Universal Children’s Day: Ensuring basic rights for the most vulnerable

Inadequate laws, poor enforcement cited as major factors.

Sehrish Wasif November 20, 2012


Smoke billows from the makeshift oven, with smarting eyes Umar Sajjad roasts cob with his sickle. This is how he has been earning a living for the past year.

“I had to quit my studies to help my father earn a living. However my siblings are studying,” said Umar. Dressed in worn-out clothes and torn slippers, the 13-year-old is the eldest of four brothers. His family shifted to Islamabad due to the ongoing military operation in Mohmand Agency, seven years ago.

Every morning he leaves home at 8.30am for Aabpara where he sells corn on the cob and returns by eight in the evening. “I earn around Rs1300 a day out of which I pay Rs100 for the taxi fare.

There are thousands of children like Umar who are forced to postpone their dreams and take up menial work. Universal Children’s Day is celebrated on November 20, but little has been done to secure their right to education and health.

“Parliament has not adopted a single law to enforce child rights except the recently-enacted Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill 2012, limited to the Islamabad Capital Territory,” said Arshad Mehmood, senior manger advocacy at Save the Children. “For the effective implementation of a child rights bill, adequate budgetary allocations is a pre-requisite.” There is no legislation on child rights in Balochistan, he added.

Abdullah Khosa, member of child rights movement (CRM), a network of more than 100 organisations, said, “Unaddressed rights violations are resulting in an increase in the number of cases reported against child abuse, child labour, early child marriages and corporal punishments.”

According to CRM, 2,595 cases of child abuse were reported in 2010 which increased to over 3,000 in 2011. There are an estimated 1.2 million street children in major cities, while more than 264,000 child domestic workers face hazardous conditions. Malnutrition causes 35 per cent of all under-five deaths in the country.

Early child marriage cases of children from 10 to 14 years numbered 20,19 million and 19,88 million for teenagers between 15 to 19 years of age. Of which 24,228 from the first age group and 10,29784 from the second were reported married in 2008 to 2009.

“CRM urges the government to review concerns raised in the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Pakistan’s Universal Periodic Review on the state of human and child rights,” said Meena Gabeena, another member of CRM.

“The government should to introduce enabling legislations to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which Pakistan ratified 22 years ago.”

Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2012.


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