Pakistanis join campaign to end child abuse



Islamabad: Pakistanis are making their favourite childhood cartoon characters their display pictures on social networking website Facebook and microblogging webstite Twitter to create awareness about child abuse.

Leading the pack is Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari, the daughter of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto and President Asif Ali Zardari.

According to rights groups, at least three children are abused every day on an average in Pakistan.

"For those who have not yet heard: 'change your picture to a cartoon from your childhood. The goal to join the fight against child abuse," Bakhtawar said in a post on Twitter a few hours ago.

Bakhtawar's childhood favourite Dexter is now her profile picture.

"Roger and Homer, Dexter's Lab was definitely my dominating childhood choice," she tweeted.

Bakhtawar also endorsed the way everyone was choosing cartoons to "symbolise the fight against child abuse".

However, Bakhtawar's younger sister Aseefa hasn't quite caught on with the campaign and her picture remains unchanged.

A total of 2,012 cases of child sexual abuse were recorded across Pakistan in 2009, showing a 9.4 percent increase compared to the previous year.

According to a report compiled by the NGO Sahil, Punjab tops the list with a majority of child abuse cases (62 percent), followed by Sindh (28 percent).

Maha J Usman, a Facebook user, changed her display picture after wondering "why everyone's loading cartoon pics?" Her friend clued her in on the campaign and soon the Lion King was her profile picture.

Noshi Asif, a senior Facebook user, copy-pasted her status message to "change your Facebook profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same".

"Until Monday (Dec 6) there should be no human faces on Facebook, but an invasion of memories. This is a campaign against child violence. Please spread the word," she wrote.

The campaign was kicked off by an "unnamed volunteer who aims to raise awareness about worldwide violence against children and child abuse through the simple gesture of changing your Facebook profile picture into your favourite childhood cartoon characters," read a note on a Facebook page titled "Campaign To End Violence Against Children – Childhood Cartoon".

Thousands of people across the globe have changed their profile pictures, but not many are sure if this will work to change attitudes towards child abuse. The campaign is set to end on December 6.

"The persisting popularity of the movement, however, has indicated that the campaign has, without doubt, managed to create, if not complete awareness, a trendy buzz over the issue of child abuse.

"Managing to get people to talk about any social cause at all in an age of self-centred endeavours is, in itself, a very big step forward," read a report in International Business Times. Ali Sufian, like many others, posted that he "loved the cause" but as the campaigners point out, "real difference" can only be made by making donations to charity organisations.

PTI