Baluchistan Child Protection Act, 2016: What Have We Learnt from Child Protection Legislation in Pakistan since 2004?

By Jabeen, Tahira | Pakistan Journal of Criminology, April 2019 | Go to article overview

Baluchistan Child Protection Act, 2016: What Have We Learnt from Child Protection Legislation in Pakistan since 2004?


Jabeen, Tahira, Pakistan Journal of Criminology


Introduction

Every child has a right to grow up safe to their full potential. However, due to their vulnerability in terms of age, physical growth and maturity, children in almost every country and every culture are at risk of violence including physical, emotional and sexual abuse, economic and other forms of exploitation, neglect or maltreatment. Such violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect limit their chances of surviving, growing, developing and living to their full potential.

Child protection is the protection of children from violence, exploitation, abuse, neglect and maltreatment as provided in the Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). It refers to both preventing and responding to violence, exploitation and abuse against children. Various levels of governments, communities, and non-government organizations can help ensure that children grow up in a protective environment - an environment that does not only respond to an incidence of abuse but also prevent such incidences from happening. There are both formal and informal mechanism and processes that create a protective environment. Child protection legislation is one such formal mechanism.

Around the world, national or provincial governments' child protection legislation authorizes certain government department/s or agency/ies to provide child protection services and to intervene in situations where children are suspected to be or actually abused, exploited, neglected or maltreated. Child protection legislation governs children's safety and wellbeing and provide child protection services.

The adoption and wide ratification of the UNCRC, which requires establishment of formal child protection mechanism (article 19) has provided an impetus to child protection legislation in many parts of the world including Pakistan. In Pakistan, first specific child protection legislation was enacted as early as in 2004 when the Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act was legislated, which focused on protection of the most vulnerable children as reflected in the title. This was followed by enactment of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Child Protection and Welfare Act in 2010 and Sindh Child Protection Authority Act in 2011. Balochistan Child Protection Act, 2016 is the latest addition to Pakistan's child protection legislation.

This article is a comparative analysis of Balochistan Child Protection Act, 2016 with child protection legislation enactment and implementation in three other jurisdictions of Pakistan. The aim of this analysis is to examine whether Balochistan legislation has benefitted from the experiences, especially from the mistakes, in the enactment and implementation of the previous laws. The article is organized in such a way that first it examines the existing context of child protection issues in Pakistan. Next, national child protection legislative and policy frameworks are examined leading to the provincial ones. Then, it provides a brief overview of child with the Balochistan context of child protection issues, provides a summary of the Balochistan Child protection Act, 2016 and finally, highlight the gaps in this law while analyzing it in the light of previous three laws from other provinces. This article concludes that legislatures, policymakers and practitioners have a lot to leam from each other's experiences, especially from past mistakes if we are to protect our children from violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.

Pakistan: Child Protection Context

The existing context of child protection issues and child protection services in Pakistan is not clearly known for reasons including under-reporting due to the cultural stigma attached with abuse, a nascent state child protection system, and the lack of a system of collecting, compiling, and analysing child protection related data (Jabeen, 2013). In addition, regional variations between various jurisdictions, both in terms of incidence and prevalence of abuse and its response, make generalization impractical. …

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