Child Rights The SEPLAA Foundation aims to work for the welfare of the child in terms of education, health, awareness, empowerment and rights.
Several projects are in the pipeline and are being developed with the help of Partners and collaborating organizations.
Areas of joint interest, study and research were identified during the SEPLAA South Asian Conference on Child Rights (SSA-CCR) 2010, held in Lahore,Pakistan by the end of December 2010.
SEPLAA’s Work on Child Domestic Workers in Pakistan:
The SEPLAA Foundation started work for child domestic workers in January 2010. Since then we have worked in the following areas for child domestic workers:
1. Research and Publications
2. Media Influence
3. Field Work (Adoption of school)
Published: Op-ed Pages, The Nation, February 2, 2010
The deafening silence of Shazia’s friends
By Ammara Farooq Malik
Thinking about the death of poor 12 year old Christian Shazia, that sparked outrage in the media, followed by a strike call by the lawyers in support of the perpetrator and an uproar in the Sindh Assembly which too might all fizzle out if something is not done about the sorry state of affairs today, reminds one of what Martin Luther King Jr said: “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”
One wonders whether this is what Shazia would have said too had she been alive today.
The question is, who are the enemies and who are the friends? The answer to which only time will tell.
For now, there is no doubt that the need of the hour is a new piece of legislation to fill the loophole in Pakistan’s Labour Laws, which very conspicuously does not cover domestic labour and consequently is mute on the point of child domestic labour rights and liabilities.
Despite several efforts in the past, including the promulgation of the Juvenile Justice Ordinance of 2000, to try to bring our system truly in line with the articles and guidelines, as laid down under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, such efforts have not been able to show much positive results. It seems that with the surge in poverty and the economy hitting rock bottom, the destination, which children’s rights’ activists and NGOs have been trying to reach, is moving farther and farther away from sight. This dismal picture has only one glimmer of hope, that the media should keep the story alive for as long as it is possible while civil society activists and NGOs try to get the new legislation on the point drafted and proposed to the concerned quarters.
However any new law in place on the point will have no effect at all unless the mindset of the people is changed. Households employ children under the garb of ‘wanting to provide better food and shelter’ to the child whereas underneath lies the hidden reason, which not many have the audacity to own up: People want to control their servants without too much investment and who can fall easily in the trap but children. People then exploit this vulnerability by making the child domestic servants into puppet slaves. If this control theory was not true then why do households merely not hire adult domestic servants?
As opposed to an adult, a child requires more protection, more care and greater human rights. InPakistanon the contrary, the child is given half the salary, half the rights and half the human dignity.
According to Article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, the States Parties which are signatories to the Convention, must recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.
Though Pakistan is a signatory to this convention since 1990, it would be a Herculean task to expect people to follow such a law, which restricts their control over their own private affairs, unless there is a nationwide campaign to educate the people through the media and through counselling that these child helpers are no less human than the ones who employ them.
And when it comes to minorities, we need to mete out a treatment of exemplary high standards so that we can hold our heads high withinPakistanas well as in the international community. Yet there are many who will keep separate utensils and dishes for their domestic help and will in fact even keep separate dishes for the Muslim and non-Muslim domestic labour.
Can any number of new laws transform such people into more thinking, feeling and sensitive beings, who will not ridicule, abuse and torment the child helpers under their care? We all need to change our attitudes before any new law on the point will make any practical sense.
We must keep remembering Shazia’s ordeal, otherwise we may be counted amongst those who stood by silently and did not help avert a similar death at the hands of ‘educated’ people.
The writer is an academic lawyer.
‘No investment in the future’
By Ammara Farooq Malik
Published at: Editorial, Dawn,Tuesday, 02 Feb, 2010
AS a social reformist and lawyer, ‘deplorable’ and ‘embarrassing’ are the two words that come to my mind when thinking about the recent state of affairs after the death of Shazia, a 12-year-old child domestic servant, allegedly at the hands of her employers.
Why is it deplorable? We talk about children’s rights, we lambaste those who violate them and we then conveniently move on with our lives, ordering about the chhota and the bachi (young boy or girl servant) because it does not really matter to us in the ordinary course of daily mundane (and sometimes more important) events, whether these poor beings are treated with the “dignity and worth of the human person”. Incidentally, we agreed to grant the latter, under the Preamble of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Here’s the sad irony:Pakistanrecently celebrated 20 years of being a signatory to the above-mentioned convention and has an international commitment to taking its cue from Article 3 that stipulates that the “best interests of the child” are to be the “primary consideration”. This tenet is echoed in the earlier UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child, 1959, that the “best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration”. These have little meaning inPakistan.
After witnessing several delays in passing child-friendly legislation and few positive steps such as the promulgation of the Employment of Children Act 1991 and the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000, it is clear that a lot needs to be done to rectify matters. It is unfortunate, that despite these laws, poverty and other factors have caused the levels of child employment and abuse to soar.
If we are to believe in what the lateUSpresident Herbert Hoover said — ‘children are our most valued natural resource’ — and if the talent and energies of the large chunk of under-15s comprisingPakistan’s population are properly channeled, we would reap gold.
Unfortunately, in Pakistan, little is done to invest in our young ones. Children are even taken away from school and put in households as domestic help with reasoning such as ‘six months of training in the house of a sahib will be better than six years of going to a slum school’.
The childhood of these children is snatched away from them. They are mentally tortured with verbal abuse. The unluckier ones are physically tortured or sexually abused, simply because they cannot stand up for themselves.
People employ children as domestic help because they can be paid paltry amounts and be expected to work more and complain less because they have not yet realized that life can and should be better. The British colonial era left a terrible legacy in the subcontinent — that of ‘owning’ a servant. Although the British have left and now award the highest respect to their working class, our so-called educated domestic employers are still stuck somewhere in the colonial era.
There are various labour laws including the Mines Act 1923, the Factories Act 1934, the Shops and Establishments Ordinance 1969 and the Employment of Children Act 1991 that declare 14 years as the minimum age for child employment. But none covers domestic child help. Clear and urgent legislation is needed while existing laws should be enforced strictly. Changed attitudes are a prerequisite for the positive implementation of new laws.
In Shazia’s case, the media has played a crucial role in highlighting the incident even though this is not the first of its kind inPakistan.
Here one can focus on the ‘embarrassing’ aspect. Not only was Shazia subjected to torture allegedly in the house of a Supreme Court lawyer, but following the incident, a large number of lawyers demanded that the accused be treated differently to common criminals and protested against the media for ‘overdoing’ its job. This is distressing. The majority of the lawyers who have a conscience should rise up against this ridiculous proposition.
A cheque given to Shazia’s parents and a token hug in front of the cameras will not bring back the young girl, but the media publicity the case has received will instill in the public’s mind that children must be protected — a message that can be far more effectively delivered this way than through any law or NGO project.
The case must be investigated thoroughly before conclusions are reached and one hopes that our independent judiciary will deliver a just verdict and not allow a small faction of the lawyers’ community to tarnish the image of others whose views may differ.
If the heat generated by civil society activists is kept up to exercise pressure on the authorities, Shazia’s death would not have been in vain. Children who are trafficked into the cities by ‘employment agents’ and are sold as virtual slaves to urban families would have some hope that something concrete will be done to better their lot.
The writer is an academic lawyer and founder of the Seeds of Education, Policy & Legal Awareness Association.
The Media can play a very influential role in forming public opinion. The SEPLAA Foundation therefore exerted media pressure on child rights issues. The SEPLAA Foundation Founder has spoken on several occasions in the media on child domestic labour. _________________________________________________________________________
In December 2010, the SEPLAA Foundation adopted a school which is primarily catering to educate child domestic workers and children of domestic workers.
The SEPLAA Foundation is open to collaborations with other rights organizations and consultants to work for the betterment of under privileged children.
The Foundation has collaborated with the Jurists to work specifically in child rights areas for regional comparative study and analysis.
Legal Research Collaborations
In furtherance of the aims of the SEPLAA Foundation with respect to promoting child rights and policies propagating the need for legislation for the rights of the child, the Foundation is in the process of collaborating with a number of organizations inSouth Asia.
The Foundation recently collaborated with ‘The Jurists’, an academic institution based inIndia to work for joint socio-legal development for the rights of the child and for promoting regional peace. (The Jurists: http://www.thejurists.com/)
The Jurists Socio-Legal Board with the SEPLAA Foundation:
Mrs. Ammara Farooq Malik , Founder of the SEPLAA Foundation is a member of the Advisory Board of The Jurists along with the following Members:
Hon. Justice Durai Karunakaran, Ms. Shanti Bhushan, Ms. Asma Jahingir, Mr. Pravin Parekh, Mr. K TS Tulsi, Mr. Colin Gonsalves, Mr. Mumtaz Mustafa, Mr. Amer Nadeem, Ms. Kalpana Kannabiran and Mr. Vijender Kumar.
Collaboration in The News: