ISLAMABAD: Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari on Tuesday said her ministry has initiated a nationwide campaign to highlight the scourge of child labour.
In her message on ‘World Day against Child Labour’, she said the government was committed to ensuring a brighter future for the children.
The World Day against Child Labour is observed on June 12.
Says her ministry has initiated a campaign to highlight scourge of child labour
According to UN statistics, globally one out of three girls and one out of five boys are likely to be exploited before they reach 18 years of age.
The minister said Pakistan’s high population growth of around 1.6pc posed multiple challenges which constrained resources and economic development.
She said the country where almost half of the population lived below the poverty line and where literacy stood at a mere 58pc, child labour was a deeply entrenched issue prevalent in almost all informal sectors of Pakistan’s economy.
“Pakistan was one of the six initiators of the World Summit for Children in 1990 and took the lead in signing and ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Pakistan also ratified ILO Convention 182 on the Elimination of Worst Forms of Child Labour, and signed the optional protocols to the CRC on the involvement of children in armed conflict, prostitution and pornography.
The protection of the rights of children is further guided by Islamic injunctions and enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan,” said Dr Mazari.
She lamented that while Article 3 of the Constitution ensured the eradication of all forms of exploitation, working children were the objects of the most extreme form of exploitation in terms of working conditions, health hazards and potential abuse.
Employers capitalise on the docility of children who are often deprived of their childhood and relegated to a life of drudgery, the minister said.
The Ministry of Human Rights has been proactive in its cognizance of the serious issue of child abuse, juvenile justice and child labour.
She claimed that her office had enacted substantial laws such as the ICT Child Protection Act, the Criminal Law Amendment Act which criminalised child exposure to pornography, cruelty and trafficking.
In accordance with Employment of Children Act, whosoever employs any child or permits any child to work shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with a fine which may extend up to Rs50,000 or with both.
“However, lack of enforcement of labour laws and restrictions continues and perpetuates child labour in the informal sector where the immediate priority of subsistence takes precedence over anything else,” she said.
The Ministry of Human Rights recently enacted a new Juvenile Justice System Act which focused on disposal of cases through diversion and social-reintegration of juvenile offenders.
It is also in the process of setting up a National Commission on Rights of the Child and has recently drafted bills on corporal punishment, domestic workers and a policy on child abuse.
The minister said with the support of Unicef, they were in the process of developing an inter-ministerial protocol on missing children and a national child labour survey.
The minister believed that incidence of child employment impacted local labour markets especially when there were more workers willing to work at a given wage than there were jobs and workers competed and drove down wages.
“Hence, the more child workers in the economy, the lower the wages of jobs those children compete for. This abundance of unskilled labour discourages the adoption of skill intensive technologies and the accumulation of human capital, leaving nations worse off in the long run. It is time that Pakistani society wakes up to the dreadful issue of child labour prevalent in our country and ensures universal education and protection of its young citizens,” the minister said.
Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2019