No law to safeguard street children’s rights

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Contrary to the tall claims of protecting human rights of all the citizens, the federal government has so far introduced no legislation to safeguard street children’s rights. The number of street children is increasing with every passing day and they are susceptible to all kinds of violence and an easy prey for all types of abusers. Being young, poor, illiterate and defenceless, children are abused and exploited sexually, verbally, emotionally and psychologically.
Violence against children could range between harassment to pedophilia, sexual abuse and sodomy; they could be coerced to join gangs of criminals and used as drug traffickers or turned into beggars by beggars’ mafia. Arshad Mahmood, executive director, SPARC, an NGO working on child issue, told Pakistan Today that the number of street children had increased manifold after the floods that hit most parts of Pakistan last year. He added the government had no legal system to protect these children.
“Only Punjab and KP have a legal system to address street children’s issue but, unfortunately, this sensitive matter is badly neglected in Balochistan, Sindh and Islamabad,” he lamented. He observed that the police were also among the leading enemies of street children as indiscriminate violations against children were committed with impunity because of no fear of reprisal from the law and the society.
According to a recent global report on administrative detention of children in Pakistan despite Pakistani laws requiring that children should be brought to a magistrate within twenty-four hours of their arrest, many children were kept in police lockups for considerably longer periods before being produced in front of a magistrate, often for two weeks, and in one case, for three months.
The report further claims that the arrest and detention of children living and working on the streets by police officers on
the charges of vagrancy, ndecent behavior or prostitution, being a public nuisance, incorrigible or exposed to moral danger is reported to occur in Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It is important to mention here that due to the careless attitude of the authorities concerned, no fresh figures regarding street children are available and, according to a survey conducted a few years before by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), an estimated 1.2 million children were on the streets of Pakistan’s major cities and urban centres. The most unfortunate thing, according to the survey, is that 10 per cent of these children have no knowledge of their families.