Senate Special Committee on the issue of increasing incidents of Child Abuse in its meeting discussed the matter of increasing number of cases of kidnapping of children, child labour and abuses with them on a motion by Senators Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar and Sardar Muhammad Shafiq Tareen. The meeting was held with Senator Nuzhat Sadiq as its chairperson and was attended among others by Senators Sherry Rehman, Moulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Usman Kakar, Kamran Micheal, Shafiq Tareen, Naseebullah Bazai, Sitara Ayaz, Barrister Saif, Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shireen Mazari, officials of the ministry and representative from Islamabad Police..
Senator Usman Kakar observed that the increasing number is a failure on part of the parents, social circles, media, law enforcement agencies and the courts of the country. He said that the committee should adopt an approach that tackles the issue holistically to provide useful recommendations. Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri observed that this issue has to do with the problems prevalent in the society as a whole and poverty is the primary cause of the huge number of out of school children in the country.
Senator Sherry Rehman observed that after devolution, four different provinces have passed four different kinds of laws. She said that there has been no prominent prosecution taking place in any of the provinces and work is being done in isolation. The public continues to stay disaffected because the laws are not being implemented as per their spirit. Senator Sitara Ayaz remarked that figures should come from the government and for this to happen there has to be a thorough study and survey conducted. She said that the facilities and child protection centres made available are insufficient. Senator Mushtaq Ahmed highlighted the need of teacher training and curriculum modulation as well as constructive role of media.
Responding to the questions of Committee members, Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shireen Mazari told the Committee that about a month ago campaigns to prevent child abuse and spread awareness were launched on the state run television and through other material. She said that many problems stem from the anomaly that there is no unified definition of child. The Constitution itself speaks of two different ages to identify a child in two different articles. She said that a survey on child labour statistics is being conducted in coordination with UNICEF and this exercise is being done after a time span of 23 years. The Minister also stressed that the work on these issues goes far beyond the scope and power of the Human Rights Ministry and needs overlapping engagement of federal and provincial governments as well as joint efforts of different ministries. Senators recommended putting the matter on the agenda of Council of Common Interests so that provinces can be taken on board and issues can be resolved.
Senator Muhammad Ali Khan Saif briefed the Committee and the Minister on the visits and meetings held by the Special Committee to get an overall idea about the matter being considered. He said that the importance of data cannot be ruled out when you need to allocate budget or hire human resource but to deal with cases of child abuse there is no need of data and one such case is enough.
The ministry of Human Rights officials told the meeting that an action plan on prevention of cases, protection and rehabilitation of children prepared by the ministry will be shared with the Committee. Islamabad Police also briefed the Committee about the mechanisms in place for receiving complaints and handling cases.