ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Thursday passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2015 aimed at protecting children from mental and physical abuse.
Amongst the major Amendments, the bill raises the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 7 to 10 years and the upper age limit from 12 to 14 years.
Moreover, it legalises protection of children from cruel treatment and criminalises child pornography, proposing punishment for the crime.
The act of exposing children to obscene material has also been criminalised in the bill. It also proposes punishment for internal trafficking of humans.
The older provisions in the criminal law statutes had failed to cover a number of serious offence against children like; child pornography, exposure to seduction, abuse, cruelty to a child and trafficking in human beings within Pakistan.
Minister for Law and Justice Pervaiz Rashid moved the bill to amend the Pakistan Panel Code, 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 in the House.
Some legislators belonging to the opposition parties including Dr Shireen Mazari, Dr Nafeesa Shah, Shahzia Marri and Dr Azra Fazal suggested changing the age limit describing a child to 16 years of age instead of 12 to 14 years as originally mentioned in the bill.
Rashid said the bill would help protect the children against any kind of mental and physical abuse.
The new Sections 292 A, 292 B and 292 C, 328 A, 369 A, 377 A and 377 B have been incorporated in Pakistan Panel Code, 1860, making child pornography and exposure to seduction, a punishable crime.
Pakistan ratified the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1990 and is under obligation to implement its provision by harmonising polices, legislation, programmes, plans of action with it and report progress to the UN committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), Geneva after every five years.
To undertake this task, existing laws are required to be harmonised with the UNCRC to effectively initiate requisite actions for meeting the standards set forth under the UNCRC.
According to a recent study from Sahil, a non-government organisation (NGO) working against child sex abuse, the total number of young boys being abused increased by 4.3 per cent in the first half of 2015 compared to the same period last year.
The report said that 178 boys aged 6 to 10 were abused compared to 150 girls of the same ages.
In August, a huge scandal emerged involving at least 280 children who lawyers said were filmed being sexually abused, with their parents blackmailed over the footage.