Child rights in Pakistan: An unfinished agenda

Published: November 20, 2014
The write is a child rights activist with a Master’s in Human Rights from the London School of Economics. He tweets @amahmood72

The write is a child rights activist with a Master’s in Human Rights from the London School of Economics. He tweets @amahmood72

We keep hearing about and reading frightening media reports regarding the plight of children in the country on a daily basis, like 70,000-plus first-day deaths occurring in Pakistan, 352,000 children dying of preventable causes before their fifth birthday each year, 45 per cent of under-five deaths directly being linked to under-nutrition among children and their mothers, 44 per cent children being malnourished, declining rates of exclusive breastfeeding for six-month-old babies, nearly seven million children of primary school-going age being out of school with high gender disparity in education at all levels, nearly 1.5 million children living and/or working on the streets, and approximately 10 million children being involved in child labour.

The Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000 is poorly implemented and there is no effective child protection system in place in any part of the country. Several bills related to child rights are pending at the national and provincial levels, including the Balochistan Child Protection and Welfare Bill, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill and the K-P Protection of Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition Bill, the Punjab Child Marriages Restraint Bill, as well as several bills at the federal level, including the Child Marriages Restraint (Amendment) Bill, the National Commission on the Rights of Children Bill, the Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill and the Criminal Laws Amendment Bill to name a few. The laws that have been passed have seen little implementation, resulting in there being no visible impact on the situation of children in the country. There has been little or no budgetary allocation for the various laws that have been passed in our provincial assemblies related to child rights.

Moreover, the Concluding Observations and Recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Periodic Review Recommendations have never been implemented in letter and in spirit. One of the reasons for no follow-up on these international commitments is that there is no national-level body with statutory status to ensure effective implementation of Pakistan’s national and international obligations. Pakistan was the sixth country in the world to sign and ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1990 following its adoption by the UN General Assembly on November 20, 1989. Every year, on November 20, the Universal Children’s Day is observed, with 2014 being the 25th anniversary of the passing of the UNCRC. Unfortunately, however, there seems to be little cause for celebration in this regard in Pakistan as there has been little implementation of the UNCRC.

Pakistan has failed to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDG), including MDG-4, which refers to a two-thirds reduction in the under-five mortality rate, which currently stands at 87 per 1,000 live births. There is also the problem of poor vaccination rates for children due to a weak routine immunisation system and growing violence against them, among various other serious issues afflicting child rights in the country.

There is a need to effectively build pressure on the federal and provincial governments by involving children, civil society, media and other relevant stakeholders to push them into taking steps for improving the situation of children and fulfilling Pakistan’s national and international obligations. Following the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment, the task of preserving child rights has been devolved to the provinces. There is an opportunity to engage more with provincial governments in order to push for the realisation of the rights of the child in Pakistan. While provinces have enacted laws and policies central to improve the state of child rights, unfortunately, implementation remains a key concern.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Jonaid
    Nov 20, 2014 - 9:18AM

    I have not read the article at all but from topic I have not doubt that there is no rights of children from education to entertainment and from health to hunger. An extortion of children is every where in all fields of life in Pakistan.

    A couple of year ago a cleric type host of TV channel were selling children on a live TV show in Ramadan and no one bothered.

    A frequent rape of little girls happened in all over the country and no one bother.


  • Meena Gabeena
    Nov 20, 2014 - 9:50AM

    Thank you for raising such an important issue. A very informative article… Government must prioritize enactment of pending bills and increased budgetary allocation particularly for education, health and child protection.


  • Abdul Malik
    Nov 20, 2014 - 10:30AM
  • Mina Sohail
    Nov 20, 2014 - 11:00AM

    It is almost frightening to know that such significant laws for the advancement of child rights in Pakistan are still pending at provincial and federal level. Does this reflect the lack of priority of law makers? How do we push forward this case as individuals and collectively?


  • Yasir khawaja
    Nov 20, 2014 - 11:10AM

    Statistics shared by the writer is very alarming regarding Child rights in Pakistan. This is fact that Child Rights in Pakistan has always been an ignored matter given the innumerable problems that plague the country on an economic, political and social front. The lack of proper governance and management in the country is another reason for the procedural inefficacies that a child faces while fighting for justice in Pakistan. The Convention on the Rights of Child (CRC) is a legally binding instrument that puts children under the ambit of human rights: civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. Pakistan ratified the CRC on 20th November 1990 and with that it pledged that children have special needs and rights that need to be taken care of by the state.
    Today on “universal children Day” Government of Pakistan take some bold steps and establish independent provincial commissions on the rights of children, budgetary allocations, strengthen child protection system, it’s a high time that Government should take interest in providing legal security to children and adopt bills pending since 2009, including the Criminal Law Amendment (Child Protection) Bill 2009 and the National Commission on the Rights of Children Bill 2009. Other legislation making immunization compulsory, outlawing corporal punishment and child marriages. Implementation of 25-A with fervor.

    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.


  • Abid Majeed
    Nov 20, 2014 - 11:24AM

    The grim picture, the state of Child Rights in Pakistan presents to this day of Universal Children Day, almost every year, the enormity of the situation continues to be the same. Not sustainability rather stagnancy is the phrase which defines the exclusive breastfeeding ratio in Pakistan.Child Mortality ratio either of newborns or the children under the age of 5 remains in million.In the aftermath of 18th Amendments,preserving Child Rights was devolved down to Provincial level and rightly so many legislations,laws, Articles and Acts are in place to safeguard as such but the real time implementation remains a forlorn idea.
    Since that fateful day when Pakistan ratified the UNCRC in 1990, then only the sixth country & First Islamic country to do so, down the history lane of 25 years, her Government, Civil Society Organisations & Academia have to come up with the long term yet sustainable plan to at least put Pakistan on track to ensure Child Rights as per with her South Asian neighbours. The Writer laments the lack of grid in making strides when so many paperwork and frameworks to preserve Child Rights in Pakistan yet concrete steps such as Significant & sizeable Budget Allocation,structural implementation of Child Protection laws, true implementation of Article 25 of Constitution for Children are not merely the future but surely are the “present” of Pakistan and must be treated likewise.


  • Farman Ali Khan
    Nov 20, 2014 - 12:52PM

    Well Written and highlighting the important issues and areas


  • Shafqat Ali Khan
    Nov 20, 2014 - 3:03PM

    Its really informative,several Bills and Ordinances linked with CR are pending at both houses. Implementation on existing laws is another challenge. All this shows that instead of focusing on the introduction of new laws we need to focus on those passed laws and articulate them into practice to have their impact on our future.


  • Miqdad Naqvi
    Nov 24, 2014 - 5:01PM

    Very well and true! Child Rights have never been the priority of any Government in Pakistan…. What was a joke when 2013 was declard as Year of Child Rights in Pakistan and outcome was nthing infact it was election year. its really an ignored agenda thats not comjng to an end…..


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