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Crime

Child labor promotes abuse in Afghanistan

Experts say the increase in sexual abuse against children in Afghanistan is due to a lax judicial system that fails to prosecute pedophiles. They also attribute it to a system that allows child labor.

Right on time for International Children's Day, the Afghan government has addressed the situation of six million Afghan children - around 15 million under the age of 15 - whose living conditions have been described as "critical." The children are forced into child labor and often fall victim to sexual abuse.

There has been a lot of talk about the recent case of a three-year-old child in the northern province of Takhar being sexually abused or the 22-year-old man raping a five-year-old in the neighboring province Balkh around the same time.

Child labor

Ustad Sharafuddin Azimi, a professor of psychology at the University of Kabul, says a huge number of abused children are also forced into child labor. They work under unprotected conditions with no one to stand up for them.

Afghan children work at a brick factory on the outskirts of Jalalabad October 7, 2012. (Photo: REUTERS/ Parwiz)

Many children have to work in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, it is not uncommon to see children as young as three years old selling goods on streets or working in brick factories. In many cases, children are the sole breadwinners of their families.

Azimi urges the Ministry of Work and Social Affairs to become active and end child labor.

In the western province of Herat, over 70 cases of sexual abuse against minors were reported this year alone. The estimated number of unreported cases is much higher.

Azimi would also like to see the government do more to crack down on sex crime offenders. He says the death penalty should be used in such cases.

"The fact that the laws are not consistently implemented has led to an increase in sexual abuse against children," he says. " We hear of new cases on a daily basis. But no one is ever brought to justice. No one is prosecuted - no one is hanged."

The laxity of the law encourages offenders because they know they will not be punished, according to Azimi.

Lax criminal prosecution

Ministry spokesman Ali Eftekhari says the government is aware of the problem and aims to tackle it.

"We have to provide for these families access to education and vocational training," he says. "If they have a future financially, they will be able to offer their children a future as well."

The Afghan organization "Taghir Karwan" (Campaign for Change), an outspoken critic of child abuse, also demands greater government action. The organization believes offenders must be prosecuted.

"If someone violates a child or abuses one, the police are obliged to prosecute that person and not let that person go, no matter how much power or influence the offender has," says Mohammad Rahim Jami of the Campaign for Change. Not only the police, but the state prosecutor and the whole justice system must do its work 100 percent, he adds.

A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai confirmed on November 20 that 10 hard criminals will be hanged - among them pedophiles who have sexually abused children.

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