According to the 2012 State of Pakistan’s Children report released by Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), 25 million children are out of school, 12 million are engaged in labour while around 618 newborn babies die every day in the country. No wonder then that SPARC has termed the state of children in Pakistan “dismal” and “deteriorating”.
This report should serve as an eye-opener for the government as well as the people of this country. Childhood is usually referred to as a “carefree” and “fun” phase by most of us but these children who are not getting any education, who are either dying of malnourishment or who are constantly ill due to lack of basic facilities, who lose their innocence and their childhood because of child labour, will never be able to refer to their childhood as anything but traumatic.
These children see a very different childhood — if that is what it can be called — because of their living conditions; they go through child abuse at a very young age, they are discriminated against and they have no protection from society. It is evident that the state of child rights in the country is deplorable, to say the least.
We need the government, the public, the civil society and NGOs to come together and do everything possible to rectify the situation. As a former secretary general of the UN, Kofi Annan, once said: “There is no duty more important than ensuring that children’s rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace.”
With around 35 per cent of Pakistan’s population aged 15 or below, the government must take the issue of child rights seriously. The centre and the provinces need a coordinated policy in this regard, with proper legislation on child rights and making sure that existing laws are fully implemented.
Children are the future of any society but the way we are treating ours is shameful and a disgrace for humanity. If we want our country to progress and move forward in the right direction, it is important that we protect child rights. By neglecting their rights, we are paving the way for a disastrous future for the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2013.
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