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POVERTY, ILLITERACY, POWER HEGEMONY, AND STIGMATIZATION; THE PERFECT RECIPE FOR ABUSE

Imagine being so poor that you cannot afford the sustenance of your child. What do you do? How do you provide them education when you are even struggling to put food on the table? The solution to this predicament came in the form of Madrassas.


A Madrassa is a religious education institution that provides housing facilities and necessities to its students and is often funded through charity. These Madrassas form a large chunk of the education system of Pakistan.


"There are more than 22,000 registered madrassas in Pakistan, teaching more than 2 million children. But there are many more religious schools that are unregistered.”


These students often come from backgrounds of immense poverty and illiteracy; because of this, their parents and guardians have blind faith in the Madrassas as they believe that these Madrassas are the only hope they have. This blind faith and lack of awareness create power hegemony where the clerics in these institutions are treated as the ultimate authority on every matter. With the entire fate of children placed in the hands of clerics, the power hegemony and lack of accountability create an extremely toxic and complicated environment of isolation and abuse.


Child abuse and child sexual abuse is rampant in Madrassas, and almost every day, a new story comes out with every next one being more horrific than the last, from children getting STDs to physically become impaired and ending up with broken bones and nightmares that follow them for the rest of their lives. The testimonies of the survivors are enough to send chills through any grown-up's body, and these survivors were children when they started getting harassed and abused, which only goes to make the whole thing worse. Shazia, a survivor of sexual abuse in Madrassas, gave the following statement:

“He has done wrong with boys and also with two or three girls,” Recalling one girl, the cleric brutalized so badly he broke her back.


This incident is far from an exception; in fact, the victim spoke up against all the heinous crimes. There is an extreme stigma associated with all this, and this stigma continues to help serve the abusers as people are afraid to speak out in fear of social exclusion and for their safety as these clerics are extremely influential individuals of the society. All of this continues the cycle of abuse, poverty, and exploitation with absolutely no hopes of betterment in the foreseeable future. And children and their education continue to suffer.


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With no checks to authority ,the wicked can do as they please.Unfortunately the importance given to religious education in our country means that the popularity of madrassas will continue for decades ,with little regulation cases of child molestation are very common as you have mentioned and traumatize kids for the rest of their lives

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Definitely a topic that needs to be highlighted. There are no check and balances on these madrassas. They have become breeding grounds for hate, intolerance and religious discrimination and not to mention the gruesome physical and sexual abuse that is inflicted upon innocent children within them. People give unlimited, blind respect to maulvis and madrassa teachers because of their religious association to the extent that they often turn a blind eye towards the heinous crimes that are committed by their hands in madrassas. The government really needs to install a system of vigilance and check and balance here and try to gradually get rid of this madrassa education system.

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I agree with you. It is most certainly the blind trust of the people towards teachers that propagates the corporal punishment and harassment in schools and madarassas.

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Thank you for voicing this issue Muzammil! The thing with madrassas is people confuse them as holy places, free from error. While I agree the purpose of these institutions is to teach religion, however, this gives teacher a free pass in doing whatever they want to do. But here is the issue: when a person thinks themselves above the law, they strive to break them. Unless people realize that these abusers are present here, perhaps the narrative may not change.

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Rightly said that people here think that they are above the law, therefore, they tend to break them. The accountability of teachers and strict state action needs to be imposed here that might control such perpetrators of violence in schools/madrassas.

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You have chosen a very interesting topic! As you said, two million of our children go to these institutions yet state has failed to supervise them and reform them. Also, unfortunately, abuse by religious cleric in a Madrassah is romanticized among the parents in a way that they say "it is for the betterment of our child." "Teacher has right to beat him...otherwise our child will not do anything good". "Hell's fire will be haram on the part where teacher has beaten the child." And there are many more.. This is common because there is no awareness and no check and balance on these institutions, and state is responsible for that.

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That is the problem that the beatings are legitimized by our own society. Also, I just recalled a report that I read a few months ago related to corporal punishment in which it was reported that the parents and teachers think of corporal punishment as something justified because they too were subjected to corporal punishment in their student life. The mindset of parents and teachers need to change

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vv important topic that needs to be addressed in today's age. There must be a way through which there should be a proper check and balance on these madrassas and the clerics involved in raping or torturing the children should be punished severely, that too publicaly, so that no one repeats the thing again. I know friends who are Hafiz-e-Quran and when they were students of madrassas they used to get tortured either with sticks or belts.

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Absolutely! A strong will by the state to encounter this issue is severely needed; not just words.

And I also remembers a few of my friends who would tell such tails about their madrassas that how Qari Sahab would beat them mercilessly for any small reason.

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