ISLAMABAD - Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Monday said that the country was ranked second worst in terms of gender equality; while a sharp increase was observe in child sexual abuse cases.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in its annual report 2018 monitored the issues of justice, human rights mechanisms, and law and order, jail prisoners, freedom of movement, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, political participation, women, children, labour, health, education and refugees.

Secretary General HRCP, Haris Khalique, and council members including Ghazi Salahuddin, Muna Baig, Naseem Azhar and others launched the report.

Naseem Azhar, quoting the report, said that Pakistan was named once again the second worst country in terms of gender equality in the world by Global Gender Gap Index 2018.

She said that despite the legislation enacted for women’s right in recent years, violence against women and unlawful practices persisted and continued to escalate.

She said that 75% of women and girls are involved in the agriculture sector and 60 percent of their work is being utilized as unpaid.

On the positive side, she said that there were more women candidates for general seats in 2018 general elections than in any past election. She said that for the first time, transgender candidates contested the elections, while The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2018 was passed giving them the right to be recognized as per his or her perceived gender identity, and making discrimination against them in numerous areas unlawful.

She also added that there had been sharp increase in child sexual abuse, involving both boys and girls, and reports of abuse of child domestic workers continue to surface.

She said that only 4 percent of children in Pakistan receive a minimally-acceptable diet according to a UN report.

She said that in Thar region of Sindh, 638 children died of malnutrition in the period from January 1st to December 31, 2018. The National Commission on the Rights of the Child (NCRC) Act was passed in 2017, and the commission has yet to be constituted.

The report said that the country’s spending on the health sector is still less than one percent of its GDP whereas WHO recommends it should be around 6percent.

It said that the unsatisfactory quality and coverage of public health services means a high dependence on the private sector which is too costly for many.

As a result, people are driven to consult unqualified medical practitioners and quacks, often with dire consequences.

Report said that the country is becoming increasingly depressed, according to Pakistan Association for Mental health. There is no evidence that Pakistan has developed a coordinated national strategy to achieve the objectives of WHO’s comprehensive mental health action plan (2013-2020).

Report also mentioned that the control of communicable diseases remains a challenge, while there is rising trend of non-communicable diseases, heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, hypertension and various types of cancers.

On education sector, the report commented that the number of out of schools children was reported to have risen from 22.63 to 22.84million.

It said that GEM 2019 showed that just about half of the pupils attain minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics by the end of the primary level, but the ASER report 2018 registered an improvement in learning levels.

It said that the issue of tuition fee hikes at elite schools was taken up by the Supreme Court, while funding of Higher Education Commission was slashed by around Rs5billion in a midterm budget released in October.

In a statement, the HRCP commented on the unprecedented level to which fundamental right to freedom of expression was overtly violated, particularly in the run-up to the elections, adding that in the guise of national security concerns, restrictions on media coverage were stepped up, journalists took increasingly to self censorship, the distribution of a national newspaper was severely curtailed, and a media blackout was imposed on coverage of certain events.