Islamabad : Pakistan suffers from excessive, contradictory, and convoluted legislation on the issue of child rights. Of the 35 national and provincial Child Protection Acts, there are no two acts which agree on if and when a child can or cannot be a domestic worker. Many even differ on the basic definition of a child i.e., aged less than 18, 16, 14 or 12.
A concern to this effect echoed at an event arranged by Islamic Relief Pakistan (IRP) and the National Action Coordination Group (NACG) in collaboration with United Global Organisation of Development (UGOOD) here Saturday in connection with World Day Against Child Labour,’ which is commemorated worldwide on June 12 to address the invisible issue of child labour and raise voice to end rights violations.
Parliamentary Secretary for Human Rights Lal Chand Malhi, Assistant Deputy Commissioner Kamran Ali Cheema, Country Director IRP Umair Hasan, CEO-UGOOD and Chair National Action and Coordination Group Ishtiaq Gillani, Abid Niaz Khan, National Project Coordinator for International Labour Organisation, Afshan Tehseen Bajwa, Chairperson National Commission on the Rights of Child, members of civil society and media representatives attended the event.
Referring to the legislative and administrative challenges in curbing child labour, Lal Chand Malhi said, “If we are unable to stop child labour in our neighborhood or surroundings, it means there is lack of awareness about the issue. We have to play our part as a society along with the government to end child labour. The government is taking key steps to support such children through education.”
Kamran Cheema said, “The ICT administration is doing its best to curb child labour in the capital. One of the positive initiatives is the closing down of brick kilns where children were working.”
Umair Hasan expressed the need to see issue of child labour as a collective responsibility. Education is our only chance against this menace. IRP is pleased to contribute to the eradication of child labour through different initiatives such as orphan sponsorship programme, speed literacy and providing economic opportunities to the poverty stricken families”.
Syed Ishtiaq Gilani was the speaker who pointed out how contradictory and convoluted legislation on child rights actually is in Pakistan. Even such basic parameters as the definition of a child are mired in controversy. Moreover, there is also disagreement in terms of whether and when a child can or cannot be a domestic worker, he pointed out.
Abid Niaz Khan stressed the importance of data collection on child labour. “It is a welcoming development that the provinces are in process of legislation on child labour which will be in line with international labour standards. We also need to coordinate with international bodies and actors to make our efforts more effective and result-oriented,” he said.
Afshan Tehseen talked about the importance of discussing the issue of child labour within the society rather than at various forums. She also stressed the need to address the existing disconnect at the national and provincial levels via-a-vis legislation.