Pakistan is one of the world's most important Muslim nations, a nuclear power, which is allied to the West in the war against terror and a democracy. But Pakistan is also a country in denial, turning a blind eye to the sexual exploitation of many thousands of poor and vulnerable children.
"It’s one of the most sad and shameful aspects of our society. I have to say I’m totally embarrassed by this" Imran Khan
It's estimated that over 4million children across Pakistan are forced to work from an early age due to poverty, of these up to 1.5 million live on the streets with no home to go to. This film focusses on the north-western city of Peshawar, where it is estimated 9 out of every 10 street children have been sexually abused.
Brightly coloured buses depicting historical heroes are found all over Pakistan. These buses are a main element of the Pakistan economy. But behind the colour lies another much darker story, much of the sexual abuse of young boys’ takes place at bus and truck terminals. In one survey alone, 95% of truck drivers admitted having sex with boys was their favourite entertainment during rest breaks.
“I get bothered a lot. The bus driver, the van guy, sometimes they tell me to climb on the roof of the bus and do bad things with them.” Mohammed, 9-years-old
A 2010 UNICEF report suggests that traditional Pakistani cultural values of purity and the protection of women have contributed to men preying on boys. This theory is backed up by some psychologists, who suggest that the attraction to young boys stems from the segregation of the sexes, where women are perceived as the inferior gender, rarely seen in public and with very few rights. A recent World Economic Forum report named Pakistan the second worst country in the world when it comes to equal opportunities for women.
'A woman is a thing you keep at home' says Ejaz, a bus conductor 'you can't take women out because people stare at them - they're useless things; you have to show propriety and chasteness with them. You can take boys around anywhere with you and it isn't a big deal.'
We follow 13 year old Naeem, whose parents died when he was 8. His older brother began beating him and he ran away from home. He has now been addicted to heroin for five years and frequently sells his body to fund his habit. Pakistan has over 1million heroin users, and over 30% of those who inject the drug are HIV positive. Being so close to the Afghan border means that drugs are plentiful in Peshawar.
World sportsman, now turned politician, Imran Khan, said he was shocked by the evidence we presented to him, 'I must say, I know it happened. I didn't realise it happened to the extent you are saying.'
One of the biggest problems is that police on the ground are often caught up with Taliban attacks and the safety of the children isn't a priority. In the last five years approximately 700 policemen have been killed in terrorist attacks. The ever increasing terrorism in Pakistan has come to a breaking point; the security agencies are too busy trying to protect against terrorism to enforce the laws of the land. They claim it is very difficult for them to go out and protect street children.
Pakistan’s Hidden Shame will open the eyes of the world to the dark underbelly of moral degradation that permeates not just this city, but many others including Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and even the nation's capital, Islamabad.
“It’s going on everywhere. In the big cities, or small cities, towns. Everywhere this is happening.” Zia Awan, lawyer and child rights activist”
Pakistan’s Hidden Shame was produced almost entirely by a Pakistani production team. The film has the full co-operation of local charity workers trying to help the children involved. Written and produced by double-Emmy Award winner Jamie Doran, and directed by Special Emmy Winner Mohammed Al Naqvi. The film is narrated by Juliet Stevenson. TX June 2014