Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Situation Analysis of Pakistan

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Situation Analysis of Pakistan

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Situation Analysis of Pakistan

1.1 Pakistan Country Profile

Situated at the confluence of South and Central Asia, Pakistan is bordered by Iran and Afghanistan in the west, China on the north, India on the east, and Arabian Sea on the south. The land is geographically diverse with varying climatic conditions and wide ranging temperatures. The northern part of the country constitutes three of the highest mountain ranges in the world; the Himalayas, the Hindukush and the Karakorum. The Indus River, another prominent physical feature, traverses the entire length of the country and supports the country’s complex irrigation system, which is the largest in the world.

Carved out from British India in 1947 on the basis of Muslim nationhood, Pakistan itself was divided in 1971, when after a bloody war; the biggest ethnic group (Bengalis) chose to secede and formed a nation-state of its own Bangladesh. The country is a federation of four provinces; Balochistan, the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Punjab and Sindh. In addition there are the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Federally Administered Northern Areas, and the Islamabad Capital Territory. The country is home to many unique cultural identities; the predominant ones are Punjabi, Sindhi, Pukhtoon, Balochi and Seraiki. The country is a parliamentary democracy and has two houses of parliament. As a result of the devolution process, the district and local government system also been introduced in the recent past. The country has a total population of 148 Million, with 68 percent rural and 32 percent urban distribution. Children up to 18 years of age constitute almost 47 percent of the total population. Since 1980, the country is hosting the largest number of refugees in the world, from the neighbouring Afghanistan. According to the UN Human Development Report (UNDP-2003), Pakistan is poorly placed so far its human development is concerned. The report allots Pakistan 144th position among 175 nations of the world. Pakistan didn’t have an official poverty line for many decades and the subject was dealt with more as an academic exercise. It was later that the Planning Commission adopted an official poverty line of the 2350 calories per adult equivalence per day, which approximates to Pak Rs. 786.56 per adult per month in 2000-01. On the basis of official poverty line, slightly less than one-third of Pakistanis lived below the 1 poverty line in 2001. However, during the last three years, the economy is gradually getting momentum and according to Economic Survey 2003-4, the per capita income has risen to US $ 652.The rate of inflation during the fiscal 2003-4 remained 3.9 percent. Pakistan’s economy has undergone considerable diversification over the years, yet agriculture is still the largest sector. With its present contribution to GDP at 23.3 percent it accounts for 42.1 percent of the total employed labor force and is the largest source of foreign exchange earnings by serving as the base sector for the country’s major industries like textile and sugar. It also contributes to growth by providing raw material as well as being a market for industrial 2 products. The share of manufacturing sector in employment is 13.8 percent while the construction and transport sector accounted for 6.1 percent and 5.9 percent respectively in 2004. According to available estimates, the un-employment 3 rate in fiscal 2003-4 was 8.27 percent. Literacy rate for both sexes is estimated at 54 percent. Literacy rate for male and female are estimated at 66.25 percent and 41.75 percent 4 respectively.

Pakistan has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and has also signed its two optional protocols. It has also adopted the Stockholm Declaration and Agenda for Action, the South Asia Strategy and the Yokohama Global Commitment against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. It presently has a National Plan of Action for children and also regularly reports to UN on the implementation of CRC. The lead agency for child rights and welfare in the country is the National Commission on Child Welfare and Development (NCCWD). The country has recently promulgated a child friendly Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000. Under this law, separate juvenile courts are being established in all parts of the country

1.2 General Overview of Children in Pakistan

Pakistan has a youthful population. About half of the population is under the age of 20 years. According to a survey conducted by the Federal Bureau of Statistics, 3.6 million children were 5 engaged in labor in Pakistan. A recent national survey found that 40 percent boys and 25 percent girls in the age range of 15-17 are working. The latest labor force survey has revealed that 17 6 percent of the boys and 6 % of the girls in the age range of 10 to 14 are part time of labor force. Primary education in Pakistan is characterized by low enrolment and high dropout rates. The number of schools in Pakistan, especially in rural areas is quite insufficient for the growing number of children of school going age. In the rural areas, more than one-third of all children do not even complete primary education and drop out. The net enrolment rate is only 46 and 38 percent for boys and girls of five to nine years respectively. Despite government’s recent efforts to increase the accessibility to primary education by making it free and compulsory, a huge proportion of children are dropped out of school as education is found to be of low quality and 7 too expensive for parents to afford. Mostly the school dropouts from the poor households end up on the streets where they are exposed to all types of abuse and exploitation.

In Pakistan, there is no mandated system of reporting child exploitation, abuse and/or neglect. There is a paucity of reliable statistics and published data on the prevalence of CSEC and CSA in the country. Like other major public health and social problems, it is not easy to document the actual incidence or prevalence of child abuse. It is always difficult to obtain information on sensitive and highly stigmatised issues, and even more difficult when the victims are children who cannot narrate their woes. In such a socio-cultural setting, most cases of child abuse, particularly CSA, remain under cover and go unreported.

Despite the fact that the issue of child sexual abuse (CSA) and CSEC is shrouded in secrecy, it is rarely reported in the print media. Such incidents often occupy the limelight when they take a heinous turn; for instance if a child has been murdered after being sexually assaulted. Unfortunately this has led to an assumption, among others, that such incidents are rare or are committed by savage individuals who are primarily strangers. Another tricky question is about the relative vulnerability of various categories of children to sexual abuse and exploitation. Based on their experience, NGOs working on CSA and CSEC in Pakistan believe that all children, because of the fact that they are children are equally vulnerable to abuse, regardless of sex, class, income level, education etc. However, there are children in difficult circumstances, who may be even more at risk of being sexually abused and prostituted due to specific situations, such as street children, refugee children, economically active children especially those working in small hotels and restaurants, children in transport industry and bus terminals etc.

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