Continuing on from my blog post about what ordinary citizens can do to raise awareness about child sexual abuse, today’s post comes thanks to the Pakistani NGO Child Rights Movement Child Rights Movement Punjab, with recommendations about what the government must do to protect Pakistani children.
Although the Punjab government has suddenly constituted a Child Safety Committee and a #KeepMeSafe campaign, CRM’s Program Coordinator Rashida Qureshi informs me that the reality is disappointing: Punjab lacks an official Child Protection Policy. There is no action plan in place to deal with violence against children, and the Chief Minister of Punjab did not chair even a single meeting of the Child Protection and Welfare Bureau even though he has been its Patron In Chief since 2008.
The Chid Rights Movement Punjab, which advocates and lobbies for the rights of children in Punjab, held a press conference yesterday to outline its recommendations for government policy to deal with the issue of child sexual abuse. Two very sad things came to light:
First, human rights expert Hina Jillani (who I interviewed in 2015 about domestic violence) said there that the provincial government had failed to prioritize a child protection agenda even after the horrific Kasur child sexual exploitation and pornography incident had been uncovered in 2015.
Second, child rights activist Iftikhar Mubarik said that after Kasur, a Child Rights Protection Committee had recommended the government formulate an independent commission on child rights, and to approve a child protection policy in Punjab. Yet these recommendations, after being vetted by Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, were never passed on to the Chief Minister’s Office.
- The Chief Minister of Punjab must personally supervise the development and formulation of child protection policy followed by a comprehensive plan to address the issue of Violence Against Children.
- A Task Force should be immediately organized, constituting government officials and civil society stakeholders.
- Female police officers must be trained to investigate cases of violence against women, girls and children, and it is these female police officers who should take the lead in these investigations.
- “Child Safety Cells” must be established in all district Police Offices in Punjab.
- The Government of the Punjab should allocate adequate financial resources for mass media awareness campaigns on a regular intervals
- Child safety messages must be part of school curriculums
- Community-based child protection committees should serve as watchdogs at the grass roots level, comprising local influential and local government representatives.
- A Punjab Child Rights Commission (not just a child safety commission) must be established immediately under the patronage of the National Commission for Child Rights. This provincial commission must monitor violations of child rights in general and child protection in particular. It should also oversee the collection and management of data of child rights violation and work on capacity-building with key stakeholders and experts.
- The government must initiate prevention programs and provide psychological support and counseling to the children and families of Kasur, who according to activist Bushra Khaliq, are keeping children locked in their homes out of fear.
- 2018 should be deemed the Year of Child Protection
The CRM Punjab should be applauded for putting forward these recommendations. We can be as emotional as we want about the issue of child protection. But it is only through solid planning and policy that is executed and carried on long term that will see true reform and change positively affect the lives of millions of Pakistani children.