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20 February 2019

Child Rights Dilemma

Amjad AK Abbaj
The writer is a graduate of NUST and currently works as a Youth Development Officer at DPAP. He can be reached at amjad.dpap@yahoo.com

Statelessness is the chapter of international law addressing the issues of individual legal status of citizenship and right of citizens.  However, recent violence and temporal punishment endured by children working at homes of highly educated and the so called civilized people, force me to consider those kids as stateless children as if they are owned by state they won’t be treated like beast of burden and they won’t be treated in a manner they way humans were treated in the era of slavery.

Since the development of international law and international organizations, many endeavors have been made to protect child rights and in doing so many targets have been achieved. However, in the perspective of Pakistan and more specifically in the context of Gilgit-Baltistan, child rights are only on paper and lack of efforts by the government to civil society and on individual basis makes the situation worse. On government level there has been some glimpses of efforts as it has taken the first initiative to set-up a Social and Child Protection Reform Unit (SCPRU) in the Planning and Development Department of GB providing initial human resources and office space, however, capacity of this reform center is questionable as so far we haven’t seen any activity regarding the child rights on community level or any awareness campaign conducted by this Reform Unit.

Gilgit-Balistan with a population of more than 1.2 million does not have heavily  populated  urban centers,  even the provincial capital ,Gilgit does not have complex population dynamic but you can find children working from automobiles workshops to hotels , from salesmanship to house servants  and this all is happening under the nose of all of us  but the lack of  awareness  and visionlessness  make us deaf and blind. For service providers and service takers children are attractive labor as they are easy to control and low wages as compared to adult workers. Most of the kids belong to the poor families and are compelled to take their kids to labor market.

In recent times many poor families have admitted their children  in Pakistan Sweet Homes but if we think of  the psychological effects arising from staying away from parents in the early ages, it becomes clear that this brings hazards to children at later stage of life. Sexual exploitation of children is also main issue in GB. Due to the tribal, societal pressure, parents do not report such cases and as a result, culprits get encouraged to commit such crimes again and by any chance if such cases are reported, victim becomes laughing at stock and looked upon as outlawed. It’s very unfortunate that not only illiterate people are involved in heinous crimes of child molestation but highly educated people are also involved in such crimes. Child jails are another matter of hot debate in GB , and so far there is no any child jail in GB and if any crime proved they are kept behind the bars with adults which brings further physical and psychological destruction to a child .

It is need of the hour that all should come together to mobilize the community to protect child rights. Children must be included in policy making for children, village /town level committees should be formed to report child abuse and parents must encourage them to share what unusual happens to them. In perspective of GB govt , NGOs and community based organization should collect data of children working as laborers and servants and initiate a plan to rehabilitate these kids on priority basis so that parents get rid of the financial constrains to bear educational expenses and other needs of the life.

As compared to other parts of the country, I feel that in GB child rights situation can be improved significantly if sincere efforts are made as in the last two decades, many organizations with the help of communities have accomplished many projects regarding health, education etc. it’s the time for child rights to be delivered because they deserve their rights so that their future becomes bright.