Facts and Figures:
Neglect, Abuse, Exploitation and Violence against children
A single cause of the violence against children cannot be pointed out as it is the result and outcome of the interplay of many different factors and forces. It is difficult to comprehend actual magnitude of the problem as most of the incidents and cases go unreported. However, its prevalence can be gauged by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) annual report State of Human Rights in 2007. According to this report, alone in 2007, 258 children were raped/gang raped, 04 deaths in sectarian clashes, 176 committed and 95 attempted suicide, 40 went through honour killing and 21 Karo Kari, 73 were murdered and 218 kidnapped, 26 faced domestic violence including burnings, 39 suffered corporal punishment and 01 was sentenced to death penalty. It is vital to note that majority of the cases are not even reported due to various reasons.
Punishment is preferred and accepted method to disciple and teaches children. Unfortunately, Pakistan is a rare country in which section 89 of Pakistan Penal Code 1860, (No XLV) empowers parents, teachers and other guardians to use moderate and reasonable corporal punishment as a means to correct the behaviours of under-12 children. Due to civil society and non-governmental organization’s sustained campaigns, corporal punishment is now prohibited in the government schools through an executive order. Still, there is a long way to go ahead to get it prohibited through proposed changing in the legal framework.
A 2009 study by PLAN International carried out in Vehari, Chakwal and Islamabad reveals that 93% children from public schools and 86% from private schools have had experienced some form of corporal punishment.
Child sexual abuse (CSA)
According to SAHIL, an NGO working exclusively against child sexual abuse in Pakistan, a total o 2,012 cases of CSA were recorded from all over Pakistan during 2009. This number shows a 9.4 % increase as compared to last year meaning 3.3 children being sexually abused per day. Among these, girls were the main victims accounting for 68 % of the total cases. Out of the total, 42% abduction cases, 28% were cases of rape and sodomy, 15% of gang rape and sodomy and 9.5% of attempted rape. 6% of the victims were murdered after being sexually assaulted.
Pakistan’s criminal justice system does not deal with sexual offences against children any differently than sexual offences against adults under Pakistan Penal Code and Hudood Ordinance 1979.
Commercial sexual exploitation and pornography
Sexual exploitation of children is reflected in red lights districts; massage boys (local masseuse), boys with alternate sexual identities, nomad children, children in transport industry, and children in deep see fishing. According to a recent global recent estimate by the International Labour Organisation, of the 12.3 million people who are victims of forced labour, 1.39 millions are involved in forced commercial sexual exploitation and 40-50% are children. (source child protection information sheet, UNICEF, p. 23
The unsafe sexual practices with multiple clients expose children to high level vulnerability to HIV & AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Girls particularly fall victims of child marriages, early pregnancy and botched abortion.
Similarly, large scale children are exposed to easily accessible pornographic material through mushrooming of net-cafes in Pakistan. SPARC reveals in its “The State of Pakistan’s Children 2009” that the country’sinternet service providers estimate that more than 60% of internet users in Pakistan visit pornographic sites regularly and many such users, children and adults, go to cafes or clubs to access the internet for this purpose.
Pakistan is a source, destination, and transit country for child trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude. Many hundred of them are trafficked to the Gulf as camel jockeys. According to the findings of Fading Light: A study on child Trafficking in Sindh by Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Children (SPARC), it was revealed that between 2001 and 2003, out of total population of children in Sindh, 41,218 children –including 39,157 boys and 2,061 girls were trafficked from rural and urban areas within Sindh, with or without children’s consent. Trafficked children are subjected to prostitution, forced marriages, unpaid or cheap labour, domestic work, and recruitment into armed groups.
The State of Pakistan’s Children 2009 by SPARC reveals that there are a total of 1357 juveniles in country’s jail including 820 in Punjab, 292 in Sindh, 191 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 54 in Balochistan.
It is observed that majority of the children in conflict with the law belong to the poorest or lower strata of the society. The criminal responsibility is as low as seven years of age. In Pakistan, there are certain areas in which biased law itself is the reason of child’s presence in the prison. The children can be arrested for the crimes committed by elderly family members under the collective responsibility clause of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) applicable in the federal and provincial administrated tribal areas; FATA and PATA.
Children Accompanying their Mothers in Prison
Save the Children Sweden Pakistan Programme recently conducted a Need Assessment of Children Accompanying their Mothers in all Prisons of Khyber Pakhtonkha KPK. According to the results of the study, most of the women were in young age bracket of 15 to 30 years. Most of these women had left behind young children ranging from 4 to 13 years while the youngest child was accompanying the mother in jail, who was generally less than 1 to 5 years of age. Only 8 mothers had children with them who were over 5 years and younger than 9 years. 24 mothers had 1 child accompanying her, while 4 women had 2 and 3 children with them. Only one woman in Bannu jail had 5 children with her in prison as she was a single mother who had no one to take care of her children at home. Out of 47 children with their mothers in 9 jails, 24 were boys and 23 were girls. It is significant to mention here that according to the Jail Manual, a child above 5 years of age is not permitted to live with the mother while she is in prison.
Children in Hazardous Work Conditions
The situation of children working in hazardous work is worst as till today, Pakistan lacks accurate information on the magnitude of the child labour. The last child labour survey conducted by the Pakistan’s Federal Bureau of Statistics in 1996 reported 3.3 million children of age between 5 and 14 involved in labour. According to UNICEF’s Progress for Children 2007, Pakistan falls in the South Asia region where 13% of children are involved in labour. Ignoring the statistics controversy aside, it is recognized that existence of children in hazardous labour in Pakistan is endemic and widespread. Children are found working in almost every sector in the country; at large proportions of these children are invisible, working in informal sector. Many of them are traditionally and economically bonded and work in hazardous occupations including work with chemicals, pesticides in agriculture, with machinery and in mines. A recent qualitative study by Save the Children Sweden and SEHER on protection issues of children working in six major coal minefield of Balochistan observed that almost 100% of children working in the coalmines or having any interaction with the coalmining area have gone through sexual abuse, physical and psychological violence and are at high risk of HIV, Hepatitis, STDs and STIs.
According to SPARC’s The State of Pakistan’s Children 2009, it is reported that there are estimated to be 1.5 million street children in Pakistan. Children living on the streets work 12-15 hours a day to earn enough to buy a meal, beg and scavenge around garbage dumps or industrial waste sites and take on menial jobs as cart pushers. Most survive by prostituting themselves and stealing, making them vulnerable to contact sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV & AIDS and many of them coming in conflict with the law. There is substantial evidence of use of substance drug abuse amongst children on streets.