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Pakistan

The low social status afforded to children in Pakistani society forces them to face a variety of serious challenges. The recent natural disasters, conflict and political turmoil have increased children's vulnerability and threaten their well-being.1 Children in Pakistan are at risk of suffering from overall malnutrition, poor access to education, exploitation through harmful child work and organised trafficking. Girls are particularly vulnerable.2 Pakistani women and girls suffer human rights violations at the hands of the state and in the community, including honour killings, rape and domestic violence. Forced marriages are not unusual.3Though it is generally perceived that girls are more susceptible to sexual abuse than boys, country studies from Pakistan show boys are equally susceptible to sexual abuse in specific settings. A study conducted on prostitution of boys found them highly vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation, due to its social acceptance in some parts of the country. For example, in North West Frontier Province and a few other pockets of the country, there is a practice of Bachabazi, where young boys are kept by rich and influential adults for sexual purposes.4

Education

Health and education is the lowest priority of public expenditure in Pakistan. Even though an estimated 40 per cent of the population is under 15, public spending on education represents only 2.5 per cent of GDP.5 Education spending has not been effective in reducing gender gaps in enrolments and there are significant gender differences in enrolment rates. A mere 51 per cent of girls attend primary school, compared to 60 per cent of boys. Of those enroled, two-thirds of girls and half of the boys do not complete primary school.In North West Frontier Province, Pakistan, in consultations with 3,582 children aged 6–14, 1 231 parents and 486 teachers from government and religious schools, not one child reported never having received corporal punishment. Results found that identified punishments at homes include caning, beating with shoes, belts, wood slabs, brooms or whips, smacking, kicking, hair-pulling, ear-twisting, biting, pinching, burning, giving electric shock and pouring hot or cold water on the body. In schools, common punishments in Pakistan include slapping, kicking, caning, ear-twisting, and putting the child in awkward and humiliating postures.7

Working children

An estimated 3,3 million children under the age of 14 work, many in exploitative and hazardous labour. The minimum age for admission to employment is low and varies between different laws. Many children who work as domestic servants are vulnerable to abuse, including sexual abuse, and are devoid of any protection. There is also a very high incidence of child trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, bonded labour and camel jockeying.8

Child soldiers

Children are vulnerable to being recruited by armed groups. It has been reported that Pakistani Taliban recruited 26 boys aged between 13 and 18 for training in Swat in 2009.9 There are also reports of madrasas being involved in forcibly recruiting children to participate in armed conflicts, especially in Afghanistan and in Jammu and Kashmir.10

Justice

The minimum legal age for marriage in Pakistan is 18 for men and 16 for girls. Child marriages persist, although prohibited by law. The age of criminal responsibility is only 7 years old. The State party’s Penal Code (sect. 89) allows for corporal punishment to be used as a disciplinary measure in schools and within the family, many times resulting in serious injuries. The existing institutions for children in need of alternative care are inadequate, both qualitatively and quantitatively, and the record-keeping on children in need of these services is poor. There is an absence of legislation clearly prohibiting child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation and a lack of legislation that clearly defines sexual consent and measures to prosecute the perpetrators. Reports show that child sexual abuse is prevalent and increasing in prisons, as children are often detained with adult offenders. Juvenile offenders have been sentenced to death and executed.11

Discrimination

There are numerous reports of torture, serious ill-treatment and sexual abuse of children - including children belonging to religious or other minority groups - by police officers in detention facilities and other State institutions. There is also a persistent discriminatory social attitude against minority children and against girls, resulting in early and forced marriages, low school enrolment and high dropout rates, honour killings, mutilation and violence. The widespread and increasing practice of so-called "honour killings" are affecting children both directly, and through their mothers, indirectly.12

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