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National Assembly of Pakistan passes long awaited National Commission on the Rights of Children Bill

The recently exposed case of an exploited child labourer called, Tayabba in the city of Islamabad in Pakistan reveals a dark side today’s modern world. Tayabba was not only enslaved and abandoned by her real parents, but found herself mistreated and tortured by her masters (an Additional Judge of the Pakistani Court and his wife), narrating another story of child slavery in a region where children find themselves the most vulnerable. In the aftermath of cases like that of Tayabba, the long awaited enactment of “National Commission on the Rights of Children Bill"(NCRC Bill) by the National Assembly of Pakistan on the 1st of February 2017, comes as a potential refuge for the children of Pakistan, a country that has been ranked third in the world for having the largest children’s workforce by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The much needed Bill aims to set up an independent Commission in order to evaluate, safeguard and promote the rights of the child. The Commission will have the powers to monitor and protect children’s rights across the country in order to ensure minimum standards are fulfilled, in light of constitutional and international obligations such as ILO Conventions 138 and 182. It also aims to advocate for policy and systemic improvements  for children engaged in the worst forms of labour and children that are victims of trafficking, abuse, violence; along with proposing new legislations to promote the best interests of children.

The Ministry of Human Rights Director, General Hassan Mangi suggested that the Commission may also have a role in providing shelter to children who have faced abuse or if their rights have been violated. The NCRC Bill which was passed along with six other bills in the National Assembly, is however facing criticism by the opposition parties such as Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Awami National Party, Muttahida Quami Movement and Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan. The opposition’s reservation over the bill concerns the employment age limit which has been reduced from 16 to 14. The opposition also stressed upon the lack of consensus in passing the bill and said that it should be sent back to the Standing Committee for review as it does not address the real issues related to violations of child rights  but creates more problems . The Minister of Human Rights, Kamran Michael has assured that “the government would take into consideration the positive suggestions of the opposition to build a stronger framework for children’s protection.”

Irrespective of the criticism and the loopholes, the bill comes as a ray of hope and a major intervention from the state which is bound to protect its subjects, including the children, against all potential dangers.

The enactment of the much awaited Bill is an outcome of the joint efforts by activists, lawmakers, and advocates of children’s rights including Global March along with its local partner, GODH Lahore,  who have been working tirelessly to advocate for an institution such as the National Commission on the Rights of the Child that can ensure holistic protection and promotion of rights of the children of Pakistan.

The credit for introduction of the enactment of the Bill also goes to the honourable Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assembly of Pakistan, such as Mr. Shehryar Afridi, Ms. Saba Sadiq, Ms. Lubna Faisal and Ms. Aliya Aftab, with whom GODH and Global March have been engaging on some of the most pressing issues concerning children, through continued engagements along with Global March’s initiative, Parliamentarians Without Borders for Children’s Rights.

The promise and the commitment showed by these Parliamentarians to work for the betterment of children is today reflected in the enactment on the pending Bill which has finally found its place in the National Assembly for healthy debating and deliberations for improvement.

Global March Against Child Labour has always promoted democratic processes for restoring justice to children and has always stood by such mechanisms , believing in the responsibility of the state to protect its children, by effectively implementing the existing laws, strengthening law enforcement agencies and introducing new and dynamic policies that can create a child-friendly nation in all ways possible.

Since last 19 years, Global March and its partners are doing their bit so that every child can enjoy its fundamental human rights. Are you with us in this fight?

Join us and know more about our work at www.globalmarch.org or visit our local partner website, www.godh.org.pk