Children of Pakistan
Realizing Children’s Rights in Pakistan
Many social indicators give a measure of the progress achieved by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan regarding Children’s Rights since its independence in 1947. Access to health services, education, and life expectancy have improved as the infant mortality rate and illiteracy have declined. Despite everything, the full realisation of Children’s Rights is still going to demand enormous time and effort.
Realization of Children’s Rights Index : 5.46 / 10
Population: 193 million
Life expectancy: 66,6 years
Main problems faced by children in Pakistan :Poverty24% of the Pakistani population lives below the poverty line. This problem mainly affects rural areas. The state of the global markets is exacerbating an already very difficult economic reality. The first victims of poverty are children, the weakest and most vulnerable, who see a complete deprivation of their rights: a lack of education, poor access to health services, discrimination, etc.Right to HealthIn Pakistan, close to one child in six dies before the age of five. The nutritional status of children is very poor: 35% of them are underweight, more than 50% suffer from stunted growth, and around 9% from emaciation. Each day, around 1,100 Pakistani children under five years old die from diarrhoea and illnesses related to water, sanitation, and hygiene.Access to care is a challenge in rural areas where many families simply can’t afford basic healthcare. Furthermore, recurring natural disasters have a strong impact on the health of people as well as infrastructures.Child Labour The socio-economic situation of the country is disastrous and forces families to make their children work. There are around 11 million children performing domestic tasks and working in agriculture. Other children work in the textile industry (specifically, making carpets), construction, or even the automotive industry.Children in carpet factories sometimes work up to 20 hours a day, 7 days a week. Very often, sleeping, eating, and working are all done in the same place. This puts a considerable strain on their health, they work in very cramped conditions and in places detrimental to their health. It is not uncommon for them to suffer from respiratory problems, vision problems, or even deformations of the spinal column.Right to EducationOnly 71% of children attend primary school in Pakistan. This means that 23 million children are deprived of education. Furthermore, the attendance rate for education is higher among boys than girls.The government only allocates 1.8% of its national budget to education, which is clearly insufficient considering the need. The difficulties of public education are numerous: economic constraints, dilapidated or even dangerous buildings, lack of toilets, chairs, tables, recurring humanitarian crises etc.Furthermore, teachers are very under-qualified, and it is not uncommon for children to leave school without knowing how to read or write. This is the case for almost 50% of school-going children ages 6 to 16 in Pakistan.”The lack of education feeds the frustration; without education, you can’t find work, you don’t have an adequate salary. In Pakistan, 45% of the population is younger than 20. And the risk, at this moment, is to turn against society. This can also manifest itself in radicalised thought.”(1)Street ChildrenPoverty, physical and mental abuse, negligence, and family problems are the major factors that lead children to take refuge in the streets. However, once out on their own, they have very little chance of finding assistance and encounter dangers and excesses that are sometimes fatal to them. Hurt, sick and deprived of everything, for some prostitution becomes a way to earn a little money.Sexual Exploitation of ChildrenAround 90% of the 170,000 street children in Pakistan are subjected to the sex trade, and it is estimated that only 20% of sexual abuse cases are reported. 60% of young victims accuse the police of being the perpetrators. Pakistan is also one of the only countries in the world where boys are almost more vulnerable to sexual abuse than girls.Violence and AbuseThere is a troubling increase in the cases of abuse, kidnapping, and violence towards children in Pakistan. The numbers border the millions each year. This data is even more alarming if you consider the fact that 80% of the cases are not reported. Abuse, domestic violence, rape, paedophilia, forced marriage, the cases of abuse are infinite, yet it is corporal punishment that represents the most common form of abuse.Parental negligence, the lack of of awareness among children and society, and also the absence of legal protection of children are creating still more victims of abuse among young Pakistanis.Child TraffickingFollowing the floods that affected Pakistan in 2010, children are feared to be even more vulnerable. The reports show that children are sold, rented, or even kidnapped in order to force them to beg, serve, and even to prostitute. In particular, cases were observed where young girls, sometimes minors from underprivileged backgrounds, were taken from towns in order to join the prostitution networks, with no protection, because the authorities are corrupt.Child Marriage Despite the “Child Marriage Restraint Act”, which forbids the marriage of children, these marriages still take place in Pakistan. This law establishes the legal age of marriage as 18 years for men and 16 years for women, and failure to respect it could lead to sanctions. In practice, this law is not respected at all, and there are still many cases of forced marriage in the country. It is estimated that child marriage represents around 32% of local marriages.In rural areas, sometimes you can even observe a practice called “Vani Marriages”, which involves giving your daughter in marriage to settle a dispute or a debt between two parties. “The aggressor” offers one of his family’s daughters in compensation for a wrong caused. These marriages are very dangerous for the health of young girls who, as a result, run the risk of domestic violence, servitude, and rapes.Children and Armed ConflictsPakistan is the theatre for numerous conflicts and confrontations (the Kashmir problem and the anti-Taliban struggle). Victims of suicide attacks, explosions and anti-personnel mines, children pay heavy consequences with their health from these conflicts.Furthermore, these children are also deprived of their right to education because many schools are destroyed and some regions are subject to curfews.Displaced and Refugee ChildrenIn Pakistan, armed conflicts are not the only factor pushing families to flee. The country also sees recurring natural disasters. Children who flee their homes need food, care, shelter, and drinkable water. In these precarious living conditions, many displaced children suffer from illnesses not only caused by poor hygiene, but also by anxiety, stress, and depression.Furthermore, the situation of Afghani refugee children in Pakistan is no better. Born in Pakistan to Afghani parents and lacking refugee status, refugee children are not declared, and so they have no legal existence and are invisible under Pakistani law. Not speaking Urdu, the official language of the country, they don’t have access to the education of Pakistani schools and so find themselves, for the most part, in the streets working to survive.Right to IdentityAround 70% of births are not officially reported to the Pakistani public authorities, making these children invisible in the eyes of society. The absence of regulations on births, and a lack of information about the necessity to register them, are the biggest obstacles to the realisation of a complete birth registry. There is a great necessity to inform the general public about the problems that this could cause, such as the absence of official identity, nationality, or even the failure to respect the rights and practical needs of children.Children and JusticeIn the year 2000, Pakistan created the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) with the intention of creating an independent justice system adapted to minors. However, this system is still very weak and doesn’t offer real protection to minors who have problems with the law. In fact, in Pakistan, detained children see their rights violated every day: cases of torture, abuse, sexual assault etc.According to the NGO SPARC, the country has no justice system that is just and fair to minors. Children are neither protected nor separated from adults during their stay in prison. This influence can prove harmful for these youth, who risk following the path of delinquency and crime.