Protecting Pakistan's Children ft. Naveen
In light of recent conversations around the exploitation of young children, we spoke to Naveen about their recent project on Protecting Pakistan's Children
What is your blog about?
We are Pakistan’s first knowledge-rich website where we learn about the country’s most impact-orientated initiatives, and the individuals leading them. We shine a light on organisations who help Pakistan’s marginalised communities to live a better life. In sum, we diarise success stories through text, photo and film.
How did you decide to start it?
Naveenofficial.com has been an idea that I’ve had for many years. In 2018, I took the plunge to find a team of people who would work with me. We interviewed SOS Children’s Village, Street Art Pakistan to then create Pakistan’s first climate change documentary, interview Akhuwat and Seed Out.
How did you come up for the idea for your work on Protecting Pakistan’s children
Our recent campaign is a tricky one. I’m a teacher by trade and work within a system where children are able to attend school without the fear of being harassed by the adults working with them. In the UK, we have a Teacher Regulator which monitors teacher conduct, and we have a vetting system conducting criminal record checks to ensure schools safer recruitment of staff. I was horrified to see that Pakistan doesn’t have the same measures in place.
We are currently discussing how to structure the campaign at the moment so we can work towards the goals we find important.
Who was involved in the project?
I’ve collaborated with great activists in Pakistan such as Nayab Jan and Mahnoor Ali Syed. They are leading the work on this and I’m pleased to be assisting them in any way that I can. I’ve also been working with Nida Usman Chaudhury - a lawyer and Founder of LEARN (Lahore Education and Research Network). I contributed to a consultative review of child protection laws in Pakistan.
Why was this topic so important to you?
The topic matters to me because every child should be attending school knowing that they are safe around the adults around them. It’s a basic right that children should be entitled to. I take it for granted that the UK has systems and organisations in place to ensure the country’s children are safe in school.
What do existing laws say about child protection
This is a tricky question. The Pakistani government is very different from the UK’s government. Pakistan has multiple layers of government: Federal, Provincial and local etc. The laws in each province and the way they are practised slightly varies across provinces. There is a penal code (S377(A)) which nationally recognises child sexual abuse, but in Punjab, the Act which protects children is specific to only street children. This Act is known as the Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act. We need this act to widen the categories of children it serves.
In the case of the LGS sexual harassment allegations, parents of children who were abused would be able to pursue a case privately under the penal code (S377(A)). However, the state would not be able to support parents of children who were abused because the Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act would not recognise the child because it only caters for street children.
Compare this to the UK, all criminal cases are against the State so the state would automatically be involved. This is not the case in Punjab.
Why is it necessary to have background checks in schools
This is a tricky question which I’m going to break down further. To conduct background criminal record checks against prospective employees we need a database where criminal records are stored. This would mean we need systems in the police force which are imposed nationally to record FIRs, criminal acts or arrests.
In the UK, there is a regularly updated sex offenders register. This is accessible by different organisations upon request. In the context of protecting children in schools, the teaching profession has the Teacher Regulatory Agency which accesses the sex offenders register to conduct criminal record checks against prospective teachers. This ensures that schools conduct safer recruitment.
There are equivalent regulatory bodies in different fields.
Background checks on prospective employees ensure that children are safe around the adults who work with them.
How can we educate the population on child protection?
It is important to educate the population on the importance of child protection but I think the primary issue is to create a national sex offenders register. However, this is only possible if we have systems in place where all police stations are recording vital criminal records of each person living in their local area. This would mean as a country we need to create a system where the Police can gather data and where the government can organise and make that data accessible to employers. The country needs different regulators for different professional fields such as a Teacher Regulator, Doctor Regulator etc.
We need policy changes and new systems put in place before we start educating the population of its need. I don’t think the general public wouldn’t disagree with the policy changes or system implementations required. Once the changes are in place, we can then start to inform the population of the positive effects.
You can check out more of their work on instagram.com/naveentheblog