Ministry launches campaign: Protecting Our Children: Preventing Child Sexual Abuse in Pakistan

Dr Shireen M Mazari, Minister for Human Rights, addressing the event “Protecting our Children -Prevention of Child Abuse”.

Islamabad: The Ministry of Human Rights has identified key priority areas to create awareness on the prevention, protection and redress of issues related to the rights of the child. On Thursday, 4th July 2019, the Ministry of Human Rights in collaboration with European Union launched an awareness campaign to educate people about Protecting Our Children: Preventing Child Sexual Abuse in Pakistan. “Safeguarding children is our Islamic duty, our constitutional duty and is in line with our International commitments of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The government through the Ministry of Human Rights is committed to fulfilling obligations to our children”, said Dr Shireen Mazari, Federal Minister for Human Rights in Pakistan in her speech addressing the esteemed participants of the event.

Addressing the event, Federal Minister Dr Mazari said that Ministry of Human Rights Focusing on Protection of Children from Child Abuse. She said the issue of child abuse should not be treated as social taboo adding that we are hesitant to speak about this issue instead of educating our children. She stressed the need to make it a disgraceful act and said we need to recognize this issue and the parents and teachers should realize their responsibility and should be open with their children and students and informing them about child abuse and its preventive measures. She said that besides, legislation and its implementation, awareness is important in fighting this issue. Dr Mazari said that education institutions can play an important role to prevent child abuse and to educate students; she also talked about parents and teachers’ role to aware children about child abuse. She shared that Ministry of Human Rights Ministry of human rights has established helpline 1099 to report issues related to human rights abuses including the child abuse. She said that the Zainab Alert Bill was still in National Assembly’s standing committee adding that the proposed law would ensure protection of rights of children.

Ms. Rabia Javeri Agha, Secretary, Ministry of Human Rights while talking to the key stakeholder and participants of the event shared the National Plan of Action for the Rights of the Child. She explained how the ministry has a wholistic approach to ensure that the rights of the child are addressed properly. This is primarily done through ensuring prevention, protection, rehabilitation/reintegration, participation and learning mechanisms. The government is interested in creating behavior change through targeted awareness campaigns, enforcing justice and making systemic change through the establishment of institutions i.e. the National Commission on the Rights of the Child.

Reported cases of child abuse increased by 11 per cent in year 2018 compared to 2017, with more than 10 children suffering some form of abuse every day in Pakistan last year. The Protect Our Children initiative aims to inform the public especially families, care givers and parents about the importance of noticing the signs of child abuse so that children can be protected and supported in order to be taken out of such situations.

Goodwill Ambassador for the Campaign, Shehzad Roy (Sitara -e- Imtiaz) in his speech emphasized the need for such initiatives and also provided insight on how important it is for the Pakistani society to notice the signs that child survivors of abuse and exploitation express silently. Roy also mentioned that these signs often go unnoticed as the perpetrators in most cases are known by the child or the family. “We’ve come leaps and bounds in recent years by successfully advocating for both defensive and preventive policies to combat child abuse. From passing bills criminalizing corporal punishment through to the integration of life skills-based education in some provincial government schools. It is to be hoped that now millions of children will be saved from abuse. While these are major strides, changes in law and policy, there is a need for acceptance and ownership by the community and parents in particular” said Roy in his key note address.

Federal Ministry of Human Rights (MoHR) collaborated with children, the key stakeholder, for legal and policy reforms to enforce child rights across Pakistan, highlighting the positive outcomes of the synergy between the Ministry and children. Participating child representatives (Fariha Zamir and Qaiser Khan ) explained how those laws led to the establishment of pilot child courts in provincial and federal capitals in the country, in collaboration with a visionary judiciary. Towards the end, the children pledged to continue their work with the federal MoHR, combine efforts for juvenile justice reform, legislation, building capacities and developing response mechanisms to contribute to the overarching goal of promoting child rights and ensuring justice for children in the country.

On this occasion, some short documentaries were also shown to the participants to give them awareness and to take different preventive measures.

The participants of the event included Ambassadors and dignitaries from various EU countries and UN Agencies as well as INGO, NGOs, Academia and Civil Society Organizations.

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