Islamabad: With the case of alleged sexual abuse of children in Kasur district of Punjab making headlines, the issue of successive governments’ failure to effectively legislate for child protection has yet again come to the fore.
During the ongoing session of the National Assembly, the house was provided with a list of initiatives which are in the pipeline specifically to safeguard the rights of children. At best, these measures looked superficial and did not have anything that could be presented as a way forward to address the abuse of child rights.
The information was placed before the lower house of the parliament by federal Minster for Law and Justice Pervez Rashid, who is holding the additional charge of the ministry, besides looking after his prime responsibility of chief spokesperson of the government as information minister.
The most tangible measures, according to written reply submitted to the National Assembly by the minister, were the presentation of the two drafted bills for the establishment of National Commission on Child Rights, and Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2015, for protection of child rights. The amendment in the criminal law deals with child sexual abuse and child pornography.
The bills have been introduced in the National Assembly and referred to the Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights. Moreover, the juvenile Justice System Bill, 2015, has been prepared to address the issue of juvenile delinquency as well as violence and offences against children, the minister said in his reply.
Asked as to why successive governments had failed to address the issue of child rights, a former PPP federal minister and incumbent MNA, Navid Qamar, who is also sitting on the law and justice committee, accepted their (lawmakers) negligence. “Yes, such legislation must have been done long ago. The PPP has legislated on a number of social issues, but, I hope the present government will now speedily address it.”
Unfortunately, child rights have never been on the priority of any government, be it military-led or democratic, a senior member of the ruling party conceded.
The only initiative the government is undertaking against the menace of child sexual abuse is at the regional level. “South Asia Forum to end Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC), an apex body of the Saarc, has been established to focus on five thematic areas, i.e. child marriages, child labour, child trafficking, child sexual abuse and exploitation and corporal punishment,” the minister explained in his response.
The minister said the National Commission for Child Welfare and Development-led initiatives (NCCWD) was working for realisation of child rights. These included: A project, titled “Ending Violence Against children in Pakistan” with the support of Saarc Development Fund; A legal review has been in process to facilitate ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UNCRC on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.
Moreover, the National Child Protection Centre is providing temporary shelter to the homeless/street children, victims of violence and runaway children.
Training on child rights and protection have been organised for the public sector stakeholders at federal and provincial level, including Gilgit-Baltistan and AJ&K.
Moreover, Training of Trainers (ToT) has been organised at the provincial headquarters for the public sector stakeholders and civil society organisations.
A national campaign has been launched with the support of Unicef to end corporal punishment. In order to harmonise the juvenile justice system in conformity with international standards, reforms are being undertaken. Accordingly, consultations with stakeholders have been conducted.