Nadeem knows first hand the misery of life on the streets. Sexually assaulted as a child, he became a pimp of young boys–the only way he knew how to survive as a member of Pakistan’s underclass.
He says he was 12 years old when he was attacked. Since then, he has been dragged into a vicious cycle of horrifying abuse allegedly aided and abetted by police and which few are willing to confront in the Muslim country.
“It was just the third night I slept on a street when a policeman picked me up and did bad things to me. I cried a lot but no one came to help me,” Nadeem, now 17, told AFP.
By 14 he was a full-time sex worker. His pimp gave him a mobile phone to keep in contact with clients.
According to charities which work to protect street children in Pakistan, up to 90 percent are sexually abused on the first night that they sleep rough and 60 percent accuse police of sexually abusing them.
“Children on the street are beaten, tortured, sexually assaulted, and sometimes killed,” said Rana Asif Habib, head of the Initiator Human Development Foundation (IHDF).
“What we have gathered in our research is that policemen make up more than 60 percent of those who physically torment, sexually harass street children,” said Anwer Kazmi of the Edhi Foundation, the country’s largest charity.
More than 170,000 street children live on the streets across the country.
Rizwan is a fisherman’s son. He insists he is 12, but he looks much younger. He left home three years ago because his family beat him and says he was abused by police. IHDF fears he too will be dragged into the sex industry.
“The police tried to make me do bad things six or seven times but I managed to get away,” he said.
“But one day, one policeman took me by force, put a cloth over my mouth and took me to a place where he did bad things.”