A group of non-governmental organisations has launched a week-long campaign to press for the passage of new laws and implementation of existing ones to control violence against children. The advocacy groups organised a press conference on Monday and said that children, who constitute more than one-third of the population, do not have adequate protection under the law.
So far this year, 90 children have been killed, 68 kidnapped and 200 molested across the country, according to data collected by Society for Protection of Rights of Children (SPARC), which is leading the group.
Awareness programs, engagement with civil society, teachers and students will also be a part of it.
“The violators take heart when they notice that they don’t get punished,” remarked Mustafa Baloch, Strengthening Participatory Organisation’s chief executive.
“We have separate ministries for women, minorities and human rights, but none for children. A majority of children are denied their rights, suffer violence and work as labourers,” said Kashif Bajeer, SPARC’s national manager.
Bajeer pointed out some shortcomings in the “outmoded” Childrens Act 1955. The law does not deal with the issue of children involved in domestic, agricultural and industrial labour. “It should be amended to regulate labour being exacted from children.” He also stressed on the need for separate laws to deal with murder, kidnapping, rape and trafficking of children, and harsher punishments for the perpetrators.
Institute of Social Movements’ Zulfiqar Shah drew attention towards non-implementation of the Children Protection Authority Bill, which the Sindh Assembly passed in May, 2011. According to Shah, the law was supposed to be a precursor to further legislation to deal with street children, forced labour and child beggars, but no further developments have taken place so far.
“The government hasn’t even notified about the instruments through which it will enforce the law,” said Shah.
Representatives of NGOs estimated that more than 1.2 million children live on streets, without any proper shelter and family support in Pakistan.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Ashuthama Lohano said that the government-run orphanages are ill-equipped to nurture children. Humanitarian organisations should be allowed to provide healthcare, education, sports, clothing, food and other facilities to children at these orphanages.
Bajeer said that the NGOs will lobby lawmakers to legislate and enforcement laws to stop abuses of children’s rights. “We expect that by the end of the week, we will be able to at least win assurance from them that certain laws will be passed and those that exist will be enforced.”
Representatives of Sindh Agriculture and Forestry Workers Coordination Organisation, Women Action Forum and Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, among others, were also present on the occasion.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2012.