Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Child Rights

Pakistan is a signatory to several international commitments that cover basic human rights, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which it ratified with a general reservation sating that the provisions will be interpreted in the light of Islamic injunctions. This reservation was later withdrawn in 1947.
The National Commission for Child Welfare and Development (NCCWD) within the Ministry of Women’s Development and Social Welfare has been given the task of coordinating national efforts for implementation of the CRC in collaboration with the Provincial Commissioners for Child Welfare and Development (PCCWD). The Commissioners have been given a huge mandate but they lack adequate manpower and resources to play this role effectively. Despite plans to raise the status of the Commissioners and to give them more resources, necessary action is still pending.
In their Concluding Observations of October 2003, the Committee on the Rights of the Child praised Pakistan for the introduction of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance in 2000, but specified a number of concerns relevant to juvenile justice and street children, namely:

Concerns relative to street children in general:
The increasing number of street children and the vulnerability of these children to violence, torture, sexual abuse and exploitation and the lack of a systematic and comprehensive strategy to address the situation and protect these children as well as the very poor registration of missing children by the police.
The high number of children living in poverty, the shortage of adequate housing, of clean water and adequate sanitation and sewage, and at the problem of air pollution, all of which have a serious negative impact on the living conditions of children in the State party, causing injuries, sickness and death.
The lack of an adequate data collection mechanism within the State party to allow for the systematic and comprehensive collection of disaggregated quantitative and qualitative data…in relation to all groups of children.
The high prevalence of violence, abuse, including sexual abuse, and neglect of children within the State party, and the lack of effective measures taken to combat this problem. For instance, the existing legal provisions do not protect children sufficiently and the implementation of laws concerning child abuse and neglect is modest.
The existing institutions for children in need of alternative care are inadequate both qualitatively and quantitatively, and record keeping on children in need of these services is poor. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned at the absence of a mechanism to conduct periodic reviewing of placement.

Concerns relative to the Juvenile Justice System

The high number of children in prisons, who are detained in poor conditions, often together with adult offenders and thus vulnerable to abuse and ill-treatment. The very low minimum age of criminal responsibility (7 years) is also of concern to the Committee. Further, the Committee is deeply concerned about the reports of juvenile offenders sentenced to death and executed, which have also occurred after the promulgation of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance.
The numerous reports of torture, serious ill-treatment and sexual abuse of children by police officers, in detention facilities and other state institutions.
It is now widely recognized that communities need to be involved in the development process as equal partners through community based organizations (CBOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). But the NGO sector is weaker in Pakistan than in other countries of South Asia. Traditionally, local organizations led by community activists or philanthropists have concentrated predominantly on social welfare activities. However, this is beginning to change with some NGOs, particularly urban ones, concentrating on advocacy and lobbying. Other NGOs have fostered and strengthened village organizations in order to implement development activities through them.

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