A report titled “The State of Pakistan’s Children - 2014”, prepared by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc), has revealed that there was a 17% increase in cases of violence against children last year. These included incidents involving sexual violence, kidnappings, murders and general bodily harm caused intentionally. Children are always more vulnerable to psychological and physical harm, and the statistics entailed in the report show that the state as well as the society is failing to protect them. There is a need to ascertain the reason behind the troubling rise in violence against children last year.

Pakistan has the second highest number of children who are out of school; 13 million in Punjab, 6.1 million in Sindh, 2.4 million in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and 1.7 million in Balochistan. If children are indeed the future of our country, it doesn’t look good. Considering how little the state is spending on education, it is clear that aforementioned figures are not sufficiently alarming to prompt action. Work needs to be done on an emergency-basis because the current situation easily qualifies as such.

As far as health is concerned, the conditions are unsatisfactory for patients across age groups. No special arrangements have been made for the children. The under-5 mortality rate stands at 86 per 1,000 births, which is too high. As expected, the Millennium Development Goal of bringing it down to 52 deaths per 1,000 has not been met. Successive governments have always been quite keen to sign MDGs, but they’ve always failed to fulfill them. They would do better when and if they decide to make a serious effort.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), 12.5 million children in the country are involved in labour of one form or the other. They work as domestic workers, helpers in commercial activities and a range of others job - the majority engaged in bonded labour. While sexual violence often takes place in secrecy, this aspect of child abuse is easily visible in markets and homes across Pakistan, and the society has grown accustomed to it. Perhaps a part of this can be attributed to the lack of culture of child rights in South Asian communities, but it is nevertheless blatant exploitation of vulnerable, cheap labour often working in unsafe and unregulated environments. Out-of-school children do not just sits at homes or roam the streets playing games as they belong to poor families, who put them to work instead. There are not many alternatives. It is a vicious cycle that is bound to repeat itself unless there is an intervention. The children must be rescued.