Children in Pakistan are vulnerable to many forms of violence (physical, psychological, sexual) and exploitation, including economic exploitation and child trafficking. Nearly 30 years after Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), no public coordinated child protection case management and referral system, as aligned with international standards, has been established.
Protecting all children in Pakistan from all forms of violence, neglect and exploitation
Only 34% of children under five are registered at birth nationally.
About 3.3 million of Pakistani children are trapped in child labor, depriving them of their childhood, their health and education, and condemning them to a life of poverty and want. It was estimated that almost a quarter of women aged 20-49 were married before the age of 15, and 31% before eighteen years of age. Only 34% of children under five are registered at birth nationally. (PDHS) 2012-2013 Birth registration is a fundamental right of all children as legal proof of a child’s existence and identity. As an accurate record of age, it can help prevent child labor and child marriage, and protect children from being treated as adults by the justice system.
The situation is further exacerbated by limited awareness and gender biased social norms within the context of frequent natural and human-made disasters. Government response is impeded by the significant dearth of official data relating to all forms of exploitation of children.
 Pakistan’s first and only National Child Labour Survey (1996)
Violence Against and Exploitation of Children
Child Protection program is technically supporting the Government of Pakistan to strengthen the realisation of the right of the child to protection from all forms of violence and exploitation, by addressing gaps in the enabling environment as a priority, including the fundamental absence of a child protection case management and referral mechanism in the country. Additionally, gaps are addressed primarily related to social norms, quality of service delivery. A focus is placed on the most disadvantaged and excluded children, including girls.
In 2016, with UNICEF advocacy and technical assistance, a Child Protection Bill, in full compliance with minimum UNCRC standards and the 2009 and 2016 Recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, was enacted in Balochistan. UNICEF is also supporting other provincial governments on legislative reform, wherever applicable, in support of establishing a public child protection case management and referral system by 2022.
With regard to child exploitation, the focus for data generation is on the economic exploitation of children, including its worst forms through the delivery of child labour surveys using the SIMPOC methodology.
The regional adolescent empowerment program (Improving Adolescent’s lives in Pakistan) promotes life-skills related to identity and self-esteem, empathy and respect, communication and expression, and coping with stress and managing emotions, including through working with social and digital media. Creative communication techniques, from the development of relevant and appropriate messages, to delivering child protection-tailored C4D community and mass media initiatives, are executed in four districts of Punjab and Sindh. UNICEF Pakistan has introduced the concept of “positive masculinities” to its child marriage programming, through explicitly engaging men and boys (fathers, brothers, husbands and influential male figures such as religious leaders) to reflect collaboratively on what defines their gender identity, identifying culturally appropriate “desirable, positive traits” and promoting same through participatory initiatives and role modelling.
Birth Registration program aims to support technically the Government of Pakistan to strengthen the realization of the right of the child to birth registration, whereby gaps in the enabling environment are being addressed, including matters related primarily to social norms, the quality of service delivery and demand for same. A focus is placed on the most disadvantaged and excluded children, including girls. This digital technology based program component being implemented in the Provinces of Punjab and Sindh, reflects the actualization of public-private partnership between UNICEF, the Governments of Punjab and Sindh and Telenor, both at the sub-national level and globally. UNICEF is also supporting the Government of Pakistan in Khyber Paktunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Balochistan to accelerate the rates of registering births. Further, UNICEF’s support for increased numbers of births of children registered, particularly new-born, is complemented by its technical support to the Federal Government (Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms) regarding the development of an inclusive and child-sensitive national CRVS strategy. Both approaches address gaps in the enabling environment hampering effective planning and coordination of child protection and other related public policies for children, including adolescents, primarily through the creation of a comprehensive ‘civil registry’ evidence-base.
Reports and Data
- CRC,15 October 2009
- CRC3 June 2016,
- Corporal punishment of children in Pakistan. Report prepared by the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children (www.endcorporalpunishment.org). July 2016
- Government of Punjab (2014), Punjab Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2014. Punjab Bureau of Statistics, Lahore
- Government of Sindh (2014), Sindh Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2014. Sindh Bureau of Statistics, Karachi
- The State of Pakistan’s Children (2014) – Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC)
- ONE UN Report 2014, United Nations Pakistan.
- Understanding changing social norms and practices around girls’ education and marriage”, Carol Watson, ODI, December 2014