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Senate body on Child Abuse: Continued absence of minister from meeting slammed

Senate body on Child Abuse: Continued absence of minister from meeting slammed

ISLAMABAD: Expressing serious anger over the absence of the Federal Minister for Human Rights from committee meeting, a parliamentary panel Monday observed that the minister’s continued absence is unacceptable and it shows her non-serious attitude.

This was observed by the participants of the Senate Standing Committee on Child Abuse, which met here under the chairpersonship of Senator Nuzhat Sadiq.

The committee chairperson raised serious concerns over Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari’s absence from consecutive committee meetings, saying the minister also did not attend the last session and that was very non-seriousness on her part.

The Senate Standing Committee on Child Abuse was informed that 300 cases of child sexual abuse were registered in Islamabad over the last five years while another 260 cases went unregistered. The panel observed that child abuse cases were not declining and the authorities concerned needed to pay serious attentions towards that issue.

A report compiled by an NGO ‘Sahil’ last year revealed that more than 12 children are abused every day. Instances of child abuse rose 32 percent in the first six months of 2018 compared to the corresponding period of the 2017, it said.

Officials of the Ministry of Human Rights (MoHR) informed the panel that 3,445 cases of child abuse were reported last year, according to data collected by different NGOs. “The surge in cases of child sexual abuse is a very important matter,” they said.

The representatives of Ministry of Human Rights told the panel that Mazari was at Prime Minister House and they were not sure whether or not she would be able to attend the session.

The deputy inspector general of Islamabad police while briefing the committee on incidents of violence against children said that two girls who had been abducted from Islamabad in 2016 remained missing. Other than the lockups and barracks, the police don’t have any safe place to keep the children. Data is also not being shared with them by other agencies working for child protection, like the HRCP or FIA, the officials told the senators. There is also no centre in the city where children can go and stay, so these children are seen in the streets a day after the complaints are lodged.

Furthermore, the police officials said the force had kept over 1,400 street children at safe shelters but they soon returned to begging once they are released.

Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed said that out of school children are at risk. He pointed out that according to the government’s data, there are currently around 25 million children out of school.

The senator wondered why underage offenders are not “kept at juvenile centres even though such a facility exists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”

The committee in its earlier meetings had expressed dissatisfaction over the absence of a mechanism for an official database to record incidents of child sexual abuse.

Sadiq had directed the ministry to formulate a line of action and brief the committee on the issue during its next meeting.

Human Rights Ministry officials told the committee that more than 80 laws for child protection exist while measures are being taken to tackle child abuse cases.

The officials complained about lack of cooperation by provinces with the centre on the issue, saying that letters had been written to the provinces but they no province responded.

Subsequently, the committee decided to raise the issue with Prime Minister Imran Khan to request immediate orders for the prevention of child abuse cases.

After the passage of the 18th Amendment, it is the provincial government’s responsibility to draft a child protection policy.

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