Child protection policy awaits implementation
Islamabad – In a welfare state, where government’s primary responsibility is to ensure protection of rights of its citizens, implementation of the National Child Protection Policy seems a distant dream. Child labour in Pakistan continues unchecked.
Amanullah, 13, has spent nearly seven years of his life washing vehicles of people visiting Aabpara market.
Fourth in number out of his seven siblings, he daily earns around Rs300 and is happy in his life.
“I never liked to go to school and when I reached grade six, I left it. Since then I daily come to this market and wash cars,” he said.
Amanullah, son of a vendor belongs to Mardan. His family is settled in the suburbs of Bari Imam shrine for nearly two decades. “My father asked me to work if I do not want to study. I chose the second option because I was never interested in studies,” he said.
Along with Amanullah, dozens of children less than 14 years of age, work only in this single market of the federal capital. Some cannot afford education while some have their own domestic problems.
“We were never abused during work. However, a police official who died a year ago was working here like an extortionist,” he said.
According to him, all boys working here were forced to give a share of their earnings to that official on daily basis. In case of non-cooperation, they were threatened to face consequences, Amanullah said.
“I am happy at work and waiting for the age when I will be able to apply for an identity card. I will not avail the chance of going to school again,” said Amanullah.
Few days ago, an incident of domestic violence on minor girl Tayyaba occurred in the city which sparked a heated debate on the current situation of child labour and protection in the country. Though the legislative bodies of the country drafted the Child Protection System Bill, 2014 and adopted a law for the protection of children last year but implementation remained a question. According to the estimates of International Labour Organisation, 12.5 million children in the country are providing labour.
Meanwhile, article 25 of the constitution ensures that the state may make special provision for the protection of children.
United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child also states that children have the same rights as adults and in 1989, world leaders decided to adopt a special convention for the children under 18 years because they need special care and protection.
As per findings of the UN convention, despite the existence of rights, children suffer from poverty, homelessness, abuse, neglect, preventable diseases, unequal access to education and justice system in both industrialised and developing countries.
Farzana Bari, a human rights activist while talking to The Nation said that child protection from domestic violence and labour will remain a dream until an implementation strategy is formed.
“Though basic responsibility falls on the state for the protection of children but society also does not play its role for the awareness,” she said.
Law provides basic right of free education to children for 16 years but still a large number of children are out-of-school and similarly countless are subjected to violence, all of which is not reported, she said.
“Along with legislation, budget allocation is also required to implement these laws which can held accountable the culprits involved in crime against children,” she added.
A comprehensive planning is required to counter the problems of children forced in different kinds of labour. Poverty is the major cause behind the child abuse. Programmes should be introduced which can initially reduce the burden of poverty from the families who are compelled to give their children to others for work.
“Only 2 per cent allocation of budget to bring reform in education cannot change the situation,” she added.
Bari also stated that political parties though to gain political mileage passes the laws but the mechanism required to get results are not addressed properly.
“Society should have to come forward and monitor the government for the implementation on child protection,” she added.
Meanwhile, for Tahir Abbas, 9, a scavenger, life is not a bed of roses.
Since his father died, he daily collects iron bolts on a rented cycle and saves some money to keep the life going. “I go to school in the morning. After 1pm I go to work,” he said.
Tahir’s mother is a housemaid. Out of his four siblings, he is the only one who is enrolled in school.
“I go to school because my mother says it will change our life and one day we will also become rich,” he said. But if I do not work then we have to sleep without food, Tahir said.