Child protection body still non-functional in Sindh
KARACHI: The Sindh Child Protection Authority (SPCA) — a body meant to ensure the rights of the children in need of special protection measures — is still dysfunctional for the past many months since the rules of business have not been passed, it emerged on Wednesday.
The Sindh Child Protection Authority Act was enacted five years back and the SPCA that consisted of a dozen of individuals, including two members of the provincial assembly, government officials, lawyers and non-governmental organisations was constituted in November 2014.
Officials in the welfare department said that the SCPA was entrusted to formulate its rules of business and it had met a few times since November 2014. However, it was not known when would it accomplish the task.
Social Welfare Minister Shamim Mumtaz, who is also the chairperson of the SPCA, in a meeting held on Wednesday underlined the need to speed up the process of framing its rules to functionalise it soon.
Ms Mumtaz said it was a long-pending issue and process of formulating rules for the authority should be completed within 15 days.
The SCPA Act was passed by the Sindh Assembly five years ago to ensure the rights of the children who are in need of special protection and attention.
The minister said children were soft target and vulnerable segment of society and it was the government’s responsibility and of the society at large to protect them from physical and psychological violence, sexual abuse, commercial sexual exploitation, worst forms of child labour and beggary, human trafficking within and outside Pakistan and misuse for drug trafficking.
“Ambiguities and confusion should be removed while formulating rules to everyone knows what one should do,” she said.
The SCPA was supposed to be constituted within 60 days after the passage of the act, yet it took four years to the government to notify it.
Officials said they were still waiting for the notification of relevant rules, a prerequisite for the authority meant to monitor child protection related issues at provincial and district levels.
The Sindh Assembly passed the Sindh Child Protection Authority Bill in May, 2011 and the governor assented to the bill in June to ensure the rights of children — people up to the age of 18 — who need special protection measures.
The bill called for establishment of an authority for child protection within 60 days after the passage of the law.
Sources blamed the government for a delay in making bylaws that hindered the functioning of the SCPA.
Despite the minister’s desire, it is hard for the officials to launch the authority when there is no provision kept in the current fiscal.
While the new fiscal year has begun one and a half months ago, they are destined to find hardships in making financial proposals for the budget for the authority, which would be needed to run the SCPA, its affiliated child protection units, designed to be established in every district of Sindh.
Sarah Coleman, who represented Unicef in the Wednesday meeting, suggested that the authority should be an advisory, monitoring and oversight body while service delivery should rest with social welfare department.
She quoted the examples of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and said that the child protection authorities had failed to achieve set goals in both the provinces. However, she said Balochistan had done better.
The terms of reference given to the SCPA in the notification in November last year ask the body to coordinate and monitor the child protection related issues at the provincial and district levels; ensure the rights of the children in need of special protection measures and support and establish institutional mechanism for the child protection issues.
It is meant to set minimum standards for all other institutions relating to the children, like educational institutions, orphanages, shelter homes, remand homes’ certified school, youthful offender workplaces, child parks and hospitals, etc, and ensure their implementation.
The officials said the new body, when starts working, would monitor and report on the violation of the national and provincial laws and international instruments and take suitable remedial measures for the protection of the child; and set up child protection management information.
Besides, the body would promote and undertake systematic investigation and research on child protection issues; prosecute the offenders when children are the victims of an offence and establish and manage a fund.
According to the law, a child protection officer may, in case of a child in need of special protection measures, ask relevant authorities for an appropriate action.
The officer may, in consultation with child protection committee, apply to the magistrate concerned for taking into custody a child if he/she requires special protection measures.
Whenever a child is taken into custody, he/she should immediately be taken to the nearest child protection institution for temporary accommodation till appropriate orders are passed by the appropriate authority, the SCPA Act says.
Child rights activists believe that the children in need could not be benefited from the law despite its passage five years ago after the enactment.
They said constant delays had worsened the situation. However, even if the authority was established in its present shape with the minister in charge of the social welfare department as its chairman it would hardly serve the purpose.
The secretaries of the social welfare, home, education and labour departments are part of the authority’s present set-up.
With the passage of the SCPA the previous provincial commission on child welfare and development ceased to exist creating a vacuum as to who was responsible to regulate all the child protection facilities in the province.
The previous commission too, the sources said, had hardly held a meeting in its few years of life to serve its basic purpose.