LAHORE: Empowerment of youths and children through age-specific life skill-based education can help reduce incidents of child abuse.
This was the crux of the views expressed at a seminar held on Thursday to review legislative progress and challenges in Punjab regarding reproductive health.
Ujala Campaign Manager Mariam Khan appreciated the enactment of legislation to protect vulnerable segments of society. She mentioned the enactment of the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women Act 2014, the Punjab Protection of Women against violence act 2016, the Punjab Muslim Family Laws (Amendment) Act 2015, the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act 2016 and the Punjab reproductive, Maternal, Neo-Natal and Child Health Authority Act 2014.
She said that the new provincial government should take all possible administrative measures and ensure all required financial provisions for the benefit of the public.
Allocation to resources is very much needed not only to implement laws and policies but also to meet the country's international obligations under Sustainable Development Goals, said Khan.
Awaz Foundation CEO Ziaur Rehman said that there is a need to establish counselling service to provide accurate information to youths about puberty. There is a need to set up youth-friendly spaces where young people can go without any hesitation and seek guidance and support related to their psychological, emotional and reproductive health issues from qualified professionals.
He said that in Punjab Youth Policy 2012, the Punjab government committed to establishing a toll-free helpline to provide such services to youths, but nothing was done to implement the policy. He added that the minimum age for marriage must be declared 18 years.
Search For Justice Executive Director Iftikhar Mubarik highlighted the importance of initiating comprehensive school education programme to equip children and youths with required information, knowledge, and skills according to their ages.
Search For Justice Coordinator Rashida Qureshi quoted a recent report issued by Sahil which revealed 3,832 reported cases of child sexual abuse in Pakistan. She added that this is the right time to develop a comprehensive child protection policy in Punjab and other provinces to prioritise the issue of child sexual abuse.
Protection of children from all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation requires a high level of political commitment, said Qureshi.
MPAs from Punjab Assembly Advocate Shamsa Ali, Ayesha Iqbal, Sumaira Ahmed Bukhari, and Neelum Hayat assured that the government is seriously considering the issues affecting youth and children especially women and soon in consultation with relevant departments, civil society and experts, the government would introduce reforms which will help empower vulnerable segments of society.