The state of child rights is horrific in Pakistan. A recent report on the subject by Supreme Court lawyer Zia Awan will have parents reconsidering the thought of raising their children on Pakistani soil. In 2014, 767 children across Pakistan were raped and murdered. Kidnapping, human trafficking, suicide and ‘honour’ killings are realities facing Pakistan’s children. All provinces have failed to protect children although one has to acknowledge that Sindh has taken the right step in forming the Sindh Child Protection Authority (SCPA), but it took the authorities four years to make it functional. Other provincial governments must also institute measures for the protection of all minors. Ideally, there should be a uniform policy on child protection throughout the country, but with the area of child rights having been devolved to the provinces after the 18th Amendment, they have been extremely slow in moving ahead in this critical area of human rights.
Apart from setting up authorities like the SCPA, other entities also need to do their jobs better. This includes our legislative bodies — which must come up with concrete laws against child marriage, child labour and other injustices against children — the bureaucracy and law-enforcement agencies (LEAs), which are required to implement the laws and apprehend perpetrators, as well as the civil society and the media, which must report incidents of child abuse and neglect diligently. The need for extra vigilance must be highlighted as many cases of child abuse arise from children’s own homes rather than by offenders outside the home. Laws should be revised to also protect children from any abuse perpetrated by their own biological parents. Universally, because children are too young to defend their rights, they are given protection by the state for their safety and wellbeing. In Pakistan’s case, provincial governments should be held liable for the 767 child tragedies reported last year and a deep introspection should result, giving rise to more strict execution of laws, and aggressive vigilance by LEAs and society to make Pakistan a safer country for children.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2015.
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