Safeguarding the rights of children
By: Iftikhar Mubarik
LAHORE: Article 25(3) of the Constitution recognises the right of protection for children due to their vulnerability. Pakistan ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1990 and this provides a broad framework for the promotion and protection of child rights. Under the Convention, the legal age of a child is under the age of 18 and this means that around 47 per cent of the Pakistani population comprises children.
The UNCRC makes it obligatory on the states which ratify it to take appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights enshrined in the Convention. The Eighteenth Amendment made child rights a provincial subject but that is about all that has been done on this matter.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its concluding observations on Pakistan in 2009, recommended the establishment “of an independent monitoring structure with a mandate to regularly evaluate progress in the implementation of the Convention”. In compliance with this recommendation, the provincial governments should immediately establish independent and empowered provincial commissions on the rights of children. These will act as focal points for effective supervision and coordination at the provincial level, of children’s rights in general and for those at risk in particular.
The commissions will also be expected to propose legislation for safeguarding children’s rights. They can be tasked with analysing existing government statistics on children to identify gaps and suggest remedies to plug them. The government may also be asked to undertake surveys on the state of the province’s children so that appropriate policies can be made in light of the data emerging out of such an exercise.