Artistes call for stronger legislation to protect rights of children

Photo: SSDO Pakistan Facebook Page

Renowned artistes have demanded an end to child trafficking and child labour across the country, and called for stronger legislation for the rights of children. They made these demands during a press conference at a local hotel on Tuesday that was organised by the Sustainable Social Development Organisation (SSDO) in collaboration with the Child Protection Bureau (CPB) and renowned artistes.

SSDO Executive Director Syed Kausar Abbas said on the occasion that thousands of children in Pakistan are forced into bonded labour. These children are deprived of basic rights due to a lack of effective legislation in support of children’s rights, he added.

Abbas said that the child protection units in Sindh are not functional, while incidents of bonded child labour, abuse and trafficking are on the rise. However, he added, he had met with the caretaker chief minister, who had assured him of taking appropriate measures to ensure children’s rights in the province.

Punjab CPB Chairperson Sarah Ahmed pointed out that numerous child abuse cases, such as the Zainab murder case, as well as the cases of Fareshta, Rizwana and Fatima, were reported, but unfortunately, no measures were taken to improve children’s rights.

She pointed out that these are only the cases that have been reported by the mainstream and social media. Thousands of cases go unnoticed because they are not reported, she lamented.

She stressed that when a child suffers abuse, it becomes very difficult to rehabilitate them and help overcome their trauma. She also stressed that it is the collective responsibility of society to highlight the issue, as everyone has a role to play in the well-being of children.

She emphasised the need to introduce stricter laws in favour of children’s rights, saying that penalties and fines should be increased in the existing laws, then implemented effectively. “We’re ready to replicate the legal mechanisms introduced by the Punjab government in Sindh.”

Actress and goodwill ambassador for child protection Frieha Altaf said that violence against children starts at home and at school, adding that it needs to be discouraged. She mentioned that around three million children are involved in child labour in Pakistan, while more than 22 million children are out of school. She asserted that no one, including parents, has the right to abuse children. She stressed voicing concerns to create awareness about children’s rights and pressuring lawmakers in to enacting effective legislation.

Actress Mahira Khan said that the media needs to highlight such cases to launch a campaign that puts pressure on lawmakers and the relevant authorities to protect children. She pledged her ongoing support for children and assured journalists that she would stand by their side whenever such cases are highlighted.

She also said those in positions of power should accept their responsibility and advocate strongly for children’s rights. She added that every child has the right to access education and basic health care, but unfortunately, children in Pakistan are forced to work, and there is a lack of accountability over this issue.

Actor Ahsan Khan remarked that cases like Rizwana’s and Fatima’s should be enough to awaken our consciousness. The medical reports of these cases are horrifying, he added.

He said that the crimes against these children were committed by wealthy and educated families. Hence, he added, stringent legislation is required to hold such influential families accountable.

Actress and child protection activist Nadia Jamil, who has been working for children’s well-being for the past three decades, noted that incidents of violence against children are increasing day by day.

She criticised the lack of practical steps taken by governments to reduce such violence. She urged authorities to take action themselves instead of waiting for social media to drive change. She said that effective legislation after the Zainab case could have deterred such crimes against children.

She stressed the need to increase funding for children’s well-being and ensure their right to education. She highlighted that while the government allocates billions to other programmes, children, who are the future, are often neglected.

Published at The News on 23rd August 2023

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