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September 16, 2015

‘Merely passing laws can’t prevent child sex abuse’


September 16, 2015

When it comes to child sexual abuse, merely passing laws is not enough as they will not make much difference until the attitude of the society changes.
“It’s strange and shocking that in some cases of child sexual abuse, parents merely asked us for money, pleaded for jobs and ultimately patched up with the culprits,” Sindh Assembly deputy speaker Shehla Raza said on Tuesday.
“We also saw that even doctors are not sympathetic towards the victims,” she added.
Raza was speaking at a roundtable conference on “Interaction on Child Rights, Abuses, Legislation and Way Forward”.
The conference was organised jointly by the Sindh Human Rights Commission and The Asia Foundation. Raza, who presided over the conference, said awareness was needed in every segment of the society.
She noted that the Sindh Assembly had passed a law through majority vote in connection with such cases, but the Council of Islamic Ideology, in response, had issued a statement that the provincial assembly should be dissolved.
“We had responded by issuing a statement that the Council of Islamic Ideology should be dissolved. We are doing whatever we can to change this mindset,” she added.
She conceded that the Sindh Human Rights Commission’s budget was not enough and needed to be increased. “The educational system should be analysed in a different way now,” she noted.
She pointed out that when Muhammad Khan Junejo was the prime minister, an initiative was taken to hand over development budget to legislators that had paved the way for ghost schools and other such problems.
MPA Sharmila Farooqui said every religion taught humanity and no religion allowed child abuse. She added that in many cases, parents themselves exploited their children
She pointed out that rape cases had been surfacing in India too despite many amendments in the law there. “We need to take notice of child trafficking, child pornography and other such heinous

crimes too,” she said.
“The implementation of the law is not up to mark but that doesn’t mean that the government is not pressing for its implementation.”
Farooqui regretted that there were two female judges for every 35 male ones. She observed that after the passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, Sindh could prepare its own legislation, but it was not easy to implement it.
Referring to the poverty in Sindh, she observed that there were millions of out-of-school children and the dropout rate, particularly of girls, was very high.
She said when a law was passed that a girl could be married off only when she was 18, parents in rural areas started complaining about it.
“The rule of law should not be such that you transform the country into a Gestapo state. We have to work a lot for creating awareness and in this regard the federal government should come forward as progress across the world is made at the state level.”
Farooqui said much needed to be done to protect children from conflict.
Sindh Human Rights Commission chairperson Justice (retd) Majida Rizvi said her organisation lacked resources and staff, but despite that it had started training programmes and was arranging seminars.
“Children are the future of the nation and as such, they are our assets,” she added.
Former IGP Niaz A. Siddiqi said training programmes were being held for police officers to deal with child abuse cases. He added that 1,200 officers had been trained so far.
Zahida Hashmi, the director of the SOS Village, said previously a child was looked after by the entire neighbourhood, but now even parents did not fulfill their responsibilities.
Another speaker, Fouzia Tariq, said there was no legislation against child abuse similar to the domestic violence law. “Police are reluctant to lodge an FIR in child abuse cases and TV channels play a negative role while covering such incidents,” she added.

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