‘Criminalise child labour in hazardous environments’

Updated 20 Nov 2015


Kiran Sarwar, a child labourer, narrates her experiences at the conference on child rights. —APP
Kiran Sarwar, a child labourer, narrates her experiences at the conference on child rights. —APP

ISLAMABAD: A member of the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR), Dr Yahya Ahmed, said the government should, at the very least, criminalise child labour in chemical and acid factories and at other sites that are hazardous to a child’s health, or ban child labour completely.

Dr Ahmed was speaking at a conference titled “25 Years of UNCRC in Pakistan and the Status of Child Rights” on Thursday ahead of Universal Children’s Day. The conference was held to review the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in Pakistan.

The NCHR member said a child working in a clean, healthy environment does not face any health issues. He said: “There are some jobs that are extremely dangerous for children. Some work in acid factories, coal mines and in the textile industry because of which they face health issues.”

The doctor continued,: “I have seen cases where children have contracted tuberculosis because they worked in hazardous environments. Making children work such jobs should be criminalized.”

Activists call for implementation of international commitments, charters on child rights

Dr Ahmed said that some families cannot afford to educate their children and that there should be a programme where children receive free education in the morning and work for a few hours in the evening to support their families.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Secretary General I.A Rehman said the government had signed and ratified many international charters and commitments and none have been implemented.

Mr Rehman said: “The government should ask all provinces to make a list of all the international commitments and then prioritise their implementation according to their needs”

He added that in addition to making good on all the international commitments made, flaws in existing laws must be corrected.

NCHR chairperson Ali Nawaz Chowhan said Pakistan did not need to make any new laws and that the UNCRC was enough to rid the country of child rights violations. He said: “The UNCRC is such a magnificent document in itself that it covers all aspects of child rights.”

Fatima Raja from Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) said a statutory body should be formed to ensure children’s rights are not violated. She said: “It is sad that the federal government has tasked the provinces with ensuring that children get their rights.”

She called for legislation that will criminalise corporal punishment and said doing so would also be in accordance with Islam, which prohibits hitting children. She also suggested that a committee for child protection should be made part of parliament.

Participants of the conference were told that 25 million children in Pakistan do not attend school, 12 million are working and 400,000 died before their fifth birthday from preventable diseases.

The Minister of State and Special Assistance to the Prime Minister on Law Ashtar Ali promised that he would personally lobby for the enactment of all pending bills on child rights.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2015