Protecting our children
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa Child Protection and Welfare Ordinance has recently been promulgated This is good news and will hopefully be passed by the assembly as a bill soon. It has been reported that a similar bill exists in Punjab. But there is dire need for such a bill to be passed in Sindh and the Balochistan provinces as well. Childrens rights groups and NGOs have been pressing for signature campaigns and seminars but so far little progress has been made.
We should learn a lesson from Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa. The maximum number of cases of violence against children has been seen here. Due to the effects of displacement, suicide and other bombings, destruction of schools and infrastructure, many children are affected. There have been numerous cases of disappearances and abductions of children. Many children (13-19 years-old) have been forced by militant groups to join radical groups and even become suicide bombers. Under the duress of militants these kids are often brain-washed in to leaving their families and the protection of their homes and clans. They are at the mercy of these violators who even have used them to sell their blood and kidneys to raise money for their violent acts. Many children are sold into trafficking and the white flesh trade across the border and the Middle East. The practice of the white flesh trade, of very young girls and boys is very old, and dates to even before Afghan war. However, the Afghan war fuelled the trade as the administration and army was focused on fighting the so called jihad. Being a doctor I have witnessed many young girls being forced into marriages with Middle Eastern men and forced into a life of slavery and despair. These children then are completely cut off from their families in Pakistan and because they have the label of being “married” even their families are unconcerned of their well being. In the recent past the most cruel practice has been by the so-called religious militant groups who recruit male children openly, even against the wishes of parents and prepare them for tasks as deadly as suicide bombings.
In Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa, these kids are sold as slaves to serve adult masters. It is known that these boys are supplied to truckers in hotels for flesh trade whether inside Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa, Punjab or Sindh. These children are separated from their families and often develop deadly diseases like Hepatitis, Typhoid, Tuberculosis, HIV, Gonorrhoea etc. Children as young as seven have been trapped in this trade. This is one of the major reasons why the Child Protection Law should be promulgated in all provinces.
The clauses that are addressed in this ordinance shed light on the gravity of the situation and the urgency of the need to make these offences cognizable. Otherwise the abuse of children was continuing unabated. Corporal punishment is made cognizable. Otherwise these children are easily beaten or pressurised by criminals and militants into submission to use them in any way they want. Accordingly any person who gets involved in an activity that is harmful to a child in any way will be punished with imprisonment up to three years and a fine of Rs. 100,000 or both. The sale, purchase, delivery, transport, imports, exports and keeping of human organs of a child is also punishable with death or life imprisonment and a fine upto Rs1 million.
Other major offences have been declared punishable are unauthorised custody, employment of a child for begging, giving intoxicating liquor and narcotics to a child, permitting or forcing a child to enter places where narcotics or liquor are sold, child pornography, exposure to seduction, child trafficking and sexual abuse.
The practice of forced child marriage has been discouraged in Section 30.
In view of the widespread problems and the gravity of the situation the government has decided that the Peshawar High Court can set up or declare specific courts as Child Protection Courts.
A commission will be set up and risk identification, awareness, rehabilitation and protection of children will be carried out . A separate fund will be developed for child protection to facilitate the completion of projects and speedy justice.
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