LAHORE: Child rights activists have urged the newly-elected parliamentarians of Punjab to accord top priority to child rights and ensure the protection of children from all forms of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect in the province.
The Search for Justice and Child Rights Movement arranged a briefing session for new parliamentarians at a local hotel on Thursday and called on the new Punjab government to ensure that all children were enjoying their rights with full dignity and in a protective way.
Search for Justice Executive Director Iftikhar Mubarik briefed the parliamentarians that Pakistan ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on November 12, 1990, and being a state party to that convention, Pakistan was obligated to take all legislative, administrative and other possible measures to ensure implementation of CRC under guidelines introduced by UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2009 and 2016.
He highlighted the issue regarding absence of child protection policy in Punjab, prohibition of child domestic labour, increase in minimum age of marriage for girls from 16 to 18 years, delay in legislation to deal with the issue of physical and humiliating punishments in all settings, provision of adequate human and financial resource to implement enacted legislation related to child labour, as well as its worst forms.
Mubarik called for the establishment of “Punjab Commission on the Rights of Children” as an independent body to monitor the child rights situation in the province, especially, violence against children.
Child Rights Movement Coordinator Rashida Qureshi highlighted the gaps in the availability of data related to violation of child rights and protection. She also shared that UN Committee on the rights of the child, in its concluding observations in 2009, asked the government of Pakistan to establish a child protection information management system to record the violations of children rights, which was still unaddressed. She stressed political commitment to addressing the issues of children’s vulnerabilities and highlighted the need to launch capacity building programmes for teachers.
Children Human Rights Defender Sameer Haider presented a resolution, seeking the establishment of a system to capture children’s views. He cited Article 12 of Child Rights Convention, which asks to ensure meaningful participation of children at all levels.
Member National Assembly (MNA) Dr Nausheen Hamid, at the occasion, said that during the previous government’s tenure, her resolution to initiate legislation to address corporal punishment was unanimously passed by the Punjab Assembly.
Punjab Assembly member Musarrat Jamshed Cheema suggested launching a massive campaign to educate masses to handle children with love and care as well as to discourage all forms of violence against children. She particularly mentioned that target 16.2 of Sustainable Development Goals was clearly asking to end all forms of violence against children, which must be dealt with as a national priority.
UNICEF Punjab Child Protection Officer Zahida Manzoor also said that the new government in Punjab must focus to approve a comprehensive child protection policy in Punjab to set a strategic way forward and address the issues pertaining to child protection.