Child laws in Pakistan

A fundamental way to keep children off the streets and out of trouble is to implement Article 25(A) of Constitution.

Editorial January 01, 2013
Juvenile students of a religious seminary sit chained in police detention. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS/FILE

Time and again, social welfare and human rights organisations highlight what remains to be achieved in granting basic rights to the citizens of Pakistan. Recently, various groups attended a conference in Islamabad on children’s rights in the country. A key aspect that was discussed is the dismal state of a proper juvenile system. At present, there are 1,500 to 2,000 children in Pakistan’s jails with the greatest population being in Punjab. While the Children’s Complaint Office was established in 2009 to develop a child ombudsman system in the country, it has not been all that effective. However, because the Office acts as a body that seeks to resolve complaints from and about children against the maladministration of various government agencies and because it can help the approximately 35 million children who live below the poverty line and cannot afford going to the courts for justice, the Office — and other similar institutions — should be supported in being developed further.

Another issue brought up at the conference was that laws pertaining to children — such as Article 25(A), which makes education free and compulsory for all, Article 11(3), which prohibits child employment, and the Pakistan Penal Code, which grants immunity to juveniles — all have different upper age limits. Lawmakers need to ratify these, perhaps in consultation with professionals who study child development, and decide an appropriate upper age limit applicable to these laws.

A fundamental way to keep children off the streets and out of trouble in the first place is to implement Article 25(A) of the Constitution. Also, parents should not be allowed to force their children to work. All stakeholders including the federal and provincial governments need to come together and first develop education laws which will require parents to admit their children to schools, making it illegal not to do so. Second, a proper juvenile system needs to be developed by ratifying the aforementioned laws pertaining to child justice.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 2nd, 2013.


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