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Sexual abuse is widespread in Pakistan's Islamic schools

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Kausar Parveen is the mother of nine-year-old boy raped by cleric at a Pakistani madrassa.

"It is only because of Allah that my son is alive. What if he had died?"
Kausar Parveen, mother of a rape victim

The cleric originally admitted Parveen's son's rape to police, but withdrew his statement. "I am married for the last six to seven years. My wife is pretty," he now says. "Why would I do this to a child?"

Unfortunately, the rape of Parveen's son is not so unusual.

An investigation by the Associated Press that included interviews with hundreds of students, police officers, and clerics in Pakistan found that sexual abuse is extremely prevalent in madrassas across the country.

Sexual abuse is a taboo subject in Pakistani culture. Even those who dare to come forward face a legal system that is stacked against them. According to Pakistani police, the law demands eyewitnesses, the corroboration of circumstantial evidence and medical evidence to make a case.

Madrassas educate some of Pakistan's poorest populations and are not overseen by the state because they are religious institutions. Pakistan's legal system also allows for a victim's family to "forgive" the offender and accept "blood money" in exchange for the crime.

"The big problem is here that the police don't help the poor. Police ask the victim, "Give us money, then we will register your case," said Azam Hussein, a Pakistani municipal councillor. "People are poor, they worry all day and night about their daily bread and butter. Then how do you register the case?"

Another big deterrent from even reporting the crime is the strict blasphemy laws that protect many clerics because in Pakistan, blasphemy is punishable by death.

"Everybody is too afraid of talking about these things because they are afraid of the people who run these madrassas," said I.A. Rehman, a Pakistani human rights activist.

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"This unfortunate incident happened to us, but no one was taking action," said Maqsood, the brother of a victim. "We ourselves handed over the culprit to the police, but they released him, even though the case was registered against him."

According to the AP, perpetrators of these crimes rarely see justice.

"We are being pressured to compromise."
Maqsood, victim's brother

"How come has he been released?" Maqsood continued. "We are being pressured to compromise."

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