August 13, 2015
On August 7th 2015 Amna Mithal, an under-aged child, was allowed by the Sindh High Court to go with her husband setting aside the provisions of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013 and Islamic law. She was abducted by her ‘khaloo’ in January 2015 from a government primary school in Bhitshah, Matiari, to be married off the next day by a ‘nikahkhwan’ registering her age as 18 and marrying under legal certification of self-will legal certificate). A medical panel ordered by the court proclaimed that the 12-13 year old was 16-17 of age and in a province where the age of marriage had been raised to 18 officially under the act, violated its own law and that of Islam in collusion with an unconcerned judiciary that is convinced that girls should marry as children not as adults. What do you do when a society goes so sick and is so open in abandoning all codes of human conduct? Whilst Amna’s case is viciously complex , she is not alone in underage marriages as in Pakistan 40% of girls are estimated to be married under 18 years of age and the state continues to deny the fundamental constitutional right to education for ALL 5-16 year olds as per article 25 A to millions on one pretext or another. Acts of child rights violation continue to multiply unabated in Pakistan where the state is ambivalent about its core functions as an enabler and a protector . . seehttp://www.
On August 8th another tragedy struck the children of Pakistan in the progressive and most populous province of Punjab upon discovery of a pedophilia gang at Ganda Singh Wala, Kasur, next door to the provincial capital. Almost 300 children had been tortured and sexually abused since 2006, aged 6 upwards and 400 graphic videos were produced by a notorious gang being sold for Rs. 50 each. Since the news broke, we have a hyperactive state machinery at work to ‘soften’ this mega crime as some of its own constituent parts such as the Child Protection Bureau chief had corroborated the story, whilst others are trying hard to create many layers of counter factuals, and with evidence no doubt to challenge the age, scope and scale of the tragedy. The Child Protection Bureau set up to protect the children as a progressive act of the Government of Punjab obviously cannot do its job right when under such pressure; who knows that the Bureau chief may have to be ‘shifted’ for her bold statements for protecting children!
The Chief Minister of Punjab who is pushing for Parho Punjab Barho Punjab (read Punjab grow Punjab) is certainly pained to see this unfold in the midst of his efforts to ensure “all children in school, attending and learning well”. Some children in Ganda Wala Kasur are obviously not attending school but being drugged, raped, abused and punished to the hilt along with their parents under severe threats to pay up or suffer the consequences of graphic videos made public not to mention tortured by their children’s suffering. It was the protest of the parents and youth in large numbers in that made this issue public as no action had been taken when FIRs were registered. The Chief Minister is not at all happy at this and must be in a fix because one of the people hushing up is a party member and a parliamentarian. Leadership, society, schooling and systems of protection and justice have all gone wrong.
We have a culture of silence in our homes and schools and not to forget the teacher training institutions We are not convinced since 1947 and as a 9000 years old society (Mehrgarh onwards) that we need to evolve into a more informed citizenry; that our children and parents need life skills based education; that we must learn and teach our youngest to protect themselves to look out for the first signs of ‘bad touch’; to detect conversations of strangers and even relatives that will bring harm. Our impoverished children, homes, schools and society lures children into a deeper impoverishment in spite of us being signatories to all laws, international conventions and global declarations.
How will these tragedies against children be reported to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva as per our obligations as signatories to the Convention on the Right Child (CRC)? Our fifth periodic report is due in October 2015 on our implementation obligations. More importantly, what will be the series of irreversible actions taken by the Government of Pakistan and its citizens this 68th Day of Independence as we try to celebrate the Azaadi festivities? Can we seriously celebrate?