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Legislation for children’s rights pending for 15 years

Updated July 16, 2015

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Submitted to the National Assembly on April 15, the bill was referred to the standing committee for discussion but could not for ‘lack of time’ on Monday. —AFP/File
Submitted to the National Assembly on April 15, the bill was referred to the standing committee for discussion but could not for ‘lack of time’ on Monday. —AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Child rights activists say that creation of a National Commission on Rights of Children (NCRC) has been hanging fire for 15 years and its absence is a major hurdle in resolving children’s issues.

“When the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights met this week, it could not find time to take up the bill that was moved in 2001and was on its agenda,” disclosed Coordinator of the Child Rights Movement (CRM) of Pakistan, Noorul Islam, at a press conference here on Wednesday.

Submitted to the National Assembly on April 15, the bill was referred to the standing committee for discussion but could not for ‘lack of time’ on Monday.

“It should have because of the importance of the issue,” Mr Noor said. “Absence of commission has been affecting so many issues of children.”

However, chairman of the standing committee Chaudhry Mahmood Bashir Virk explained that the committee had ‘a very long agenda’ before it that day which could not be completed within the time allotted to it as another meeting was to start in the committee room.

“Civil society should not make the matter controversial,” he told Dawn. “We will call the meeting again after Eid and pass the bill on first priority.”

Though Pakistan ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1989, it has not yet set up the obligatory national commission on child’s rights.

The proposed law has defined a ‘child’ as a person blow the age of 18 years.

The bill has suggested the formation of an 18-member independent commission with powers of a civil court. Out of its18 members, 10 will be ex-officio and the remaining eight, including the chairperson, will be appointed by the federal government.

A citizen of Pakistan, not less than 45 years of age and having experience of not less than 15 years of working in the field of child rights will be eligible to be appointed chairperson of the commission.

The commission will have the powers to hold inquiry into “violation of child rights and recommend to the relevant agency or department initiation of proceedings in such cases”.

The NCRC will also be responsible for examining “all factors that inhibit enjoyment of rights of child, for example, violence, abuse and exploitation, trafficking, torture, pornography and prostitution and recommend appropriate remedial measures”.

While talking to Dawn CRM’s coordinator said the NCRC will also be overseeing the legislation on, and violation of, children’s rights.

“A number of bills, regarding issues of children, are pending in the parliament. If NCRC were functional it would have ensured speedy legislation,” he said.

CRM Pakistan will continue to advocate for the enactment of this and various others child rights related bills pending in the provincial legislatures, he said.

He urged the federal and provincial legislatures to pass the pending Balochistan Child Protection and Welfare Bill, the Khyber Pakhtunkwa Child Marriages Restraint Bill, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, the Punjab Commission on the Rights of the Child Bill and the Prohibition of Child Labour bills in various provinces.

Other speakers at the news conference said that legislation on child rights issues never gained proper attention of the parliament.

Published in Dawn ,July 16th, 2015

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