4 cases of rape. For other crimes, the frequency was less than ten. In the context of children, 11 children were trafficked in Islamabad, making it the most common crime against children. A further 6 children were also subject to sexual abuse.

Finally, as no data was received by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police at the time of the publishing of this report, the only statistics used in the report were from SSDO’s media tracking. The most frequently reported indicator of violence against women was kidnapping, where 21 women were kidnapped and 17 were raped across the province. Comparable to violence against women, the kidnapping of children was the most widely reported indicator, with 14 children kidnapped in the province. Slightly lower frequencies were observed in other cases of violence against children, as 5 children were murdered, 4 children were sexually abused.

Syed Kausar Abbas, Executive Director, SSDO stated, “We hope that by contrasting media tracking results with official data from the police, we can present a deeper analysis into what cases the media is bringing to attention, as well as what percentage of cases even make it to the mainstream media in the first place.”

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