Report by Ribca Ralph, Trainee Sub Editor, Imapct SEPLAA.
UNICEF is closely working with the Children Complaint Office of the Ombudsman Office on a five year project to bring the laws in Pakistan in line with the UNCRC. The first two steps included having two consultative sessions; one with the government departments (development sector) and one with NGOs & CBOs. The third and final step is to compile a final report after these consultancies and present it to the parliamentarians to rectify the shortcomings and loopholes found in Child Rights laws.
The 1st consultative session on “Support to the Government to research & review Legal framework regarding Child Rights Laws/Acts” was held on the 26th of June, 2013 at Royal Palm Golf & Country Club, Lahore. The event was organized by the Children Compliant Office (CCO), Ombudsman Punjab & UNICEF, Punjab. More than thirty government officials took part in the discussion on policy making regarding child rights laws/acts.
Ms. Ammara Farooq Malik (Law & Policy Consultant, UNICEF & Founder SEPLAA Foundation) involved the participants in an interactive discussion about the problems & their possible solutions pertaining to the existing child rights laws/acts in Pakistan. The questions & answers among participants were an integral part of this discussion. The presentation by Ms. Ammara Farooq Malik pinpointed the primary focus areas that need to be reviewed. Some of these included: Abduction & Lost Child, Birth Registration, Child Labor, Corporate Punishment, Child Sexual Abuse, Child Militancy, Sale & Trafficking, Juvenile Justice, Murder, Torture, Child Marriage and so on.
Major lacks in the definitions of “child protection” presented by the Child Protection Bureau and the Home department were put forward. The definitions do not cover special children, orphans, children in prison with their mothers & sexual abuse issues. The legislative problems with certain departments were highlighted. Children coming into Pakistan from Afghanistan also need to be considered in a wider perspective.
The concluding note of the presentation interestingly pointed out the age conflicts that many people face in the child rights laws. There is no department that the government has formed as yet to look after the skill development of children. Corrective actions need to be taken towards these conflicting laws/acts in order to implement them appropriately & effectively.
Closing remarks for the session were given by Ms. Shagufta H Bhatti (Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF) who shared her appreciation representing UNICEF towards all the government officials who took time out to attend this session.