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Pakistan: A Statement From SPARC

A Statement from the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the child (SPARC) forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

Pakistan: A Statement From SPARC On The Occasion Of The Anniversary Of The UN Convention On The Rights Of The Child

The World community including Pakistan is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on November 20, to which all member states of the UN have ratified and Pakistan ratified it in 1990. Under Article 44 of the UNCRC, it is obligatory upon ratifying states to submit periodic reports after every five years and in this regard Pakistan had submitted its third and fourth report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in December 2008, which the committee reviewed in its fifty second session on 28th September 2009 and had forwarded its concluding observations on 30 September and 1 October 2009.

The Committee has shown serious concerns on the non-implementation of its previous concluding observation in response to the second periodic report which was submitted in 2002. Pakistan being state party has apparent lack of a legislative framework harmonized with the CRC and it has delayed in the enabling laws that are instrumental to the implementation of the Convention which includes the Charter of Child Rights Bill, a facsimile of the CRC, has yet not been taken on the board. Similarly, the Child Protection (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill, which encompasses all the issues like child pornography, exposure to seduction, cruelty to a child, trafficking of human beings, sexual abuse, but it has not been adopted despite it has been roaming in the bureaucratic corridors for years.

The Committee urged that government of Pakistan to abolish or amend some exiting laws that are in conflict with principles and provisions of the Convention, mainly the Frontier Crimes Regulation of 1901 enforced FATA and the Zina and Hadood Ordinances, notwithstanding their revision through the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2006.

In the light of definition of a child and conflict between the article 1 of the CRC and the national laws, the Committee suggested to the Government to have a unified definition of a child to remove discrimination on the basis of sex, such as to amend the Zina and Hadood Ordinances (1979), as well as the Child Marriages Restraint Act (1929) in order to align the age of marriage of boys (which is already 18 years) and girls (which is already 16 years) by raising the minimum age of marriage for girls to 18 years.

The proposed National Commission on the Rights of the Children (NCRC) Bill is also subject to the same attitude of the state which does not have redressal powers. In addition to that the committee was very disappointed over the poor coordination among the different bodies of the Government at the Federal, provincial and district levels responsible for the implementation and monitoring of the Convention. It further regrets the National Commission on the Rights of Children (NCRC), which was intended to replace the existing National Commission for Child Welfare and Development (NCCWD), has still not been established despite a bill was being drafted for that purpose in 2001.

Regarding budget allocation in the health and education sector for children, the Committee was disappointed and had recommended Pakistan to increase up to 5 percent of the GDP by 2010 in the education and 16 percent of the GDP in the health sector. The Committee was concerned that massive disparities of resources’ allocations impede full and equal access to services and institutions to all children.

The committee was very much worried about practice of corporal punishment having full legal cover under section 89 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) 1860 which provides such exception to guardians, teachers and persons having actual control and charge of children for punishing them with impunity

In Pakistan, in educational settings as well as at homes the tendency of corporal punishment is very higher and is considered a major cause behind the exceptionally high dropout rate. For Pakistan where literacy rate miserably low, such a higher dropout ratio at high school level is a national tragedy. Additionally, the use of corporal punishment at home is one of the leading causes forcing children to ‘run-away’ and leave the protective environment of home. In most cases they end up of the street, making them highly at risk of all kinds of abuses. The committee says that though government of PAKISTAN has issued administrative orders but no such laws regarding prevention of corporal punishment at federal and provincial level exist and also called for the repeal of 89 of the PPC.

The Committee observed that the 2004 amendment of the Pakistan penal code that facilitates the prosecution of perpetrators of honour killings and prohibits family compromises is appreciable, however, there is widespread and increasing problem of honour killings that affect children both directly and indirectly, through their mothers, and which are routinely imposed by jirgas (parallel judicial systems) in the tribal areas.

The Committee also showed its concerns over the not registration of 70 percent of the children at the time of birth, especially girls, children belonging to a religious or minority group, refugee children, and children living in rural areas.

The Committee also took notice of the reports of violence, ill-treatment, sexual abuses, and illegal detention within madrassahs and of madrassahs being used for military trainings, as well as instances of recruitment of children to participate in the armed conflict and terrorist activities. The committee was also concerned over poor treatment of children in the refugee camps and internal displaced people due to earth quake and war in the tribal areas.

The committee said that the prevalence of child labour is extremely high and has increased in recent years due to growing poverty. Bonded and forced labour continue to occur in many industries and informal sector, affecting the poorest and most vulnerable children despite legislation prohibiting slavery and all forms of forced labour, including bonded labour such as Bonded Labour System Abolition Act 1992 and the Employment of Children Act 1991 but since 18 years has passed very few prosecutions have taken place under the said laws and awareness regarding the same laws remain non-existent with police and judiciary.

It also observes that the ineffectiveness of labour inspection machinery reduces the likelihood of investigations upon reports of child labour, making unlikely prosecution, conviction, or punishment for exploitation of children in bonded labour.

The Committee notes with concern that the State party remains a significant source, destination, and transit country for children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation, forced and bonded labour. It also expresses concern at the growing number of children trafficked internally, sometimes sold by their own parents or forced into marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude. It is pertinent to mention that the existing law on human trafficking only covers external trafficking and cognizable by FIA but wherever there is need for legislation for covering internal trafficking and its cognizance by police.

The Committee is deeply concerned that the minimum age of criminal responsibility continues to remain very low (7 years), therefore, government should raise it to an internationally acceptable level. It said that Juvenile offenders have reportedly been sentenced to death, very long imprisonment, and high fines even after the promulgation of the JJSO, the number of children in prisons is high, they are often detained in poor conditions, together with adult offenders and thus increasingly vulnerable to abuse and ill-treatment and the number of Juvenile Courts, trained lawyers and probation officers is insufficient.

The Committee at the end recommended to the state to make the period report and concluding observations widely to the public at large, civil society organisations, youth groups, media and children in order to generate debate and awareness of the Convention, its implementation and monitoring. The committee has invited Government of Pakistan to submit its 5th periodic report by 11 December 2012.

Keeping in view the importance of the 20th anniversary of CRC, SPARC feels responsibility to disclose international concerns on the state of children in Pakistan. At the same time, it was also obligatory to SPARC being Child Rights Promotion organization to bring such observations into the mainstream discussion through media. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the CRC, SPARC strongly demand implementation on the commitments made by the state through ratifying the convention regarding to child rights protection in the country.

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984. The above statement has only been forwarded by the AHRC.


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