KARACHI: The Sindh government is committed to strictly implementing labour and trade union laws as well as policies to protect the rights of children and women in the province, said caretaker Information minister Muhammad Ahmed Shah.

“Our civil society and every educated person has to play due role to discourage and end child labour,” he said while speaking at a conference and the launching of the study on ‘Domestic Child Labour in Pakistan’ here.

The study was launched by the Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in collaboration with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Pakistan. SHRC chairman Iqbal Ahmed Detho authored the study that encompasses legal and administrative gaps in the implementation of child-right laws.

The minister spoke about the eminence of committed and earnest efforts in addressing various human rights issues, including those concerning children and women.

Study launched on domestic child labour in country

He acknowledged the prolonged efforts made in this regard and pledged that the caretaker government and cabinet in Sindh would actively pursue policies to protect the rights of children and women.

He said that the Sindh government had taken the lead in enacting laws to protect the rights of the downtrodden sections of the society to help them.

In response to a question, Ahmed Shah said that funds had been released by the Sindh government for the repair of all the schools that were affected during the floods in the province.

Earlier, German Consul General in Karachi Dr Ruediger Lotz stressed on the detrimental impacts of child labour and said it affects their development, compromises their dignity and takes from them other childhood essentials including education. He also praised the efforts of government bodies and the German political foundation for advocacy on child-rights.

SHRC chairman Iqbal Detho highlighted several disturbing examples of domestic child abuse, and examined these within the international, national and provincial legal frameworks.

He also emphasised on the gravity of bonded labour and declared it a heinous offense as per the discourse on the Sindh Bonded Labour Act of 2016. The discussion also touched upon the Labour Force Survey and Section 374 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Sindh Labour Secretary Shariq Ahmed emphasised on the challenge of implementing laws due to the department operating at only half its required capacity.

Senator Taj Haider of the Pakistan Peoples Party highlighted many laws in Pakistan are not in accordance with the international conventions that the country has signed.

He spoke about the need for state intervention to understand why children are not attending school and suggested that authorities should engage with parents to address this issue.

Barrister Rida Tahir highlighted the legal gaps regarding child domestic labour. Referring to an ILO study, she shared data indicating that women and girls are often hired under the pretext of being skilled babysitters.

Saghir Bukhari from the ILO noted an increase in child labour post-Covid and stressed for spreading awareness among parents.

Senior trade unionist Habibuddin Junaidi expressed his appreciation for the efforts being made by the SHRC regarding the matter of child labour.

Speaking on the occasion, FES Programme Adviser Abdullah Dayo conveyed that the study would also be translated into Urdu for the mass public awareness.

In conclusion, FES Country Director Dr Niels Hegewisch thanked the participants and pledged for more collaborative efforts with the government and civil society to highlight challenges and for advocating necessary changes in policies and implementations to tackle domestic child labour in Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2023

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