Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Karachi Satuarday, August 2—–August 2008
IF a government is judged by its commitment to caring for society’s most vulnerable segments, then Pakistan has failed miserably when it comes to protecting its children from abuse and poverty. The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child has just released its annual report for 2007 that highlights an increase of almost 20 per cent in cases of child victimisation from the previous year. In fact, considering that many cases go unreported, it would be safe to say that the figure of 5,200 victimised children in 2007 is on the low side.There are thousands of children whose sordid tales of neglect and abuse go untold because of fear and repression, or simply because there appears to be no one to turn to for help.Physical and emotional abuse within the home and at school and work are common to the extent that most of us have come to accept such victimisation as a fact of life. Intervention is uncommon and, for the sake of reputation, families prefer to keep quiet rather than report cases of sexual abuse while poverty and the lack of clout prevents them from confronting the abusive employers and teachers of their children.This then becomes a vicious cycle with children entering adulthood as repressed, violent individuals, often taking out years of pent-up emotions on those younger and more helpless than themselves.Unfortunately, the government’s indifferent attitude to child neglect has resulted in a situation where, let alone international commitments, the few laws we have for protecting children are not being implemented. Thus labour laws are violated with impunity.Not only do children find themselves giving up what should be the best years of their lives to low-paid drudgery, they are often employed in high-risk occupations such as coal-mining and brick-making. Similarly, there is little enforcement of juvenile justice laws for child offenders.The latter often find themselves in fetters and are routinely abused by police. With such a lackadaisical attitude towards the implementation of legislation, it is no wonder that the government is least concerned about the delay in enacting a comprehensive child protection bill that is intended to address the issue of exploitation and abuse of children. For any improvement in the situation of children, the government has to take the lead.