Child protection, rights and the Illegal detention of children in Sindh

Thursday 12 March 2015

By Iqbal Detho, Provincial Manager Advocacy & Campaigns, Sindh

When news about 26 girl children found in captivity in a private home in Karachi surfaced in December 2014, every member of society from political parties to organizations working on human and child rights, the media, individual philanthropists and welfare trusts thronged to the police station and shelter houses run by private sectors and later, the number of such captive children rose to 34. Initially, even the police officials were unclear of which sections of laws could be applied to such situations and subsequently, Section 342 (wrongful confinement) and Section 34 (common intention) of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) were invoked in the First Information Report (FIR).

The most progressive law of its time, Sindh Children Act 1955 covers two categories i.e. children in contact with the law, and children in conflict with the law. Special offenses with respect to children under the Sindh Children Act Section 48(1) on punishment for cruelty to children can be applicable in this case. The section states, “Whoever having the actual charge or control over a child willfully exposes a child or negligently fails to provide adequate food, clothes or medical aid or lodging for a child in a manner likely to cause such child unnecessary mental and physical suffering shall be punished with less than two years and fine.” Further measures for the care and protection of destitute and neglected children are provided under Section 40 (ii) (b) for care and guardianship, and Section 46 for sending of a child having a place of residence outside jurisdiction, could have been applied at later stages in this case.

It is heartening to note that these children were sent to Darul-Binat, an institution run under the Sindh Orphanages (Supervision &Control) Act 1976 by the Social Welfare Department. However, had relevant sections of the Sindh Children Act or Bonded Labor System Abolition Act 1992 been invoked, then justice would have been done for these and any potential future victims.

After the 18th constitutional amendment, another law the Sindh Child Protection Authority Act 2011 which will also be administered by the Social Welfare Department calls for the establishment a SindhChild Protection Authority at the provincial level and Child Protect Units at the district level. The authority was notified on November 20, 2014 but has yet to be made functional. The authority will have the powers to not only manage, supervise, coordinate and regulate the affairs of the child protection institutions in the public and private realm but also form a link with other elements of the criminal justice system i.e. police (Section 15(3)), and the judiciary (Section 17(2)).