PAKISTAN: Universal Children’s Day – Children still face high risk to safety and security

A Statement from Roshni Helpline forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

Universal Children’s Day is being celebrated today (20th November), world over, with regrettably a majority of Pakistani children still facing a number of threats to their safety, security, and welfare, either due to the lack of or inadequacy of laws, and hazardous living environment.

Roshni Helpline 1138, Pakistan’s first helpline dedicated to the issue of missing children – has carried out an internal analysis of its data on missing and exploited children, and found out a number of factors contributing towards the missing and exploitation of children in Karachi in particular, and rest of the country in general.

First and the major factor is the absence of the laws that should protect children from [going] missing. Missing of a child is still considered missing of anything [sic], i.e. [loss of an] identity card and the case (of a missing child) [are] registered in the same diary in which reports of all other missing items are taken by the police.

Under the centuries old laws, both criminal procedure code (CrPC) and Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), the missing of a child is a non-cognizable offence. This provides the police an excuse as well as lack of the authority to register missing of a child as an FIR [sic].

“Missing is an act that once happened increases the vulnerability of a child by manifolds. A child without any supervision being out alone can be kidnapped for abuse, trafficking or for sexual abuse. Even the risk of murder with or without abuse is very high”, Muhammad Ali, President Roshni Helpline said. “So how come kidnapping, abuse and exploitation are cognizable offence and the missing is not, when in fact all those acts happen after a child goes out of contact of parents or guardians?”

Ali said the Roshni Helpline has recommended for amendment in the law, to make missing of a child a cognizable offence. Legislation of new laws is also needed to protect children from missing and exploitation.

It is pertinent to mention that on average 3,000 children go missing in Karachi every year, according to the data collected from police stations and other sources. This data is based on the registration of cases of missing of children in the daily diary commonly known as ‘roznaamcha’, meaning all these [cases] could be registered as an FIR if missing of children were a cognizable offence.

Roshni Helpline has asked the government to prioritize the issue of child safety and security in the country and make it as an integral part of National Planning and Commission Ministry.

The United Nation’s Universal Children’s Day is being celebrated since its establishment in 1954. All countries celebrate the day on different dates but the most common is 20th November. The 20th November is also an important date given that in 1959 the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. On the same date in 1989, the UN General assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Roshni Helpline is celebrating the day this year, as it has been doing since many past years, with an aim to increase awareness about the issue of missing and exploited children.

According to the Roshni Helpline’s report, the insufficiency of the laws contributes towards increase in potential of the factors that pose risks to safety and security of the children. For example, the absence of FIR option provides room to beggars’ mafia and other possible [exploitative] groups to traffic children out of the city.

The Roshni Helpline has identified as least 17 beggars colonies that pose risk to the safety and security of children.

“The main advantage the beggars’ mafia has is that their documentation is not checked regularly by the authorities, and there is no way to know the exact number of their families. If a child is taken into their fold or exit[s] from it, [this] remains unknown to an outsider,” Ali said.

“Since these people keeping moving in and out of the city from other parts of the country, their documentation should be checked and a system should be developed to keep their family count at all entry and exit points of the city.”

It is pertinent to mention that recently a woman was arrested from Hijrat colony, accompanying a kidnapped child, who was meant to be used for begging at a Shrine in interior parts Sindh Province.

Document Type : Forwarded Statement
Document ID : AHRC-FST-043-2015
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Administration of justice, Child rights, Right to food, Right to health,