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Street children

March 26, 2013

THIS is with reference to the news item that street children had been susceptible to disease, violence, sexual abuse, poverty, etc. (March 14)

Ironically, as far as education is concerned, Pakistan is ranked at 113th out of 120 registered UN members, according to the research conducted by Unesco, while 1.5 million children in the country are out of school net in the schoolgoing age and languishing on the street.

Things may have changed for the labourers but in Pakistan boys and girls as young as seven and eight are working day and night without proper remuneration or working conditions and supplementing their families.

The employment of children in the streets is a common phenomenon in Pakistan.

Since there is little or no concept or even opportunity of education, most parents bring their little children on the streets to have additional income.

These boys and girls work unregulated hours, with no or little time for recreation. They are at high risk of abuse — verbal, emotional, physical and sexual — sometimes resulting in death as well.

Pakistan has signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that makes it imperative for the state to provide children their basic right to education among many other rights such as health, safety and security.

At the same time Pakistan has signed International Labour Organisation conventions that set the age when children can and cannot start work.

Pakistan has a specific law: Employment of Children Act (ECA) 1991, which bans the labour of children under 14 in certain occupation.

Unfortunately, however, child domestic labour is not a part of the schedule of banned occupations of the ECA.

It is expected that the future government should take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to promote and protect children’s rights either on the street or in child labour.