Ineffective laws have let down street children

Pakistan has made many attempts over the years to protect its children. After just a month of its independence it joined the United Nations on September 30, 1947. Pakistan has been committed to a world upholding human dignity. A world where justice and fair play govern the affairs of all human beings. So why is it that the street children in Pakistan, specifically in Peshawar, continue to suffer so much?

There are many laws set in place to protect the children of the world. Pakistan is a part of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The Convention of the Rights of the child was enforced by the United Nations on September 2, 1990. It’s a human rights treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. The convention defines a child as any human under the age of eighteen. When Pakistan ratified this convention on November 12, 1990, it was bound to it by international law. The committee that put together the CRC for Pakistan highlighted the “large number of children victim to sexual abuse, exploitation, rape, and abduction of children”. It also highlighted “the reports of children being sexually exploited for the purpose of child prostitution and child pornography.” It urged for Pakistan to take these issues of abuse very seriously and make it of the highest priority.

Pakistan had already started working on these issues 10 years before they ratified the CRC with the United Nations. On December 16, 1979, Pakistan formed the National Commission for Child Welfare and Development (NCCWD). Its vision was to “create a friendly society that places the children at the center of development, recognizes their individuality, respects and values their voices, observes their best interest in every sphere of life and protects them from violence abuse, and exploitation.” One of the main goals of this committee was to formulate legislation that would deter child abuse in all of its forms.

We can find laws made to protect children under the Constitution of Pakistan. It is stated in Article 37A “that no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” However, the laws stated do not afford a sufficient protection against torture and other ill-treatment. Despite all the laws previously stated, a full realization of Children’s rights is going to demand enormous effort and time.

Even though the CRC was formed and told to be enforced, almost one billion children still experience some form of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse every year. And one child dies from violence every five minutes. Millions of these children reside in Pakistan. There was another study the United Nation did in 2006, on the Violence against Children. They set out twelve recommendations for action. 1. Strengthen national and local commitment and action. Though Pakistan has many laws to protect children, the law enforcement lacks enforcing them. 2. Prohibit by law all violence against children. Pakistan needs to make its laws in the constitution more specific to what the children are facing. It also needs to make the punishment for breaking that law a more severe reality. 3. Prioritize prevention. More campaigns need to be run to protect children before they enter the harsh world of abuse. 4. Promote non-violent values and awareness-raising. Again, more campaigns about protecting children need to be pushed across the country. 5. Enhance the capacity of all who work with and for children. The social workers who are out there striving for the children really lack the resources. Though they wish to help as many as they can, they lack the manpower to do it. 6. Provide recovery and social reintegration services. After the abuse the children have dealt with, they need safe houses where they can recover and not become a part of their abuse cycle. 7. Ensure participation of children. 8. Create accessible and child-friendly reporting systems and services. This would allow children to finally feel like they are being heard. They should be able to go to a safe place to report the person hurting them. 9. Ensure accountability and end impunity. Anyone that as hurt the children must be held accountable and punished so that this would stop happening. 10. Address the gender dimension of violence against children. 11. Develop and implement systematic national data collection and research

12. Strengthen international commitment.

If Pakistan were to take these recommendations, and begin to enforce them. The country’s children would start to see some real change happening on their behalf.


Toward a world free from violence

A global survey on violence against children

Pakistan’s Ministry of Human Rights