ISLAMABAD: Federal and provincial governments failure in implementing laws have given rise to violence against children.
Recommendations given by the National Commission for Human Rights in its report on the Kasur child sexual abuse scandal have still not been implemented, they lamented.
The points were raised during a meeting of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) here on Tuesday.
The situation is most troubling in Punjab, where at least 50 children have gone missing in recent months, the commission member Muhammad Shafique said while briefing the meeting.
The meeting reviewed status of various laws including the Criminal Laws Amendment Bill, National Commission on the Rights of Children Bill, and the Charter on the Child Rights Bill and efforts to address flaws in the Police Act 2002.
Shafique said the commission had recommended that child protection systems should be reviewed and reformed in compliance with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Children (CRC).
It had also proposed increased budgetary provisions and appropriate administrative actions for child protection and assistance.
The commission also called for the adoption and implementation of the National Plan of Action for Children and National Child Protection Policy at federal, provincial, and local levels in accordance with the concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
On the recent spate of child abductions in Lahore, he said, the government’s own figures suggest around 50 children are still missing and the state’s response has been very poor. No corrective or preventive measures were taken to avert more abductions and recover the missing children, he added.
Human rights defender Tahira Abdullah said we should not indulge in a numbers game. “One child missing is one child to many”.
She questioned the efficiency of federal agencies and the police, while saying that the Punjab government is in a state of denial.
“It is necessary for Pakistanis to start loving children. Once we do this, we will start caring for and protecting our children. Every daughter and son must be a wanted child and a loved child”, said Tahira.
Child rights activist Naheed Aziz gave a review of overall child welfare, protection and development situation in the country. Children in Pakistan remain among the most vulnerable part of the population, she said, while citing issues and factors such as abandonment, beggary, child brides, forced marriages, disability, ethnic issues, and the impacts of disaster.
Even in 2015, most children remained deprived of their fundamental rights, she said, and no consistent effort was seen to reform the child protection system.
General disregard for human rights, unfavourable environment, low official priority, lack of data, laws, policies, strategies, registration/monitoring systems and implementation mechanisms are the contributing factors in the grim state of affair of our children, she pointed out.
She also brought up inconsistencies in the definition of child, as the UN Convention on the Rights of Children defines anyone under 18 as a child, but in Pakistan the age of maturity differs for voting, marriage, crime responsibility, and factory work, sometimes conflicting with international law.
Violence against children
Meanwhile, Child Rights Movement (CRM), a network of civil society organisations, demanded steps from provincial and federal government, law enforcement agencies to expose the culprits and protect the children.
In a statement CRM stressed the need to take prompt action on the issues confronting children.
In 2015, a total of 3,768 children were reported to have fallen a prey to sexual abuse, it said.
“There has been an alarming increase in the abduction of children since January 2016. A case in point is that of Punjab, where 652 children have been reported kidnapped, 312 of whom are from Lahore.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2016.