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Islamic schools in Pakistan plagued by cases of sex abuse

Jamaica Gleaner / KEHRORE PAKKA (AP):

Kausar Parveen struggles through tears as she remembers the blood-soaked pants of her nine-year-old son, raped by a religious cleric. Each time she begins to speak, she stops, swallows hard, wipes her tears and begins again.

The boy had studied for a year at a nearby Islamic school in the town of Kehrore Pakka. In the blistering heat of late April, in the grimy two-room Islamic madrassa, he awoke one night to find his teacher lying beside him.

“I didn’t move. I was afraid,” he says.

The cleric lifted the boy’s long tunic-style shirt over his head, and then pulled down his baggy pants.

“I was crying. He was hurting me. He shoved my shirt in my mouth,” the boy says, using his scarf to show how the cleric tried to stifle his cries. He looks over at his mother.

“Did he touch you?'” He nods. “Did he hurt you when he touched you?” “Yes,” he whispers.

“Did he rape you?” He buries his face in his scarf and nods yes.

Parveen reaches over and grabs her son, pulling him towards her, cradling his head in her lap.

Sexual abuse is a pervasive and long-standing problem at madrassas in Pakistan, an AP investigation has found, from the sun-baked mud villages deep in its rural areas to the heart of its teeming cities. But in a culture where clerics are powerful and sexual abuse is a taboo subject, it is seldom discussed or even acknowledged in public.

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