Protecting our children... By Iftikhar
01 October, 2013
This is with the reference to the recent incidents of child sexual abuse and exploitation of child domestic labour in Punjab. It is a matter of great concern that despite the number of reported incidents of child sexual abuse and other forms of violence against children, no legislative action has been introduced by the provincial government as a policy matter to protect children from all kinds of abuse and exploitation in the future. Pakistan signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on November 12, 1990. Article 4 of this Convention urges that “state parties shall undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognised in the present convention.”
After the 18th constitutional amendment, it is the responsibility of the provincial governments to ensure legislation for the protection of children. Still, there is no child protection policy or provincial plan of action for children. There is no focal department or statutory body having the mandate to deal with the issues of children holistically. Article 25 (3) of the constitution recognises the special right of protection for children due to their vulnerability.
There is a need to establish an independent provincial commission for the rights of children with the power to investigate cases of abuse and violence against children and monitor the implementation of the UNCRC. Additionally, such an independent body should also devise strategies to raise awareness about child rights. There is also a dire need to establish a committee/taskforce under the chairmanship of the chief minister of Punjab comprising of MPAs from different political parties and officials from relevant government departments, the media and representatives of child rights organisations to review the child protection issues in Punjab and the legislative actions needed to ensure the protection of children. There is a need to clarify which is the relevant department for looking after the issues of children as per the rules of business.
The speaker of the Punjab Assembly may also constitute a special committee or caucus comprising of MPAs from all parties having their representation in the Punjab Assembly, which will also ensure that the voices of the children are heard at this high forum. The government of Punjab must introduce a child protection policy without any delay and this policy must come with financial resources for effective implementation.