GUEST WRITER

WAJEEHA AHMAD

Child abuse happens when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child. There are many forms of child maltreatment, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, and emotional abuse.

Every year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are registered in the developed country like United States, a super power. Child abuse is more than bruises or broken bones. While physical abuse is shocking due to the scars it leaves, not all child abuse is as obvious. Ignoring children’s needs, putting them in unsupervised, dangerous situations, or making a child feel worthless or stupid are also other forms of child abuse. Regardless of the nature of child abuse, the result is serious emotional harm done to a child.

Moreover, child labour can also be interlinked with child abuse because those children are asked to do work forcefully and at times they are beaten by their supervisors i.e. owners/masters. It is a heinous crime all over the world. The UNICEF defines child labour as some type of work performed by children below the age of 18. There is something seriously wrong with our country which not only fails to educate all its children but also seems to be dependent on them to keep its economy afloat. The last National Child Labour Survey was conducted in 1996 which estimated the number to be 3.3 million. The country is heading back into the dark ages with only a small percentage of lucky ones receiving education. The number of child labourers in our country is about 12 million.

Punjab government has addressed many social issues by legislation, forming policies; ensuring child protection is one of them. Child Protection and Welfare Bureau (CPWB) has been created under The Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children (First Amendment) Act, 2007 (Act vii of 2007). The purpose of the Government of Punjab to set up the Bureau for Child Protection and Welfare is to rehabilitate special and deprived children and those engaged in begging and child labour. The Child Protection Welfare Bureau (CPWB) has collaborated with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to bring up Pakistani camel jockeys till they are 18 years old after which it aims to help them get jobs, particularly in the UAE.

UNICEF has also contributed to this very noble cause and supported the CPWB to develop rehabilitation and reintegration services for beggar, street and handicapped children. UNICEF in collaboration with the CPWB provided support to more than 600 camel jockey children repatriated from the U.A.E. More than 3,500 children have benefited from the CPWB rehabilitation and reintegration services.

Child Protection and Welfare Bureau has a head office in provincial capital and its centres are spread all over the Punjab including remote areas like Rajanpur and Raheem Yar Khan. Head office Lahore is home to more than 350 innocent children. CPWB rescues the children aging from Day 1 to 18 years old. They are vulnerable kids and abandoned by their own families. Their relatives do not want to keep them and the kids are provided home like environment with all mental and health facilities. CPWB has its own school where students can get primary education and after 5thgrade, they are sent to other educational institutions.

What should one do if he/she suspects that a child has been abused, neglected or is a destitute? How do you approach him or her? Or what if a child comes to you? One thing that has to be kept in mind is that you can make a tremendous difference in the life of an abused child. It’s your job as a responsible citizen to report the case as early as possible to assure the child protection and provide whatever help you can. The best way is to report the case by calling 1121 and rest assured you will get response within few seconds.

Children belonging to different belief systems and from different segments of the society, brothels for instance, are brought there and are treated without any discrimination and prejudice.

The problems that CPWB are facing include lack of human resource (officers as well as psychologists), transportation, lack of capacity building of the staff in the form of courses and refresher courses. It is just a beginning and will take some time but there is a hope that these issues will soon be addressed in the near future under the enthusiastic leadership of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

There is no better way to prevent child abuse than to make education compulsory. The state must take ownership of all such children and make legislation to discourage those who indulge in this inhumane business.

The people of Punjab are very lucky that we have a Chief Minister like Shehbaz Sharif who understands the pain of human beings and cares to safeguard human rights. Mahatma Gandhi has beautifully put it in words below:

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean doesn’t become dirty.”