LAHORE: Child rights activists have urged the provincial government and the Punjab chief minister to introduce a comprehensive child protection system for the safety, security and protection of all children.
They demanded at a consultative meeting on Wednesday with key stakeholders under title ‘Setting the way forward to end violence against children’ organised by the Search For Justice and Children Advocacy Network- CAN Pakistan.
Children Advocacy Network’s Rashida Qureshi urged the Punjab government to expedite the process of developing a comprehensive child protection policy followed by action workable action plan and efficient institutional mechanism to ensure that proposed policy can serve the millions of children of Punjab from different backgrounds. She also urged the chief minister to allocate adequate financial resources to ensure that every child victim of violence receive free legal assistance and psychological counseling services in a dignified manner. Increase in financial resources to end violence against children now will yield multiple returns and essential to achieving SDGs of 2030.
She showed her concern on the incidences of different forms of violence against children in January and February. She appreciated quick response of the police in such cases and demanded their followups by the departments concerned.
Iftikhar Mubarik said that SDG targets asked member states to take possible legislative, administrative and other measures to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.
He also said the child protection bureau could not only be dealt by a single department or bureau but broader spectrum of child protection requires multi departmental engagement and support, since different components of child protection fell under rules of business of different departments, authorities and bureau.
He reiterated the long awaited demand of civil society to establish an independent commission on the rights of children with special focus on child protection to improve the interdepartmental coordination, supervision of various government departments plan and programmes with the lenses of child rights and child protection and to provide technical support to relevant departments to ensure that all children are enjoying their childhood without any fear of violence, abuse and exploitation.
Legal expert Ahmar Majeed highlighted the need for comprehensive legislation to deal with child protection issues as the ‘The Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act of 2004’ was not comprehensive in its nature. He also highlighted the need to develop rules of business for various laws in Punjab, including The Punjab Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2014, The Punjab Prohibition of Child Labour at Brick Kilns Act of 2016 and The Punjab Restriction on Employment of Children Act of 2016 to bring the clarity in implementation of these important laws.
MPA Saadia Sohail Rana and Ayesha Iqbal asked for a prevention programme to empower children and adolescents with appropriate information and knowledge to empower them to prevent child abuse. They agreed that a compulsory parenting program at higher education level must be introduced.
A child helpline must be set up where incidents can be reported by civilians and families can seek guidance and support from the government.
The meeting was attended by representatives of Ministry of Human Rights, Social Welfare Department, Treaty Implementation Cell, National Commission for Human Rights, Sahil, Group Development, Pakistan Girl Guides Association, Phoenix Foundation for Research and Development, Grass Root Organization for Human Development (GODH) and Dastak Child Rights Unit.
Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2019