State of affairs: Child kidnapping rate goes up

Sparc reports crimes against minors increased in 2011.


Our Correspondent September 07, 2012

KARACHI:


For children in Pakistan, the annual report of the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) paints a bleak picture.


As violence against minors rose during the past year, so did the number of child kidnappings: around 7,000 kids were abducted, with 3,090 from Karachi only. This was one of the findings of the annual report “The State of Pakistan’s Children 2011” released by Sparc on Friday.

It is unfortunate that with every passing year, situation for the children, especially for the poor and the minorities, seems to be getting worse, said the society’s representatives highlighting the findings of various child-related issues.

Violence against children remained high as 2,303 instances of sexual abuse were reported countrywide, with police officers involved in more than 60 per cent abuse cases of street children.

The child education sector also presented a disappointing picture with around 25 million children out of school in 2011 and seven million yet to receive primary education. Most of the damage was done after the floods, as around 9,800 schools were destroyed in Sindh and Balochistan. The country is missing on its Education for All (EFA) goals, and has also missed its goal of eliminating gender disparity at primary schools. Currently, the gender parity index stands at 0.86.

In 2011, the number of juvenile prisoners across the country increased from 1,225 in 2010 to 1,421 in 2011 with around 173 foreign juveniles.

With the last survey on child labourers conducted in 1996, Salam Dharejo, a child rights activist said that countrywide 10 million children are engaged in underage labour, according to estimates. One out of every eight children is a child labourer.

Regarding health, Pakistan is among the top five countries for the highest number of severely malnourished children under the age of five. During the 2011 floods, half of the 4.8 million affected people were children. Moderate to severe malnourishment was prevalent among the flood-affected children in Sindh. The province also has the second highest mortality rate of 314 per 100,000 births, with the highest in Balochistan.

Children of various minority communities also remained vulnerable. In 2011, 2,000 girls across the country were forcefully converted through abduction, rape, torture and forced marriages. Around 300 Hindu girls are forced to convert every year.

Around 27 Hindu kids were kidnapped from different areas of Sindh while 10 Ahmadi students were expelled from a school in Hafizabad because of their beliefs.

Children are missing from national issues, lamented Iqbal Ahmed Detho, the national manager of Sparc. “Children have no vote that’s why they are not the priority of the government.”

After the 18th amendment, the future of several child-related laws remains in the dark. The bills submitted in the Sindh Assembly, such as the prohibition of corporal punishment in Sindh, is facing bureaucratic delays, he added.

Political will is needed to address the issues of the children, said the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) leader Imtiaz Ahmed Sheikh.

Political parties don’t seem to care much about children, said noted educationist Zubeida Mustafa. “Education and health for them is the most neglected subject.”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2012. 

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