LAHORE: Representatives of a child rights network in a meeting have urged the government to fully implement child-based laws, focusing on the Juvenile Justice System Act (JJSA) 2018.

The meeting was organised by the Child Rights Movement (CRM) and the Good Thinkers Organisation, based in Kasur, at the Lahore Press Club on Monday.

Advocate Waqas Abid, coordinator for the CRM, said the president of Pakistan had approved the JJSA 2018 in May last year, which was earlier passed by the both legislative houses, National Assembly and Senate, with an objective to overcome shortcomings of the previous Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000 and to provide a child-friendly justice system as well as opportunities of social reintegration to juvenile offenders.

He said salient features of the JJSA 2018 were the provision of the right of legal assistance to every juvenile or child victim of an offence at the state expense and information to a juvenile about this right of legal assistance within 24 hours after being taken into custody.

Mr Abid said the law proposed establishment of exclusive juvenile courts, observation homes and rehabilitation centres but nothing had been done so far in terms of implementation.

This law introduced a ‘diversion mechanism’ by referring the petty matters of these young juvenile offenders to a juvenile justice committee, meant to be an alternative process of determining the responsibility and treatment of a juvenile on basis of his/her social, cultural, economic, psychological and educational background without resorting to formal judicial proceedings.

However, no such committee had yet been notified by the Government in any district and the number of male or female probation officers had also not increased.

The CRM Punjab, a coalition of civil society organisations, working for the promotion and protection of child rights in the province, has demanded increase in budgetary allocation to ensure proper implementation on the JJSA 2018. It said that Nov 20 would be the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Children (UNCRC) and that it was about time political commitment should be shown for children, especially after recent abuse cases that had tarnished the image of the country.

It said the improvement in legislative infrastructure and implementation on existing mechanisms according to which state policies and legal framework with the international obligations could be aligned was now a must.

Lawyers Miqdad Naqvi and Ahmar Majeed, Irshad Safdar from Ittehad Foundation Kasur, and activists Zafar Malik and Nida Aslam also attended the meeting.

Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2019

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