Children’s rights in Pakistan

November 20, 2019

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IN 2019, the world is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC).

Pakistan was among the countries which signed and ratified the CRC for implementing it in accordance with Pakistan’s law and Islamic ideology. The CRC provides a universal standard on the rights of children the world over. Pakistan being a signatory is under obligation to develop a child protection system to ensure optimum child development and protection.

It is now over a quarter of century that Pakistan signed the convention which required legislations to make the CRC law of the land. Till date Pakistan has no comprehensive enabling law with regard to the CRC. As a result the convention cannot be directly applied in the courts.

The 54 articles included in the UNCRC focused comprehensively on four main thematic areas — namely survival, development, protection and participation. Nearly 30 years down the lane, the state of children in Pakistan is still terrible.

Children comprises over 45 per cent of Pakistan’s total population. The health statistics of children are staggering; 74 out of 1,000 children under the age of one cannot survive their first year of life and 44 out of 1,000 newborns not even the first month of life.

The vaccination status of our children is between 56pc and 88pc with considerable variation between the provinces. Balochistan lags far behind in achieving its target. The incidence of pneumonia, polio, tuberculosis, typhoid, malaria and other communicable disease have increased.

Only 66pc children are enrolled in primary schools in Pakistan — a country where, according to the constitution, primary schooling is free and mandatory. The student’s teacher ratio is 48:1.

Child protection is still an alien concept for many. Child protection is a concept that aims to safeguard children from economic exploitation, physical and sexual abuse, and effects of war, neglect, abandonment, maltreatment and discrimination. It also includes the provision of proper care and /or rehabilitation for vulnerable children.

The rising incidence of child abuse now increasingly and objectively being reported in print and electronic media is not new. It should be a matter of concern for all of us.

Prof Dr Aisha Mehnaz

Karachi

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2019