KARACHI, Feb 2: An organisation working for child rights on Friday expressed concern over the increasing trade of underage girls by the ‘loan sharks’ in the interior parts of Sindh.“Many families have suffered and lost their children to these interest-traders, in addition to their houses, lands, cattle-farms, shops and other holdings,” Akhtar Hussain Baloch, regional manager of the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) said.
“This trading is practiced with the power of might and money through which the mighty and rich provide loan to the needy and afterwards impose heavy interest, which the poor could not pay and find no other way but to hand their innocent female children to the mafias,” he said.
According to Mr Baloch, such practice was an open violation of basic human and child right and violation of the code of freedom of movement act by the Government of Pakistan.
“Article 9 of the Constitution is also relevant that states that no person could be deprived of liberty in accordance with the law. Additionally, Article 15 dealing with freedom of movement gives every citizen the right to remain in and, subject to any reasonable restriction imposed by law in the public interest, enter and move freely throughout Pakistan and to reside and settle anywhere.”
He said all such constitutional provisions, i.e., Article 9, 15 and 18, basically implied that no one could be held against that person’s consent unless the detaining authority had the sanction of law behind him.
“Regardless of the fact as to whether a person has borrowed from any authority or trading, these provisions clearly indicate that the labourer or borrower can not be denied his/her right of liberty to move freely,” said Mr Baloch.
“He or she and their respective family members could not be denied their right of freedom of movement. A civil action for recovery of the borrowed amount, and in some cases, even a criminal case, may be maintainable against the borrowers. However, the employers in no event are permitted under any law of Pakistan, to detain the borrower.”
He said it was the duty of the state to ensure the freedom and practice of the rights of these children (and adults) in accordance with the Article 37(e) which states: “the state shall protect the marriage, the family, the mother and the child. The State shall make provisions for … ensuring that children … are not employed in vocations unsuited to their age …”Besides, he quoted the Article 11 of the Constitution that states “slavery, all forms of forced labour and trafficking of human beings are prohibited.”
He referred to a dispute in Shikarpur in which Ramzan Saithar took ten buffaloes on loan from Imdad Saithar and was unable to pay back Rs170,000 and later it was decided that two minor girls of Ramzan should be given as compensation in lieu of the loan.
According to Mr Baloch, innocent girls were often traded as labourers or sold to wealthy landlords who pay handsome amounts for unmarried minor girls.
“It is rather unfortunate that such a criminal activity is often given practiced in legal by the mafia in which they receive the signatures of the borrower on a court stamp paper, which clearly indicates these girls as a stake against the loan”, he added saying that this clearly shows that this loan mafia is operating in an organized manner. “They have links with the local influential lords who provide them immunity and smooth passage to operate”, he added.
The Sparc official demanded that such practices should be checked and discouraged through administrative actions. He said that the Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance 2002 should be enacted in letter and spirit, which defines human trafficking as “obtaining, securing, selling, purchasing, recruiting, detaining, harboring or receiving a person not withstanding his implicit or explicit consent, by the use of coercion, kidnapping, abduction, or by giving or receiving any payment or benefit, or sharing or receiving a share for such person’s subsequent transportation out of or into Pakistan by any means whatsoever for any purpose mentioned in Section 3.”