“A woman wailed in disbelief as the lifeless, bruised body of her 12 year daughter- Shazia Masih was handed to her on January 21, 2010.”
Shazia Masih like many other children in Pakistan was a victim of child trafficking. She was handed over by her mother to a man in Lahore, who promised that the child would be working as a domestic servant in a rich family home. The child was then sold to a lawyer after which, she was raped and beaten. The lawyer offered her family 20,000 rupees for the funeral and silence.
An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked worldwide for sexual exploitation – including prostitution – or for the production of sexually abusive images and to be used as cheap labor. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), about 12 million Pakistani children are forced into child labor, especially in Punjab and the Northwest Frontier Province, in conditions of real slavery. There is extensive trafficking of children from Bangladesh and other South Asian countries to destinations within Pakistan, largely for the purposes of forced prostitution. India and Pakistan are the main destinations for children under 16 who are trafficked from South Asia. HRCP has reported that in most cases, they are given away by impoverished parents, sometimes in “marriage” and sometimes to agents who promise lucrative jobs as domestic servants in large cities, for amounts of money ranging from $1,300 to $5,000.
Pakistan’s laws on child trafficking need to be urgently strengthened to consistently protect all children against trafficking. The following issues should be addressed to control child trafficking:
1) There are no specialized child protection units in Pakistan, even though plans to establish these have been in the pipeline for the past few years. While the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) 2000 offered greater protection to children, it is not being implemented in its totality. The judiciary should assume the leadership role for ensuring its implementation if the provincial governments lack the interest to provide direction in this regard.
2) The trafficking ordinance’s offence of child trafficking does not include cases where children are threatened or coerced into providing consent to be trafficked. Since its provisions are limited to trafficking in and out of Pakistan, it leaves out cases of internal trafficking.
3) The Child Protection Bill has been tabled before the Parliament but has not yet been adopted.
4) Pakistan must ratify the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, to sign and ratify the protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children by UNICEF.
Trafficking deprives child victims the privilege to exercise their rights, including the right to belong/identity, the right to freedom, education, healthcare, as well as not being subjected to torture, or cruel and inhumane treatment. Child trafficking is a horrific act and we together as a society need to make an effort to combat this heinous crime.