Pakistan launches a National Campaign against Child Abuse
By Mohammad Ali Fahim
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, 20 November 2008: We must not simply look at the litany of hurdles and injustices unleashed upon children, but also devise strategies to address the different forms of child abuse, exploitation, exclusion and other violations of children's rights, said Samina Khalid Ghurki, the Federal Minister for Social Welfare and Special Education.
The minister said this at the launch of the National Campaign against Child Abuse on Universal Children’s Day, which brought together children, policymakers, social and development workers, diplomats, representatives of UN agencies, civil society organisations and the media.
Earlier this year a Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP) study, conducted by the Government with UNICEF support, identified 18 child protection issues needing attention in Pakistan. Of these, three major issues – corporal punishment, child sexual abuse and gender bias – have been chosen for developing a national plan.
The UNICEF Representative in Pakistan, Martin Mogwanja, said that in Pakistan about 70 per cent of children experience physical and psychological abuse (corporal punishment) at home, school, madrassah (religious seminaries), childcare centres as well as at places of work and entertainment, jails, detention centres and on the streets.
Child abuse is a major contributor to the high school dropout rate. Many children living or working on the street are not there because they are orphans or have been abandoned, but because they are subject to abuse. “They run away from the violence and abuse inflicted by those who are expected to care for them, to teach them what is good and to make sure that they grow up and develop,” Mr Mogwanja said.
The national launch will be followed by a two-month nation-wide communication campaign to create awareness about children’s protection rights.
The National Plan of Action for Children has been approved by the cabinet. Reaffirming the State's obligation to ensure children's rights to life, protection and development, Ms Ghurki, the minister, said “The Child Protection Bill is ready to be tabled in the parliament after the approval of the Policy from the Cabinet.”
Children in Need
More than 30 per cent of Pakistan’s 160 million population live below the poverty line and their basic needs, especially those of children, remain unfulfilled. Government institutions although have the political will, lack resources and capacity to implement comprehensive programmes to address child rights and child protection issues.
At the social level, centuries-old traditions discriminate against women and girls, with long-term consequences on maternal health, female literacy and participation in decision-making. Poverty has helped to create a criminal divide in society, whereby the plight of poor children goes almost unnoticed.
“While Pakistan has adequate laws designed to protect children against exploitation, abuse and violence, most are poorly implemented or are not enforced at all,” says Smaranda Popa, the Chief of UNICEF Pakistan’s Child Protection Section. “In 2003, the government reviewed 78 child and family-related laws and found that those laws needed revision and harmonisation to comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child provisions and other international treaties and standards,” she said.