ISLAMABAD: A sizable proportion of Pakistan’s population comprises children under the age of 18 but their rights have largely been neglected by the government.
“No concrete steps have been taken by the government to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC),” said Muhammed Imtiaz Ahmed, National Programme Manager, Violence Against Children of the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), while talking to The Express Tribune.
November 20 is celebrated as Universal Children’s Day across the globe and while Pakistan marked November 12, 2010 as the 20th anniversary of its ratification of the UNCRC, the government has done little beyond submission of periodic reports to the UN. Resource allocation, establishment of effective coordination mechanisms and professional training are almost nonexistent despite 20 years of ratification.
Ahmed urged the government to “accelerate concrete actions for children rather than empty gestures.” Successive governments have failed to introduce child-specific laws and policies in light of Pakistan’s international obligations of being a signatory to the UNCRC, he added.
Due to poverty, a large number of children are not enrolled in schools and this has resulted in increased child labour and children living off the streets, said Ahmed, highlighting the relationship between poverty, child labour and domestic abuse. Child domestic labour is quite common and since January 2010, when Shazia Masih was murdered in Lahore by her employers, six child domestic labourers have been murdered in Punjab alone, he added. It’s worthwhile to mention here that these cases are only the ones highlighted by the media.
Ahmad cited the example of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa where a child protection bill has been adopted as legislation, asking the government to introduce similar legislations in other provinces. “Similar laws are required in Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab as well to provide a safer and protected environment for children where they have full rights as a vital part of our society”, he added.
The Child Rights Movement (CRM) of SPARC urges the government to show their commitment on this Universal Children’s Day and come up with effective steps for improving the state of child rights in the country.
A plan of action for the implementation of the UN observations, approval of a national child protection policy and related laws, increase in resource allocation for health, education and child protection, establishment of a national commission on the rights of children, inclusion of child rights in the training curricula of all professional training colleges and academies and establishment of a separate ministry for children were among the suggestions offered by Ahmed to achieve that goal.
“This will help overcome the problems that are being faced by the children in our country and save their future,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2010.
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