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Report highlights plight of Pakistani children

Updated May 25, 2014

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KARACHI: An annual report released by a non-governmental organisation here on Saturday showed dismal conditions of Pakistani children suffering in every aspect — ranging from education and health to sexual assaults they suffer, particularly girls.

The report titled “The State of Pakistan’s Children-2013” prepared by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) was formally launched at a hotel.

In his keynote address at the launch, Javed Jabbar, former federal minister and prominent media analyst, said that Pakistan was the first country that convened a world leaders’ summit 24 years ago for children in which leaders of 74 countries showed up at the venue in the United Nations. Similarly, he added that Pakistan’s first women’s bank was established in 1989 — 24 years ahead of a similar bank established in India.

He praised the Sindh Assembly for passing a law against child marriage and said the plight of children, women and other marginalised communities could be alleviated through debate and legislation by lawmakers.

Kashif Bajeer and Zahid Thebo of the SPARC, Iqbal Detho of the Save the Children and Mustafa Baloch of the Strengthening Participatory Organisation spoke on various aspects of the report.

The report said that in 2013, some 2,033 cases of abuse of young children (1,365 boys and 668 girls) were reported. They included 1,115 kidnappings along with 294 murder cases, 102 cases of boys’ sexual assault while 97 children were sold into slavery.

It, however, shared another independently conducted report, called Sahil’s Cruel Numbers Report 2013, which said that 3,002 children (2,017 girls and 985 boys) were victims of sexual abuse or harassment.

It said 42.5pc of child sex abuse cases were recorded in urban areas while 57.5pc of the cases were reported from rural areas. Girl children were most affected with 71pc of cases affecting females.

Punjab had the highest incidence of child sexual abuse at a staggering 68pc, followed by Sindh (19pc), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (5pc) and Balochistan (3pc). Islamabad reported 3pc of the cases, however, there was little or no data available from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB).

The most vulnerable age group was 16-18 year olds, which accounted for 22pc of the total victims. A total of 16pc of them were between the ages of 6-10.

It referred to the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) as saying that there were 142 cases of acid attacks in 2013. Out of the victims, almost 20pc were below the age of 18. Some 47 cases were prosecuted in 2013, of which there were seven successful convictions.

The report said some nine per cent of Pakistani child-brides gave births to children between the ages of 15-19 putting them at high risk of birth complications as well as endangering their health.

It referred to the Sindh Assembly’s recently passed Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2014 which rules that legal age for marriage to be 18 years (for both boys and girls) with a prison sentence of minimum two years and a fine of Rs50,000 for violators.

It referred to a study by the Rutgers World Population Foundation on 5,000 women that found that 77pc of marriages were made through traditional exchanges. A report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) listed that 913 young girls and women were killed in the name of honour in 2012, out of which 99 were girl children.

At least 91 children were killed and 137 maimed in 2012 due to bombings and suicide attacks in public areas. Around 900 girl schools had been affected by militancy, denying 120,000 girls access to education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata.


Education


The report said one-fourth of the 19.75 million children in Pakistan aged 5-9 were out-of-school and factoring in adolescents; increases the number to 25 million. Pakistan ranks second with the most out-of-school children in the world. It is estimated that 23pc of rural and 7pc of urban children are not enrolled in any form of schooling.

It said seven million children (aged three to five) had yet to receive primary schooling. A total of 67pc children in urban areas had completed primary education compared to 40pc in rural areas.

It said only 61pc of females were literate as compared to 79pc of males in the age group of 15-24 years. Punjab has a student-teacher ratio of 42:1, Sindh 32:1, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 38:1 and Federally-Administered Tribal Areas 31:1. The highest net primary enrolment rate is in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (81pc) followed by Punjab and Islamabad (70pc); Sindh and GB (63pc); Fata (60pc); AJK (58pc); and Balochistan (51pc).


Health


It said the U5MR (Under 5 Mortality Rate) in Pakistan was 72 per 1,000 births as of 2012. But it was still far from reaching its Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target of 52 deaths per 1,000 births. An estimated seven million cases of pneumonia occur every year and out of these, as many as 92,000 children die before their fifth birthday due to the infection. Full immunisation coverage of children between the ages of 12-23 months is 81% as of 2010-11; it is still short of the MDG target of 90% by 2015.

In 2013, the number of suspected cases of measles nearly tripled. From 2012 to 2013, 600 children died of measles. An estimated 53,000 children died of diarrhoea every year which makes up 30pc of the current child mortality figure.


Juvenile justice


By end of 2013, a total of 1,383 juvenile offenders confined to detention centres in the four provinces — 1,246 under trial and 137 convicted. Punjab had the highest number (783), followed by Sindh (276), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (217) and Balochistan (107).

By the end of October 2013, three female convicted juveniles were in the prisons of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. IG of Prisons of Sindh distinguished no such prisons.

In 2013, a total of 288 juveniles were released on probation — Punjab (156), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata (71), Sindh (51) and Balochistan (10).


Child labour


Referring to the International Labour Organisation figures, it said some 12 million children were involved in some form of labour activity in Pakistan. Unicef estimated 10 million child labourers in 2012. Coupled with the large figures of out-of-school children and families working under bonded labour, there are many more children playing an active role in the workforce, it added.

Out of these figures 264,000 children are estimated to be domestic workers, working in unprotected and unregulated environments. In 2013 there were 21 cases of torture of child domestic workers reported, out of which eight resulted in deaths.

The bonded labour remained endemic in Pakistan which ranks third on the list of countries in which slavery is most prevalent with two million bonded labours.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2014