Faisalabad (AsiaNews) In Pakistan, children continue to be sexually, physically and mentally abused and their basic and inalienable human rights are still denied, this according to a report published by Pakistan's Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC).
The study, titled The state of Pakistan's children 2004, reported 1,549 cases of sexual abuse last year; this represents a rate of three cases per day. It also stressed that the government ban on corporal punishment in government schools was frequently violated.
The situation is worse in religious schools where the government ban does not apply. Such educational institutions live up to their infamous reputation with practices that range from withholding food from children to chaining them.
The report also gives details about 529 cases of child abduction, 177 cases of child molestation, 8 cases of children murdered after molestation, 364 children raped (some sodomised), 264 cases of gang rape with 35 children killed after the gang-rape.
Figures about child labour provide another alarming picture of the status of children in Pakistan. More than 120,000 children worked in factories or workplaces that did not meet minimum health standards. Glass bangles industry and surgical instrument units were the worst offenders.
Children making glass bangles suffered from respiratory diseases, whilst children manufacturing surgical tools experienced respiratory diseases, anaemia and conjunctivitis.
Tanneries also forced children to work in unhealthy conditions. More than three quarters of the tannery child workers reported disturbed sleep whilst over half of them were physically abused at work.
The SPARC report points out that many children who fail to find employment in regular workplaces eke out a living scavenging. Some 106,500 rummage through the waste produced by industry and the affluent in big cities. Around the capital Islamabad, there were probably some 4,000 scavengersabout 2,500 of them Afghans aged 10 to 14 years.
On February 15, Pakistan's National Children's Day, the Federal Minister for Social Welfare and Special Education Zobaida Jalal said that children, who represent 48 per cent of the country's total population, have a right to the government's attention and a fair allocation of resources.
In April, the Minister informed Pakistan's National Assembly that in 2005 she intended to introduce laws that would make the country a more child-friendly state in accordance with the 1990 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that Pakistan had signed.
She stressed that ratifying the Convention was not enough; effective laws were needed to implement it.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz acknowledged that children were the most vulnerable social group in the country. He reiterated his government's intention to build a society that was friendlier to them, one that would improve their access to health care and development and protect them against child labour.