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Existing punishment for sexual abuse of children in Pakistan ranges from ten years' imprisonment to death penalty.iStock

A parliamentary committee in Pakistan has pushed forward a proposal for tougher punishment in cases of child sexual abuse. The influential committee voted in favour of amending the current laws, according to a statement on the parliament's website.

The present penal code says that child sexual abuse punishment ranges from a minimum of ten years to death penalty. It does not specify the victim's age or gender. The new proposal aims to push towards the life imprisonment or death penalty punishment for sexual abuse of girls.

The proposal by lawmaker Shaista Perveiz Malek was approved by the National Assembly's standing committee on 3 November. "After detailed discussions, the committee unanimously passed the bill," read a statement on the parliament's website.

According to reports, the proposal only targets sexual abuse of girls under 14. After the bill appears in front of lawmakers in parliamentary chambers, it can be passed into law, reported Gulf News. The UN children's agency, UNICEF, has stated in a report that over one in 10 girls worldwide have been raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 20.

Using data from 190 countries, the report found that sexual abuse was most common in developing countries, with nearly half of girls between the ages of 15-to-19 not reporting on physical or sexual violence. However, the abuse is not limited to the developing world, and wealthier nations are believed to also experience "sexual victimisation" through pornography or harassment.

According to Anthony Lake, Unicef's executive director, sexual violence occurs "every day, everywhere" and "cuts across boundaries of age, geography, religion, ethnicity and income brackets. These are uncomfortable facts — no government or parent will want to see them. But unless we confront the reality each infuriating statistic represents – the life of a child whose right to a safe, protected childhood has been violated – we will never change the mind-set that violence against children is normal and permissible. It is neither."