The number of reported child sexual abuse cases in Pakistan has risen by 10 percent in the last year, with roughly 11 children abused every day, according to new statistics released today.
The report, compiled by Sahil, a non-government organisation (NGO) working against child sexual abuse, says that a total of 4,139 cases were registered in 2016, an increase from 3,768 in 2015.
The report says that 2,410 girls and 1,729 boys were victims of sexual exploitation last year.
Some 45 per cent of the victims were between the ages of six and 15.
Sex is a taboo subject in the deeply conservative Muslim-majority country. Activists working to fight child abuse have said the problem is widespread but difficult to quantify because victims are often unwilling to speak out.
Ejaz Ahmed Qureshi, the National Commissioner for Children, said at the report's launch that the government's own research shows that at least 40 million children in Pakistan living below the poverty line were in dire need of protection.
Sohail Ahmed, programme officer at Sahil, proposed separate desks for reporting child abuse cases at police stations, child friendly courts and special training for all staff dealing with children including teachers, doctors, and policemen.
In 2015 Pakistan took a step towards punishing those guilty of abusing young girls with life imprisonment or even death after an influential parliamentary committee voted to amend current laws.
But the amendment only appears to address the sexual abuse of girls aged under 14, not boys.
Also in 2015, a huge scandal emerged involving at least 280 children who lawyers said were filmed being sexually abused, with their parents blackmailed over the footage.