Triv­i­al­is­ing child rights

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - I.A. Rehman

THE latest re­port sub­mit­ted by the gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan to the UN Com­mit­tee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a poor apol­ogy for not do­ing enough for the coun­try's chil­dren.

The gov­ern­ment is re­quired to sub­mit to the UNCRC a re­port ev­ery four years de­scrib­ing what has been done by way of com­pli­ance with the pro­vi­sions of the Con­ven­tion on the Rights of the Child (CRC), es­pe­cially with rec­om­men­da­tions made by the com­mit­tee on its ear­lier re­ports. This is the fifth pe­ri­odic re­port to the com­mit­tee. It was drafted some time in 2013 and is sched­uled to be ex­am­ined by the UN com­mit­tee in the com­ing Oc­to­ber. The pe­riod cov­ered is Jan­uary 2008 to March 2013.

The UN com­mit­tee's re­quest for the sub­mis­sion of a core doc­u­ment has again been ig­nored. And the re­port is al­most wholly de­voted to meet­ing the de­mands made by the com­mit­tee in 2009.

Two points about this re­port may be noted. First, the re­port was to be sub­mit­ted by Dec 11, 2012, and the de­lay in its sub­mis­sion is con­sid­er­ably less than usual. Se­condly, as against the pre­scribed limit of 120 pages, this re­port does not ex­ceed 85, de­spite the use of a fairly large font for the text. How­ever, the com­mit- tee's re­quest for the sub­mis­sion of a core doc­u­ment, con­tain­ing ba­sic in­for­ma­tion about the coun­try, has again been ig­nored.

As usual the re­port con­tains quite a few dis­clo­sures. For in­stance, look at the fol­low­ing para­graph:

"Full re­al­i­sa­tion of chil­dren's rights in ac­cor­dance with the CRC re­quires sig­nif­i­cant re­sources. Tak­ing cog­ni­sance of this, the gov­ern­ment had de­clared 2013 as the Year of Child Rights in which mas­sive aware­ness rais­ing pro­grammes will be un­der­taken with the view to cre­ate aware­ness in the so­ci­ety. The gov­ern­ment has also ap­pointed a com­mis­sioner for child rights pro­tec­tion in 2013."

One won­ders what Pak­istan's rep­re­sen­ta­tive will tell the com­mit­tee about the cam­paign that had been planned for 2013!

The is­sue of chil­dren's sex­ual ex­ploita­tion and abuse, which has be­come the fo­cus of public de­bate fol­low­ing the Ka­sur scan­dal, fig­ured promi­nently in the com­mit­tee's con­clud­ing com­ments of 2009.

The com­mit­tee had rec­om­mended the adop­tion of leg­is­la­tion in which the of­fence of abuse was de­fined, both ru­ral and ur­ban pop­u­la­tions were cov­ered, and: "the com­mit­tee also rec­om­mends that cases of abuse of chil­dren, in­clud­ing sex­ual abuse, be prop­erly in­ves­ti­gated and that per­pe­tra­tors be duly pros­e­cuted. Mea­sures should also be taken to pro­vide vic­tims with sup­port ser­vices for their phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal re­cov­ery and so­cial rein­te­gra­tion, in a gen­der sen­si­tive man­ner."

The gov­ern­ment's re­sponse is quite in­ter­est­ing: "Though all forms of sex­ual ex­ploita­tion and abuse is a se­ri­ous crime/of­fence in Pak­istan, there is room to im­prove laws and their im­ple­men­ta­tion. In this re­gard, some CSOs (civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions) have con­ducted as­sess­ment for un­der­stand­ing the ex­tent, scope and root causes of child sex­ual abuse and ex­ploita­tion. ... CSOs and gov­ern­ment de­part­ments jointly help and sup­port vic­tim chil­dren and fam­i­lies in all mat­ters while pur­su­ing their cases in courts. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, nu­mer­ous con­sul­ta­tive ses­sions for po­lice and ju­di­cial of­fi­cers have been or­gan­ised by the CSOs."

The adop­tion of the Na­tional Com­mis­sion for Hu­man Rights (NCHR) Act in 2012 is men­tioned as one of the steps taken by the gov­ern­ment to strengthen chil­dren's hu­man rights. What ex­cuse will be of­fered for not mak­ing the NCHR func­tional till the mid­dle of 2015? The adop­tion of laws is men­tioned as the ex­ten­sion of pro­tec­tion to chil­dren with­out any ref­er­ence to re­sults achieved.

The com­mit­tee had made some clear rec­om­men­da­tions about pre­vent­ing the use of chil­dren in armed con­flicts. The re­port says the is­sue is the "use of chil­dren by ex­trem­ists" and as­serts "the law en­force­ment op­er­a­tion car­ried out by the law en­force­ment agen­cies can­not be termed as [a] con­flict sit­u­a­tion.

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