Thursday, 13 March 2014

CRM demands Sustainable Solution in Thar

CRM is concerned over the deaths of newborn 
and under five children in Tharparkar

Islamabad- March 11, 2013: The Child Rights Movement (CRM) Pakistan is concerned over the reported deaths of newborns and under five years old children in Tharparkar due to various diseases which are closely linked with famine like situation in the area. “This is an alarming situation and requires an effective and sustainable solution to ensure children’s lives are saved”, said the movement of more than 100 Non Governmental Organisations which is working for the promotion and protection of child rights in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s maternal mortality ratio and newborn and under five mortality rates are quite high and malnutrition is one of the key contributing cause of almost 45% of all preventable under five deaths in the country said CRM Pakistan’s in its press release. The federal and provincial governments should respond seriously by taking emergency as well as long term development steps to ensure that famines and poor nutrition among children is prevented.

The Government of Sindh should immediately send teams of doctors to Tharparkar to help mothers and children who are affected by under nutrition and provide them with not only medical treatment but also nutritious food. The Government should also start implementing the Multi Sectoral Nutrition Strategy to overcome the malnutrition and food security issues in the province on sustainable basis which will also help prevent not only under five and maternal deaths but will also promote healthy growth of children. The issue of under nutrition among children and women is not an issue to be handled by the Department of Health and or Food only rather there is a need to involve Departments of Education, Agriculture, Food, Zakat, Social Welfare and Women Development, Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) and the Civil Society and media to respond to the situation.

According to Article 38 (d) of the Constitution of Pakistan it is the responsibility of the State that all citizens are provided with “basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief” however, the findings of the National Nutrition Survey 2011 clearly reveal that little or no focus has been given to the right to food in Pakistan which is resulting in various health related problems among women and children. The federal and provincial governments should prioritise nutrition and food security and take immediate steps to prevent any future catastrophe recommended the CRM.  

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Child Rights in Pakistan-Universal Children’s Day, Press Conference cum Consultation

Child Rights in Pakistan-Universal Children’s Day   

 The Universal Children’s day was marked to celebrate the UNCRC which 24 years ago was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20th November 1989 and Pakistan was one of the first 20 countries to become a signatory of the convention and ratified the UNCRC in 1990.
The UNCRC has 54 Articles,and the first article defines a child as an individual below the age of 18. Although Pakistan has ratified the UNCRC, but it has failed to fulfil it’s obligations towards the rights of children.
Soaring numbers of street children, baggers, child prostitutes, increased child mortality rate, increased drop out rate of school children and many other similar issues related to children is an alarming sign for Pakistan and its future. 
The very basic step that our country lacks is inappropriate law and legislative measures to provide protection to its children. Pending bills related to child rights such as the National Commission on the Rights of Children Bill 2001, Criminal Law Amendment bill 2009, Prohibition of Corporal Punishment bill 2010 and the Child Marriage Restraint Amendment Bill 2010 are some of the examples those need due attention of the governmental and political authorities for their enactment.
On the other hand laws those have been enacted, such as the ICT right to free and compulsory education act passed in 2012 is still not implementable.
Looking at the measures taken for the implementation of the enacted laws, one of the reasons usually quoted by the concerned authorities for not implementing the enacted laws is lack of resources and budget for their implementation.
If we compare the available resources in Pakistan with the other South Asian countries, those have done very well in improving their education rate such as Sri Lanka, it appears that Pakistan has almost double of its resources available for a certain number of population than Sirilanka has. Whereas Sirilanka is quiet close to attain 100% literacy rate. Similarly civil society organizations(NGOs) in Pakistan have also practiced the multiple utilization of existing resources in, which have proven to be successful.
Apart from the lack of law and legislation on child rights and their implementation, lack of awareness among our masses on child rights and seeking justice is another issue. This hinders the provision of child rights and child protection.
The strong traditional cult of following elders usually men as the absolute decision makers for everyone in the family/tribe as heads of the family/tribe, also result in violence against children. One of the most violent forms of these violence are early and forced marriages (Vani,Sawara, Pait Likhi etc... ) or child sexual abuse.
The statistics available with one of CRM’s members, show that majority of children get sexually abused by people to whom they have acquaintance with and are physically more powerful. It also shows that children are threatened not to disclose the secret of abuse.
To address these forms of violence against children, the first and foremost step that needs to be taken is the participation of the child in identifying and addressing his/her issues. Parents and then the community and other social circles in which the child lives are second in this process so that a child knows how to protect her/himself in threatening situations.

With these few identified issues the Child Rights Movement (CRM) Pakistan on the Universal Day of Children urged the Prime Minister of Pakistan for the establishment of the National Commission on the Rights of the Child, allocating funds for the promotion of the child rights and enactment of long pending bills on child rights which the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child have repeatedly recommended to Pakistan. 

Monday, 9 September 2013

Unite for child rights in Pakistan (Planning Meeting)

Unite for child rights in Pakistan

Arshad Mahmood

More than 40 child rights activists from across the country gathered in Islamabad to review the state of child rights in Pakistan and plan that how will they respond together as Child Rights Movement (CRM) Pakistan to improve the situation. CRM Pakistan is a coalition of more than 100 civil society organizations working for the promotion and protection of child rights across Pakistan having its national and AJ&K, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Punjab and Sindh chapters.

The CRM Pakistan planned policy advocacy initiative focusing on child rights at the federal and provincial levels and called upon the federal and provincial government to take serious and committed steps to improve the deteriorating state of child rights in Pakistan.

It was agreed that CRM will engage extensively with the new federal and provincial governments and parliamentarians to ensure that all pending legislation related to child rights i.e. The Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill, the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, the Child Marriages Restraint Amendment Bill and the National Commission on the Rights of Children Bill at the federal level are enacted during 2013 which has also been declared as the Year of the Rights of the Child in Pakistan.

The CRM meeting noted with concern that a number of children related legislations are pending at the provincial level and urged the provincial governments to enact the Balochistan Child Protection and Welfare Bill, the Punjab Commission on the Rights of the Child Bill, the Right to Free and Compulsory Educations Bills in Balochistan, KP and Punjab and the Prohibition of the Employment Children Bills in the all the four provinces. It was also decided that advocacy campaigns will be launched at the federal and provincial levels using various means to put pressure on the parliament for the enactment of all pending bills.

The CRM Pakistan also called upon the Government of Sindh and KP to notify rules of the Sindh Child Protection Authority Act 2011, the KP Child Protection and Welfare Act 2010 and the KP Borstal Institutions Act 2012 and make proper budgetary allocation for the effective implementation of these laws.

CRM noted with concern that there is no child protection system in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) which makes the children living in the capital more vulnerable. The CRM decided that there will be targeted advocacy at the federal level so that the government should introduce a proper child protection system for ICT. It was also discussed and agreed steps should be taken for the implementation of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2013 in ICT and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) where the laws has recently been extended by the President of Pakistan.

It was agreed that CRM will continue with its advocacy for increase in budgetary allocation for children in health including nutrition, education and child protection sectors at the national and provincial levels and will continue follow up for the implementation of Pakistan’s international obligations such as recommendations of Human Rights Council (UPR Process) and Concluding Observations and Recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child etc.

The CRM also decided to get involved in debate related to Pakistan’s achievement of the MDGs and the post 2015 agenda for sustainable development. The coalition has planned to develop a Child Protection Monitoring Mechanism and regularly generate research reports and quarterly or bi-annual situation reports /newsletters and factsheets etc. It was also decided that meaningful child participation in CRM’s advocacy initiatives will be ensured.

The CRM Pakistan also discussed the situation of children in emergencies in Pakistan and called upon the government of Pakistan to take steps for the rehabilitation of children and their families affected by manmade and natural disasters in FATA and across the country. It was also decided that CRM will be involved in advocacy to keep highlighting the plight of the children affected by emergencies.

The Child Rights Movement called upon the federal government to ratify the Optional Protocols to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and Communications Procedure for Children and decided to launch a campaign in this regard.

There were exclusive sessions on advocacy, the use of social media for advocacy and monitoring of child rights violations mechanism development. The CRM planning meeting concluded with a resolve to unite for child rights in Pakistan. There was a unanimous agreement that working as coalition in an organize manner has more potential to achieve great results for the children of Pakistan particularly at the policy, legislation and budgetary allocation level.

The writer is among the founding members of CRM Pakistan and Director Advocacy and Child Rights Governance with Save the Children Pakistan Program.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Protecting the rights of the child

Universal Children’s Day is commemorated on November 20 across the world. On November 20, 1989, the United Nations adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to safeguard child rights around the world. Pakistan ratified the convention on November 12, 1990 and made a commitment for the protection and promotion of child rights in the country. Unfortunately, even on the 22nd anniversary of the UNCRC ratification, the situation of child rights is not satisfactory. Children in Pakistan constitute almost half of the population of the country but are deprived of basic necessities and are extremely vulnerable. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, while considering Pakistan’s consolidated 3rd and 4th periodic reports, observed that the concluding observations of the second periodic report have not yet been sufficiently implemented, including those relating to the harmonisation of the laws with the convention, improved coordination at national and local levels, the establishment of a monitoring mechanism and resource allocation for children, among other steps. This is an indication that Pakistan’s progress has been weak on most counts. On October 30, 2012, during the universal periodic review of Pakistan, the Human Rights Council suggested 163 recommendations to the government of Pakistan for improving the situation of human rights in Pakistan — more than 50 percent of these recommendations are related to children rights. 

As a citizen of Pakistan and a child rights activist, I request the government of Pakistan to consider the recommendations of international bodies and to also consider passing the Charter of Child Rights Bill, the Criminal Laws Amendment (Child Protection) Bill, the National Commission on the Rights of Children Bill, the Child Marriages Restraint Amendment Bill and the Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill. Moreover, federal and provincial governments must increase budgetary allocations in health, education and children-specific schemes, programmes and projects so that the welfare of children in Pakistan can be ensured.


Monday, 22 October 2012

The State of Children’s Rights in Pakistan By the Child Rights Movement (CRM) Pakistan

A Brief Document
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Pakistan

The State of Children’s Rights in Pakistan
By the Child Rights Movement (CRM) Pakistan

1. Introduction
1.1- In April 2012, a coalition of 108 national and international organizations working for the rights of children through the Child Rights Movement (CRM) of Pakistan had submitted the Stakeholder Universal Periodic Review report with the Human Rights Council for the 14th Session of Human Rights Council in October and November 2012. Besides, three children’s consultations were organized to incorporate children’s views in the draft report prepared by the CRM. On August 13, the CRM had organized an urgent meeting for the finalization the key concerns from the Stakeholder report. Following key concerns were unanimously were selected from the report for the advocacy purpose.

Summary of key concerns

2. National Commission on the Rights of Children
2.1- There is no an independent body at the national level for reporting, coordination and monitoring for the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and its three Optional Protocols. The National Commission for Child Welfare and Development (NCCWD), within the Ministry of Human Rights, is believed to be responsible for child rights in Pakistan but unfortunately, the NCCWD was established through a resolution in the National Assembly, and has limited human and financial resources, as well as limited powers to prevent and respond to violations of child rights and coordinate and monitor the implementation of the CRC.

2.2- Pakistan should establish an independent National Commission on the Rights of Children (NCRC) with provision of adequate financial support to carry out it monitoring and implementation of child rights duties; and Pakistan should immediately improve and pass the long-pending bill on the NCRC.

3. Child Protection

3.1- Child Labour and child domestic labour: Pakistan has ratified three conventions related to children: UNCRC and ILO’s Conventions 132 (the Minimum Age) and 182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour) but little progress has been made in amending existing or introducing new legislation to comply with the provisions of the conventions.

3.2- There are estimated more than 264,000 children working as child domestic workers in Pakistan in hazardous and deplorable conditions. From January 2010 to December 2011, newspapers reported 18 cases of severe torture and abuse of child domestic workers. Out of these, 13 children died as a direct result of violence inflicted on them by their employers. Pakistan does not recognize child domestic labour as a worst form of child labour and contemporary form of slavery.

3.2- Pakistan should in light of the UNCRC, the ILO Conventions 132 and 182, introduce new laws, amended existing laws and ensure full implementation of those, to be implemented in all federating units and Pakistan should declare child domestic labour as a worst form of child labour and ban it under the Employment of Children Act (ECA) by 2013.

3.3 Corporal Punishment: Corporal punishment is widespread in all settings across the country and the government is not enacting the Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill.

3.4- By 2013, adopt legislation that explicitly prohibits corporal punishment in all settings, to be implemented in all federating units.

3.5- Child marriages: In 2010, in Sindh province alone, 50 cases of child marriages were reported. In 2008-2009 of the total children from the age group 10-14 (20.19 million) and 15-19 (19.88 million), 0.12 percent (in numbers 24228) and 5.18 percent (in numbers 1029784) were reported married respectively. It does not include details of the children below 10 years of age. Child marriages are common means of settling feuds in Pakistan. Jirgas (tribal assembly of elders) are still being held, and girl children are commonly offered to settle disputes.

3.6- Pakistan should introduce an amendment in the Child Marriages Restraint Act 1929 to align the age of marriage of boys and girls by raising the minimum age of marriage for girls to 18 years, along with strict penalties for violations.

3.7- Child Sexual Abuse: The number of child sexual abuse cases has increased yearly (1,839 in 2008, 2,012 in 2009, 2,595 in 2010). On average, six children are sexually assaulted every day, but reported cases are only a fraction of all cases due to social taboo. In addition, child victims and their families are dragged through the criminal justice system.

3.8- Pakistan should ensure that professionals working on the front line with children, such as teachers, medical professionals, school counselors, and police personnel, are sensitized and trained to appropriately respond to child sexual abuse, including prevention, detection and management.

3.9- Introduce strict penalties for child sexual abuse by implementing the existing laws and introduce new laws.

3.10- Street Children: There are an estimated 1.2 million street children in major cities of Pakistan. Following the floods in 2010 and 2011, and ongoing conflict in the tribal areas, there has been a surge of street children in major cities of Pakistan. While there has been little done to counter this.

3.11- Pakistan should support mechanisms for rehabilitation and reunification of street children. The efficiency of existing institutions such as child protection and welfare bureaus should be improved by allocating more financial, technical and human resources.

3.12- Administration of Juvenile Justice: The Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO), 2000, is little recognized or known among law enforcement agencies, and officials are generally not sensitized or qualified to deal with children’s issues. Sadly the JJSO does not override, but is in addition to, several acts such as  the Army Act, Frontier Crimes Regulation, Action (in Aid Civil Power) Regulation, Anti-terrorism Act, Control of Narcotics Substance Act, Punjab Prohibition of Kite Flying Ordinance and the Railways Act. Under these laws, harsh punishments including death sentences and life imprisonment can be imposed upon children.

3.13- Pakistan should take measures to ensure that the JJSO overrides other laws in cases involving children and establish exclusive juvenile courts in accordance with the JJSO and ensure that children’s cases are tried separately from adult cases.

3. 14- Birth Registration: Pakistan has not taken sufficient measures to remove structural obstacles to birth registration and harmonize birth registration systems across the country. No detailed by-laws, and an overall lack of awareness about the importance of birth registration among the general public, are the biggest hurdles in the way of birth registration in the country. The national average for birth registration is only 29.5 percent.

3.15- Pakistan should take legal and administrative measures to remove obstacles to birth registration (particularly for marginalized segments of society, e.g. single parents children, children out of wedlock, street children and orphans) and harmonize laws related to birth registration across the country by 2015.

4. Education:
4.1- The CRM is afraid that Pakistan is far from reaching the Education for All target by year 2015. About 7 million children are not attending primary school in Pakistan; approximately 60 percent of these are girls. Accordingly, more than 50 million Pakistanis above 10 years of age are illiterate.

4.2- Under Article 25A of the Constitution of Pakistan, education is fundamental right of every child from 5 to 16 years of age but neither federal nor provincial governments have introduce laws to implement the Article.

4.3- Pakistan should comply with Article 25-A (the Right to Education), the Government under the ECA should ban labour for children below 16 years of age in all occupations.

4.4- Pakistan should increase the budget for education by 5 percent by 2013, substantially increase budgets for girls education, to meet its MDG and EFA targets.

5. Malnutrition
5.1- Malnutrition is contributing to 35 percent of all under-5 deaths in Pakistan. According to UNICEF, 32 percent of infants have low birth-weight (recorded in 2006 and 2010). In 2010, the infant mortality rate was 70/1000 and under-5 mortality rate was 87/1000. As a result, Pakistan is at risk of failing to reach its MDG targets on maternal and child health.

5.2- Pakistan should take all legislative, administrative and other appropriate measures to develop and implement comprehensive food security and malnutrition prevention and response programs.

6. Legislative Weaknesses affecting children
6.1- 120 days detention without the authority of the magistrate: Pakistan has introduced the Action in Aid for Civil Power Regulations (AACPRs) for the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas and Provincially Administrated Tribal Areas. These regulations allow for the confinement of an individual, whether a child or adult, for 120 days without the authority of the magistrate. Furthermore, the Regulations state that for 120 days, there will be no legal representation or trial, and a single statement by an official from the Law Enforcement Agencies is sufficient to prove a child guilty of an offence and set a death sentence, which cannot be challenged by any other legal forum.

6.2- Pakistan should immediately abolish the AACPRs and proper administrative and judicial procedures should be applied in accordance with the Constitution of Pakistan in FATA and PATA.

6.3- The Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility: The minimum age of criminal responsibility is 7 under Section 82 of the Pakistan Penal Code. This has resulted in arrests, detention and humiliation of children less than 10 years of age by the police. A Child Protection Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill has been pending since 2009 in which the minimum age of criminal responsibility was proposed to increase from 7 to 10 years.

6.4- Pakistan should revise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years in the Criminal Laws (Child Protection) Amendment Bill and expedite the passage of the Bill.

6.5- Sale of Children, Prostitution and Trafficking: Pakistan ratifies the Optional Protocol to UNCRC on Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography in June 2011; however, which Pakistan has still not passed The Criminal Laws (Child Protection) Amendment Bill 2009, which would provide for preventive and protective measures against sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. There is a lack of legislation on internal child trafficking, and the measures against international child trafficking are weak as well. Pakistan does not provide legal and administrative measures for preventing and protecting children from trafficking between provinces inside Pakistan or even between regions.

6.6. Pakistan should translate ratification of the Optional Protocol on Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography into national laws.

7. Child participation
7.1- Children in Pakistan are seen but not heard. Children have limited or no participation in decisions that affect their lives. There is no mechanism for seeking children’s views at the policy or practice level.

7.2- Pakistan should establish platforms for children participation into social and economical issues concern their lives and should focus on developing TV/radio programmes for children and encourage participation of children in all spheres of life especially the media. Pakistan should establish formal forums and mechanisms for children’s participation in civic life.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

State of children’s rights deteriorating in Punjab

Situation of children’s rights in Punjab is deteriorating due to “extremely low” budgetary allocations for children’s education and health in the provincial budget, said speakers at a seminar ‘Resources Alliances for Children’.

“Budget allocations for education, health and social welfare in the fiscal year 2012-2013 have decreased from those of 2011-2012. Budget allocation for education has been reduced from 5.96 percent to 4.94 percent, health 4.8 percent to 4.57 percent and social welfare 0.64 to 0.51 percent,” participants were told at the seminar organised by Child Rights Movement Punjab (CRMP) and Social Welfare Department in collaboration with Save the Children on Wednesday.

Senior journalist Iftikhar Ahmed said that resources are generated through a proper tax system which, according to him, is “dysfunctional and ineffective” in Pakistan.

“To make our state stable, we will have to devise a proper and regular tax payment system,” he said, adding that the Punjab government is “not serious” about welfare of children.

Save the Children Program Manager Wajahat Ali Farooq said the situation of “child focused health expenditures is quiet dismal because such expenditures have shown a decrease of almost 100 percent”.

CRMP Representative Iftikhar Mubarik said the Punjab government should increase its development budget to ensure provision of services and resolve issues facing children across the province.

He also said that the budget analysis presented at the event should be shared with parliamentarians to ensure that budgetary allocations are increased in the future.

“The government should allocate more budget for the promotion and protection of children’s rights.”

Social Welfare and Women Development Department Director General Malik Muhammad Aslam pledged to work for “good governance” by making more budgetary allocations for social and welfare needs of children.