KARACHI: A report on children’s rights in the country released on Tuesday presented some dismal facts about their condition in every aspect ranging from education and health to labour, abduction, sexual assault and murder.
Titled The State of Pakistan’s Children – 2014, the report prepared by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) was formally launched by its representatives Kashif Bajeer and Zahid Thebo at a hotel.
The report found that nearly 70,000 cases of violence against children were reported last year though the number of unreported incidents was estimated to be higher. Quoting figures from an independent report, Sahil’s Cruel Numbers Report 2014, Sparc stated that 1,786 cases of sexual assault against children — 1,172 committed against girls and the remaining 614 involving boys — were reported from January to June last year. The total number of such cases was 3,508 last year, indicating an increase of 17 per cent from the previous year.
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The Sparc report said there were 1,225 cases of rape/ sodomy, including gang-rape and gang sodomy, and 258 cases of attempted rape/sodomy, gang-rape and gang sodomy. At least 142 of the victims were murdered after being sexually assaulted, it added. A close examination of the issue revealed that eight per cent victims of sexual abuse aged between six and 10 years, 26pc were in the age group of 11-15, while 11pc were between 16 and 18 years. Among the victims were also a few babies aged up to one year.
About various forms of sexual abuse, the report said 755 victims were abused after abduction, 313 were raped, 147 were sodomized, 100 were gang-raped, 94 survived attempted rapes, 63 were gang sodomized, and 53 were victims of child marriages.
While the urban-rural ratio of the cases was 33 to 67 per cent in the country, the majority of cases of child abuse (2,054) were reported in Punjab, followed by 875 cases in Sindh, 297 in Balochistan, 152 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 90 in Islamabad, 38 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, one case each in Gilgit-Baltistan and the federally administered tribal agencies.
According to the report, abduction cases increased by 7pc from 1,706 in 2013 to 1,831 in 2014, indicating a daily average of five abductions last year.
Referring to the Acid Survivors Foundation, the Sparc report said that 40 victims of acid attacks in the country last year were children. Among them, 11 were boys and 29 were girls, it said.
Pointing out that the legal age for marriage has been fixed above 18 years for both boys and girls according to the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Bill, 2014 that prescribes two years imprisonment and a fine of Rs50,000 for the violators, the Sparc report found that seven per cent girls in the country were married before the age of 15, while 24pc were married before they were 18. Pregnancies by child-brides put them at high risk of birth complications as well as endangering their own health, it added.The report said of the 25 million Pakistani children, aged 5-9, one fourth were out of school and nearly 13 million of them belong to Punjab. Pakistan ranks second in the world with most out-of-school children.
It said the U5MR (Under 5 Mortality Rate) in Pakistan was 86 per 1,000 births in the year 2013, but it was far from the target of 52 deaths per 1,000 births under the millennium development goals.
By the end of 2014, there were a total of 1,456 juvenile offenders confined in detention centres in the four provinces – a vast majority of them were under trial. Punjab had the highest number (757), followed by KPK (301), Sindh (291), and Balochistan (107).
Referring to the ILO figures, it said some 12.5 million children were involved in some form of labour activity in Pakistan. Unicef estimated 10 million child labourers in 2012. With the large number of out-of-school children and the families working as bonded labour, there were many children playing an active role in the workforce, the report found. Of them, 264,000 children were estimated to be domestic workers, working in unprotected and unregulated environments. The report gave no figure for last year vis-à-vis torture on domestic workers, while in 2013 there were 21 cases of torture of child domestic workers reported out of whom eight died.
Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2015