Battling Child Abuse in Conflict Zones of Pakistan

January 16, 2018 HUMAN RIGHTS , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , Pakistan

AFP photo

 

By

Zeeshan A. Shah

 

 

As we begin this year, the country is marked by the devastating event that has shocked the world. A rape and murder of a child in remote Punjab has created shockwaves with a challenge for the government and the justice system. The alleged killer remains at large as investigations continue. Another incident in the recent past was uncovered where a ring of child molesters and abusers were involved in child trafficking and sexual pornography. More needs to be done to understand how ignorant the system remains in this country with the second highest youth population in the world today.

 

This poses a question mark for the state and government of Pakistan. Where is the policy on child protection? When will it be implemented through the parliament? Is justice truly blind?

 

The Pakistan Penal Code of 1860 had been amended by a strong national assembly resolution under Sections 292 A, B & C and Sections 377 A & B to ensure protection to children as the new bill of punishment to habitual child abusers and repeat child offenders, and was passed by a unanimous agreement in the national assembly, further strengthening the Justice system of the country. A major breakthrough like this still failed to pave the way forward for a secure and safe environment for children and uphold Child Rights in Pakistan.

 

The decision also comes in line with securing children living in conflict zones, ravaged by war, social and environmental damage. Pakistan is also the signatory of the Global CRC- Convention on the Rights of the Child which binds every country to do more in the areas of Child Abuse and Neglect under Article 31 – encouraging efforts to improve the living conditions and “Rights of Play “for all children across rural and urban boundaries, therefore under obligation to ensure provisions in terms of action plans, policy and legislation on Child Rights.

 

The UN promotes Article 31and its review every 5 years and is keen to see worldwide movement in this arena by all representing governments of those signatory nations. Pakistan was one of the first countries to sign off the CRC in 1990 but maintained a gloomy outlook as far as implementation of policy on the ground has been concerned. Globally, children are severely impacted by political and environmental events, both man-made and otherwise.

 

Under the new law, the act of exposing children to obscene material has been criminalized with punishment. The law will also provide punishment for internal human smuggling with the ministry of labor piloting the Bill to amend the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898. The provisions provided in the criminal law statutes fail to cover a number of very serious offences against the person or a child; like child pornography, exposure to seduction, abuse, cruelty to a child and trafficking in human beings within Pakistan. These provisions have been structured to meet universal UNCRC mandates. Here, Pakistan needs to be more country specific if they want to win the war against this hidden crime of sexual exploitation of children and youth.

 

Though a timely step by the government to protect minors in a country that is highly fragmented from within, more needs to be seen as how law enforcement agencies tackle this forward where the Rights of the Child have been neglected over time, leading to significant damage in our society.

 

This decision comes at a time when the country is facing challenges both from within and across external borders. Pakistan employs one of the largest Peace-Keeping forces around the world with troops engaged in high risk countries faced by civil unrest and war. Despite that, the Pakistan Armed Forces have always been ahead of defending the “In-Country Specific Goals“, one of them happening to be the safety and security of displaced children in the aftermath of the Operation Zarb-e-Azb, making us a very proud nation. The civilian government has also successfully aligned its strategic intent in line with the defense of the country, making this a key mission. The National Assembly also passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2015 aimed at protecting children from cruel treatment, raising the minimum age bar from seven to 10 years, with the upper age limit raised up to 14 years, proposing heavy punishments for criminals with no alternations.

 

As more and more children continue to stay out of schools, this law will further act on the positive to find the missing link between the lack of enrolments in Children and Child Abuse. Research and experts indicate that in 90% of the cases, child abuse usually starts from home and social surroundings, where offenders are usually people that the child knows, like relatives, teachers, drivers, even parents. Unfortunately, lots of facts are buried under the web of deceit.

 

Preventive measures include decent school environment, basic knowledge, community awareness through teachers and parent teacher communication, educators recruited on merit, regular standardized performance testing of all teachers, periodical assessments, incentives to high performers and regular teacher training.

 

Civil Society, Media and NGOs are jointly responsible to adopt a friendly policy of communication and advocacy thereby enforcing positive pressure on the governments to act more swiftly upon such cases or situations where child abuse is rampant. Child Trafficking within the country has reached abnormal proportions and a concise crystal clear punishment strategy needs to be devised by the law enforcement agencies and Judiciary to wipe out this kind of worst corruption and moral decay that has affected the country in the aftermath of an uneducated and unprotected society facing war and conflict.

 

Children in conflict zones need to be given hope so that decades of ignorance finally pave the way towards safety and enlightenment. Is humanity more ready now to bring about the inner shift, from the old egoistic consciousness of man to a more transformative state? We have to defend the country and its future.

 

Child Rights must be enforced and implemented in its fullest forms to ensure stability and progress for the bright future of Pakistan. The State of Pakistan will continue to defend its children, from internal and external oppression and aggression today and every day and it will take a lot of effort on security and safety of children for them to feel safe in early childhood experiences and within society as they grow towards a confident future.

 

 

 

 

Zeeshan A. Shah

The writer is a Director at CNNA Pakistan – a leading advocacy institute and is an expert on International Relations and Education Policy.

With over 150 publications in major local and global social media & newspapers, he has been instrumental in producing over 5000 radio broadcasts aired globally.

A thought leader, environmental journalist, media broadcaster and a change maker with an acute focus on development affairs & education for Pakistan.

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