By Ziaur Rehman
09 September, 2007
12-year-old girl was stripped and made to stand in public in a village
near Shehr Sultan, Muzaffargarh, by her neighbours to teach her a lesson
for the sin she had never committed. As in the Meerwala case, the suspicion
was that the girl's brother had illicit relations with a woman of the
"Muhammad Ashraf, a
factory worker from Lahore, murdered his three minor daughters by slitting
their throats. Ashraf's plea for murdering his daughters was that he
was too poor to bring them up."
"A minor boy committed
suicide in Lahore on May 16, 2006, after being told off by his mother.
The boy's father said that his wife rebuked their 12-year-old son over
a petty issue."
"A student of class
VIII, resident of a village in Sindh, reported to the police that her
addict farther had been molesting her for the past six years."
These black facts have been
taken from Annual Report 2006 of the Society for the Protection of the
Rights of the Child (SPARC). Every child has a right to live in an environment
that is peaceful, safe, friendly and free from violence. However, it
is a harsh truth that violence against children is prevalent throughout
the world with varying degrees.
Violation of the children's
rights to protection, despite being massive, is an under-recognised
and under-reported phenomenon in Pakistan. It is a barrier to children's
survival and development, besides being a human rights violation. The
children subjected to violation, exploitation, abuse and neglect are
at risk of death, poor physical and mental health, HIV/AIDS, displacement,
homelessness, vagrancy, and poor parenting skills later in life.
"Most of the violence
against children -- whether inside homes, schools, care and justice
institutions, the workplace or the community -- is implicitly socially
condoned and remains invisible," says Professor Paulo Pinheiro,
leader of the United Nations global study on Violence against Children.
Pinheiro notes that children
can suffer abuse in a variety of settings, including at schools or in
detention facilities. In addition, an estimated one million children
are forced to work in prostitution, child pornography or similar activities
each year. "Many are forced, kidnapped, sold and deceived in these
activities, or are victims of trafficking. In many different ways, children
are vulnerable to multiple forms of violence that threaten their physical
and psychological integrity. This is a constant phenomenon that knows
no political, cultural, economic or technological boundaries,"
The UN report provides a
global picture of violence against children, and proposes recommendations
to address this issue. The study was prepared through a participatory
process that included regional, sub-regional and national consultations,
experts' thematic meetings, and field visits.
Violence against children
in Pakistan is a neglected, and therefore an accepted, phenomenon. Akhter
Hussain Baloch, regional manager of SPARC, states: "Violence against
children is widespread, as it is justified as a natural consequence
of illiteracy, poverty, population explosion, poor governance and lopsided
According to Cruel Numbers,
a report published by Islamabad-based child rights organisation Sahil,
in 2006, as many as 2,447 children became victims of violence throughout
the country. Most of these children were abducted for sexual purposes
and sodomy. This is also the major reason that an increasing number
of children are committing suicides.
Rana Asif Habib, president
of the Initiator Development Foundation, a Karachi-based organisaton
working on street children, opines: "The main reasons behind increasing
violence against children are poverty, frustration, and lack of understanding
and support from parents and teachers."
Pointing out other factors
that are responsible for the increasing violence against children, Akhter
Baloch says: "They include easy access to and availability of arms,
the rise in the power of extremists, lack of accountability at all levels,
and criminalisation of the society."
The concept of violence is
clearly defined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the
Child (UNCRC), especially in articles 19, 34 and 37; other human rights
treaties; and human rights instruments, such as the 1993 Declaration
on the Elimination of Violence against Women. According to Article 19
of the UNCRC, violence includes: "All forms of physical or mental
violence, injury and abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, and maltreatment
or exploitation, including sexual abuse." It is also supported
by the general definition of child abuse agreed by experts participating
in the World Health Organisation Consultation on Child Abuse Prevention
Violence against children
may be divided into three broad categories --physical violence, sexual
violence and psychological violence. Incest, corporal punishment, vani/swara,
child marriages and child trafficking are some of the other types of
violence against children.
Violence against children
begins even before a child is born, as we see in the rising number of
foeticide cases taking place worldwide and particularly in South Asia,
including Pakistan. Born a girl, the child suffers a whole set of abuse
ranging from neglect and indifference to no access to basic rights such
as education, recreation, love and care, nourishment, and healthcare.
An early marriage, procreating before the body is ready for such a rigorous
exercise, leaving home before she has outgrown her own childhood is
the fate of little girl. Rape, molestation, acid throwing, assault,
trafficking or girls is all too common.
Boys fare no better as far
as abuse in concerned. Sexual abuse of boys is culturally accepted in
certain parts of Pakistan. Besides, verbal, emotional and physical violence
is also part of their life.
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