Pakistan fails to meet MDGs on child rights

Published April 17, 2015
‘State of Children in Pakistan Report 2014’ says steps needed to implement laws formulated by provinces. — Reuters/file
‘State of Children in Pakistan Report 2014’ says steps needed to implement laws formulated by provinces. — Reuters/file

ISLAMABAD: A report on the state of children in Pakistan on Thursday stated that the country had failed to meet the millennium development goals (MDGs) on the rights of children.

Prepared by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc), the “State of Pakistan’s children 2014” report showed that provinces had done some legislation on the rights of children such as child marriage, compulsory education, breastfeeding protection, but steps were needed to ensure their implementation.

Juvenile justice


‘State of Children in Pakistan Report 2014’ says steps needed to implement laws formulated by provinces


According to the report, 1,456 children were incarcerated in different jails of the country - 757 in Punjab, 301 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 291 in Sindh and 107 in Balochistan.

Read: ‘Govt, media ignoring population welfare’

There implementation of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance is poor and the panels of lawyers for the juvenile prisoners remain non-functional, it added. Moreover, the detention centres for juveniles lacked rehabilitation facilities and the living conditions there were also poor.

Child labour

The report showed a decline in the number of child labourers worldwide from 200 million in 2000 to 168 million in 2014. However, Pakistan remained at number three in the world in terms of the prevalence of child and forced labour.

There were 3.3 million child labourers in Pakistan in 1996 but the number reached the mark of 12.5 million in 2012. According to the available data, there were 264,000 child domestic workers besides 8.52 million home-based workers in the country.

Though the provincial laws put the minimum age of employment at 14 years, the age limit is ignored. Besides, there is no legislation to protect the rights of home-based workers.

Violence against children

According to the report, 69,604 cases of violence against children were reported between 2000 and 2013. The record was based on secondary source i.e. newspapers.

During the first six months of the year 2014, as many as 1,786 cases of sexual abuse were reported. There were 115 acid attacks in 2014 out of which 40 were children. The report said though 1,578 people were killed in terrorist attacks in 2014, there was no data about the affected children except those killed in the Peshawar school attack on December 16, 2014.

Education

Though provinces have announced handsome budgets for the education sector, non-developmental expenditures consumed a major part of the allocations. There were 13 million out-of-school children in Punjab, 6.1 million in Sindh, 2.4 in KP and 1.77 million in Balochistan.

Health

As many as 60 per cent of the population lived under the poverty line. It showed that 31.5 per cent children under the age of five were underweight and 44 per cent stunted.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there should not be more than 52 deaths per 1,000 births but currently 86 children died at the time of birth in the country. Moreover, out of 1,000 deaths, 85 children died of pneumonia.

Besides polio, measles is also a health issue because only 55 per cent of children in the rural areas are immunised against measles compared to 74 per cent in the urban areas. Moreover, maternal mortality rate is 296 per 100,000.

Research managers Maryam Soomro, Hamza Hassan and Zohair Waheed briefed the participants at the launch of the report at a local restaurant.

Former minister for education Sania Nishtar said staff did not pay attention to the health facilities in the rural areas due to which the patients suffered. Moreover, due to the lack of awareness people never complain against unavailability of medicine and other healthcare facilities, she said.

European Union (EU) representative Zoe Leffler said the Peshawar incident was a major violation of the child rights.

“The ratio of child sexual abuse increased last year. The EU has been working closely to eradicate the child labour. Moreover, the EU does not believe in death penalty and the GSP-plus status also requires the implementation of human rights, she said.

Sparc’s executive director Anees Jillani said though he had been issuing reports on the child rights every year, the pace of the change disappointed him.

“There are more than 10 million children who are working as labourers. On the other hand, the government is spending Rs70 billion on the metro bus project. It shows that the government is not interested in the protection of child rights.”

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2015

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