By Sarfraz Ali
The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) has urged Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to pursue the Child Protection Bill on urgent matter National Child Protection Policy and enactment of the Protection of Children (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill 2009 and the National Commission on the Rights of Children Bill 2009 to protect and promote the rights of children across Pakistan.
Through a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, the SPARC said that the Policy and Bills have been placed before the Federal Cabinet for approval in October 2009 however; the Cabinet directed the Ministry of Social Welfare and Special Education to refer the drafts to the Council of Islamic Ideology and government is coalition partners.
This is causing unnecessary delay in the adoption and approval of this long awaited policy and legislation about children.
Pakistan is a party to the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and to the core ILO Conventions No. 100, 138, 182 and 111.
Pakistan is also a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Convention against Torture (CAT), Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and to the two optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Child Pornography, Sale and Trafficking of Children.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted by UN General Assembly in 1989 and the same was ratified by Pakistan in 1990. Pakistan also signed two of its Optional Protocols in 2008. It has been 19 years since Pakistan signed and ratified many of these international instruments and yet it has not brought its national laws in conformity with them. Even after the lapse of almost 19 years, the Government has failed to bring Pakistani laws in conformity with it.
In the letter SPARC demanded to take proactive action by taking personal interest in banning child domestic labour and expediting the process for the approval and enactment of the National Child Protection Policy and Bills to ensure protection of children from all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse in the society.
Moreover, SPARC is concerned over the growing incidence of violence against children in the country. Latest being the brutal murder of a domestic child servant Shazia Masih, in Lahore, by her employers.
This and an increasing number of such incidents appearing in the local newspapers and electronic media compel us to think even more seriously about the child protection issues.
SPARC expresses strong concern over the lack of accountability in this regard.
In letter SPARC also demanded to direct the Ministry of Labour and Industries to enforce a ban on child domestic labour by adding it to the schedule of banned occupations under the Employment of Children Act 1991 through a notification in official Gazette and immediately call a meeting of the National Committee on the Rights of the Child established in 2000 under section 5 of the said law to look into the emerging issues in child labour and effective implementation of the law.
(The writer is staff member of Daily 'The Nation')