Constitution of Pakistan
The Constitution of Pakistan has mentioned child protection and safeguarding the rights of the child in several of its Articles. Children in Pakistan, however, continue to be at risk due to weak legislation or a lack of implementation of laws. Pakistan has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), however, ratified international instruments do not have the force of law in Pakistan; they must be incorporated through legislation.
Birth registration is one of the most fundamental rights of a child; it is legal proof of a child’s identity. Registration of births is also necessary for a government’s policy making and planning. Pakistan does not have a universal system of birth registration. The Union Councils, responsible for birth registration lack capacity, while parents see little or no benefit in registering their children at birth.
Over 12.5 million children in Pakistan are involved in labor (ILO, 2012). The Global Slavery Index 2013 categorized Pakistan as the third highest in prevalence of child and forced labor despite a significant decline in other parts of the world. In Pakistan, children below 18 years of age are employed in physically demanding and exploitative work in different sectors including brick kilns, rag picking, mining, fishing and quarrying (UNICEF, 2011). Legislation and implementation is crucial to protecting the rights of children.
Violence Against Children
According to UNICEF, some of the most pervasive forms of violence against children include physical, psychological and sexual violence in homes, schools and places of work. In addition to the forms of violence against children mentioned above, some other forms in Pakistan include: child marriages, acid attacks, infanticide, and physical punishment in order to discipline children.
According to the United Nations in Pakistan, an estimated 1.2 to 1.5 million children are thought to be on the streets of Pakistan’s major cities. These children are denied basic rights such as access to shelter, education, and healthcare, which makes them extremely vulnerable. They are at the risk of being drawn into abusive situations, including child labor, sexual exploitation, and trafficking.