Wednesday July 24, 2024

World Day against Child Labour: Enforcing laws to protect child rights stressed

By Our Correspondent
June 13, 2024
Activists of civil society organisations hold a press conference at the Lahore Press Club on June 12, 2024. — Facebook/wise.npo
Activists of civil society organisations hold a press conference at the Lahore Press Club on June 12, 2024. — Facebook/wise.npo

LAHORE : Activists of civil society organisations in a press conference held here on Wednesday laid emphasis on enforcing effective laws to protect children's rights and ensure their well-being.

Bushra Khaliq, Executive Director of WISE, said child labour remains a significant issue in Pakistan despite ongoing efforts to address it. The country faces various socio-economic challenges that hinder the effective elimination of child labour. She said that against this backdrop, the Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE) organisation has been documenting reported cases of violence against domestic workers in Punjab, focusing on both girls and boys. These statistics have been collected through daily newspapers and websites, she added .

She highlighted that between January 1, 2019, and May 31, 2024, a total of 147 cases were reported in Punjab. Tragically, 28 girls died and 119 were severely injured. The victims, aged between 7 and 20 years, predominantly came from the districts of Lahore, Faisalabad, and Kasur.

Nazir Ahmad Ghazi, Coordinator of the Child Rights Movement (CRM), emphasised the necessity of fully enforcing the Punjab Domestic Workers Act 2019, which aims to protect domestic workers' rights by regulating their employment terms, working conditions, and ensuring a minimum wage of Rs32,000, a minimum age of 16 years for domestic workers, and provisions for social welfare.

Tanveer Jahan, Executive Director of the Democratic Commission for Human Development, remarked that the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, provides a comprehensive framework for protecting and promoting children's rights. Syed Miqdad Mehdi, Child Rights Activist, suggested that ending child labour in Pakistan requires implementing and enforcing effective laws to protect children's rights and ensure their well-being. While progress has been made, more robust legislative measures are essential to eliminate this issue. Effective laws should include clear definitions and age limits, align with international standards, and prohibit all forms of child labour, especially in hazardous industries. Strict penalties should deter employers from exploitative practices. Additionally, under Article 25-A, compulsory education laws must be strictly enforced to ensure children attend school rather than work. Access to free and quality education is vital to breaking the cycle of child labour.

Meanwhile, civil society organisations observed World Day against Child Labour under the theme 'Let’s Act on Our Commitments: End Child Labour' on Wednesday.

These organisations focused on child protection, such as Search for Justice, along with a coalition of local civil society organisations from 18 districts of Punjab, including the Children Advocacy Network, and the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) demanded a comprehensive and well-structured strategy, backed by strong political will to resolve the child labour issue.

Search for Justice Executive Director Iftikhar Mubarik emphasised that addressing child protection issues, especially child labour in various occupations and processes, must be a top priority for the government. He added that tackling the magnitude of child labour would not be possible for any single department or authority, thus requiring a comprehensive strategy and action plan supported by robust and efficient monitoring and accountability mechanisms.

Mubarik highlighted that despite having a legal framework to deal with child labour, the Punjab child labour survey report indicated the presence of 13.4% of children in various forms of child labour.

He further added that it is crucial to bring all sectors under the legal purview of child labour laws to ensure they are properly inspected by relevant authorities to disengage child labourers.