THE children of Pakistan face many odds. From malnutrition to exposure to various forms of violence to diseases as debilitating as polio, the younger generation has to contend with a host of extraordinary challenges. For children living on the streets the risks are even greater, and including substance abuse and routine sexual violence. And as a recent report in this paper indicated, the threat of an HIV epidemic amongst street children is an emerging concern. According to health officials in Sindh, six out of 10 drug-using street children registered with a Karachi-based NGO were found to be HIV-positive. This may reflect a bigger trend. The children had been using contaminated needles or were sexually abused. HIV is prevalent amongst injecting drug users and sex workers in the country. Because street children are exposed to drugs and sexual predators, this creates an extremely vulnerable sub-group likely to be infected with HIV. Meanwhile, according to recent figures released by the NGO Madadgaar Helpline, over 2,300 children across Pakistan were subjected to different types of violence in the first half of this year. These included cases — only those reported — of rape, torture and murder.

As in other areas, after devolution it is the provinces’ duty to pass laws concerning children’s welfare. But barring a few exceptions, there has been a lack of intent and capacity at the provincial level to pass and implement laws to protect children. For example, Karachi, which observers estimate has a population of thousands of street children, does not have even a single state-operated rehabilitation home for the young ones. Only a few private concerns are making efforts in this regard. The fact is legislation is only a first step. What is needed most is compassion at the societal level for vulnerable children and the realisation that children have inviolable rights; rights that society denies them in a brutal fashion. Even the best laws are useless if not implemented. Until society reforms itself and the state moves beyond rhetoric and takes practical steps for the rehabilitation and welfare of children, we will only be bequeathing misery to the next generation.

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Comments (7)

Iftikhar Husain
August 20, 2012 11:36 am
It is definitely urgent to legislate for the protection of children and must be seen to be implemented. I agree with the editorial high lighting the problem.
Haji Ashfaq
August 20, 2012 8:12 am
I have also followed up the misfortune of the street children. In Pakistan and sepecially in Karachi, the Police and other law-enforcers are the main culprits because they are more secure than a common man. This, though, is not only an issue in Pakistan but more and many societies are involved and responsible. Rochdale sexual and grooming case recently reported in news papers of London is a case in point. How and why these children are on the street is in issue need to be redressed.
M. Asghar
August 20, 2012 8:28 am
When a society is disfranchised and socially fractured, the first victims happen to the children. Hence, the solution is there in reorganising the society.
Gerry D'Cunha
August 21, 2012 11:37 am
Recently I saw a morning ARY show with Mayia Khan on street children. Most of these unfortunate children have accused the police and law enforcers of forcing these street children to commit crime and pay them. I think Burney and his team have opened a shelter home for these children - Mayia Khan has also recruited a street child in her team.
Cyrus Howell
August 20, 2012 9:54 pm
Sorry to tell you more progress is being made in India and Bangladesh in providing safety for street children.
M. Asghar
August 21, 2012 9:45 am
The reason is simple, because really there is no political authority in Pakistan. This country is running on its self-dynamics.
Assad Razzaque
August 21, 2012 3:27 pm
I must appreciate that this very important topic is touched by the editor. When we talk about the definition of child it is a human being under the age of 14 which is not physically developed. Editor touched that malnutrition child labor leading to Polio, risk of HIV, sexual violence, mental stress and lots of other this which leads destructions of the word which is child A child who is a beck up to build the nation and if under certain pressure discussed in this article how Will groomed at such situation this can handle the nation in future, and this most important matter the Legislation on this topic is not very seen so government of Pakistan take this as serious as they take other issues and implement such law as strongly as possible so that our future is in physically and mentally in strong hands
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