ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee on Tuesday amended and approved two bills to protect the rights of 13,000 children begging in the streets of the capital and engaged in child labour.
The Islamabad Capital Territory Child Protection Bill 2017 was amended to describe children engaged in domestic labour or working in automobile workshops and the like as children in need of care, just as those who are victims of an offence, found begging or are unattended.
“The bill comprehensively provides for the protection and care of all children, including unattended orphans. However, it is important to mention domestic child labour explicitly to ensure their rights too and avoid confusion later,” Ministry of Human Rights Director General Mohammad Hassan Mangi told the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights.
New draft seeks to ensure rights of child domestic workers, amendment to Juvenile Justice System also introduced
Human Rights Secretary Rabiya Javeri Agha also explained to the panel that the bill focused on the rescue and enforced protection of children. The bill covers the formation of a child protection board and child protection institutions.
The committee was informed that the bill also proposed a mechanism for the rescue, care and protection of at-risk children, a welfare fund for children and the registration of unattended children.
Juvenile Justice System Bill 2017
An amendment to the Juvenile Justice System Bill 2017 was also introduced, which was drafted, revised and finalised after a series of national and provincial level consultations and comments from stakeholders, the committee was told.
Under the amendment the police or the investigating agency is bound to make an inquiry to determine the age of suspect who physically appears or has claimed to be a juvenile, Mr Mangi said.
“It is a fact that age has been overlooked by the police and the courts in the past. With this amendment, it becomes mandatory to determine the age foremost, before the person is presented in court,” he said, adding that the objective of the bill is to modify and amendment the laws pertaining to the criminal justice system for juveniles by focusing on the disposal of cases through diversion and social integration for juvenile offenders.
Mr Mangi said the Lahore High Court, in 2005, struck down the prevalent 2000 Juvenile Justice System Ordinance and observed that parliament may enact a law attending to all the infirmities of the ordinance.
Ms Agha, who has served a juvenile magistrate, told the committee that the concept of diversion was introduced in the bill to dispose of cases without resorting to formal judicial proceedings for minor offences.
She said a third option has also been added, to educate juvenile offenders through community service with an emphasis on education and training, rather than sending them to prison in the company of hardened criminals, which did more harm rather than bringing reform. The bill was also bind investigating agencies and the courts to decide a case in six months, the committee was told.
Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2017