Activist wants children sleeping on the roads ‘arrested’ for their own good

NGO representative goes to court to get children into the Remand Home.


Zeeshan Mujahid February 08, 2011

KARACHI: An NGO representative has gone to court, asking it to tell the police to ‘arrest’ children found unprotected out on the road at night and take them to the Remand Home in Karachi.

Syed Iqbal Kazmi of the Human Rights Commission for South Asia (HRCSA) moved a petition, which was heard on Tuesday by a division bench of the Sindh High Court, comprising Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Imam Bux Baloch.

Quoting figures from a survey conducted by the NGO, Kazmi maintained there are around 32,500 street children in Karachi alone. Out of these, 17,000 spend the night outside as well. Around 12 to 20 such children are added to this figure every day because young boys and girls from all over Pakistan come to Karachi, seeking work, refuge or freedom.

Street children are exposed to sexual harassment and many of them are forced into prostitution, said the petitioner, supporting his argument with statistics.

“There are 9,860 children working in the Fish Harbour and the industrial zones of Karachi while 11,530 are working in hotels and 1,685 in auto-repair workshops (car maintenance, etc),” the petitioner stated.

At least 7,840 cases are pending against juvenile offenders (children below 18 years of age), in which 12,000 offenders are under trial. Around 4,700 street children are selling flowers and cleaning windshields at traffic signals.

Seventeen children are living in the Remand Home (a sanctuary arranged by the government for homeless children) while 145 under-trial juvenile offenders are lodged in the juvenile prison.

The petitioner said that the respondent police officials are required to arrest street children under Section 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code. Any child found begging or out on the streets in the night should be taken to the remand home.

Kazmi said that under the Guardian and Ward Act, the state is “the guardian” of all children. The social welfare department (SWD) has an annual budget of Rs119 million and also has the National Commission for Child Welfare and Development but it has done nothing for the welfare of street children, he alleged.

As for the role of the home and prisons department, Kazmi said that under the Juvenile Justice Rules 2002, the government was required to construct Borstal Homes (correctional facilities for the youth) in every administrative district of the province but this was never implemented.

Kazmi asked the court to declare the “state as the guardian of children” to provide facilities, direct the law-enforcement agencies to arrest the children (and provide them refuge in the Remand Home) and also to summon performance records of the SWD.

The bench ordered notices to the Advocate General and all respondents including the chief secretary, home secretary, finance secretary, Karachi DCO, Inspector-General of Police, Capital City Police Officer, SSP Railways, Inspector-General Prisons, Judicial Lockup Superintendent and Social Welfare Department Secretary, directing them to present themselves in court on March 1 and file comments as well. The hearing was then adjourned till March 1.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2011.

COMMENTS (5)

Sohail Akhter | 10 years ago | Reply This is not a NGO. This is one of the biggest organisation in South Asia. Human Rights commission south asia. HRCSA was resolved to be 'an independent, voluntary, nonprofit organisation which shall neither be associated nor affiliated with the government or any political party. We stand with victims and activists to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom, to protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime, and to bring offenders to justice. We investigate and expose humman rights violations and hold abusers accountable we challenge governments and those who hold power to end abusive practices and respect international human right law. More than 50 dedicated professionals work for Human Rights Commission South Asia. We are lawyers, journalists, academics, and country experts of many nationalities and diverse backgrounds. We often join forces with human rights groups from other countries to further our common goals. A growing cadre of volunteers supports us. Human Rights Commission South Asia researchers conduct fact-finding investigations into human rights abuses in all regions in south asia. Human Rights Commission South Asia then publishes those findings in dozens of books and reports every year, generating extensive coverage in local and international media. This publicity helps to embarrass abusive governments in the eyes of their citizens and the world. Human Rights Commission South Asia then meets with government officials to urge changes in policy and practice -- at the United Nations, the European Union, in Washington and in capitals around the world. In extreme circumstances, Human Rights Commission South Asia presses for the withdrawal of military and economic support from governments that egregiously violate the rights of their people. In moments of crisis, Human Rights Commission South Asia provides up-to-the-minute information about conflicts while they are underway. WHERE - Human Rights Commission South Asia is working with offices in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Srilanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Sweden. We often set up temporary offices in regions where we're conducting intensive investigations, and our researchers regularly travel to the countries they cover, unless security concerns prevent it. In cyberspace, Human Rights Commission South Asia is located at www.hrcsa.org. Human Rights Commission South Asia tracks developments in South Asia countries around the Asia. We also follow issues in women's rights, children's rights, and the flow of arms to abusive forces. Other special projects include academic freedom, the human rights responsibilities of corporations, international justice, prisons, drugs, and refugees. Any and all parties to conflict may find themselves the target of Human Rights Commission South Asia. We frequently call on the South Asian countries to support human rights in its foreign policy -- but we also report on human rights abuse inside the South Asia, such as prison conditions, police abuse, the detention of immigrants, and the death penalty. Human Rights Commission South Asia believes that international standards of human rights apply to all people equally, and that sharp vigilance and timely protest can prevent the tragedies of the twentieth century from recurring. At Human Rights Commission South Asia, we remain convinced that progress can be made when people of good will organize themselves to make it happen.
Abdullah Khoso | 10 years ago | Reply The NGO is asking the Court to order the police to arrest children who are found on the roads and streets under section 109 of the CrPC and detain them in the Remand Home. It is totally wrong approach. It seems that the NGO demands to apply Vagrancy Act 1950 which is against the spirit of the child rights. Though the Vagrancy Act has been repealed. It means that children below 7 years of age will also be arrested and sent to the remand home. What a bad idea! A child on the street and roads cannot be arrested; but can only be taken into custody when it is confirmed that the child has no parents, no relatives, and no person to take care of him/her. In that case, the police officer is responsible produced that child before the Magistrate who will send the child to the shelter home rather Remand Home. The police officer in no circumstances is allowed to keep the child in the police lock. If the child reveals that he/she had parents, then it is responsibility of the police officer to search parents of the child. Upon meeting parents, the child should be handed over to them. The police officers warn parents if the child is found on the road or street again. A street child under no circumstance should be sent to the Remand Home which means we are going against the concept of detention as a last resort. Such detention will be of a street child will be with children who are alleged offenders, whose cases are being tried in the courts. Also the Remand Home does not have space to keep unprotected street children separate from the alleged offenders; there are also repeaters child offenders. The Court may order the Government to establish shelters homes or institutions where only street children may be kept after having formal custody of the child from the court. At the same time, rules may be prepared to operating the shelter homes or institutions. I think if the court orders the government to establish the such protection institution for children without parents, it will not take days.
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