Monday, January 28, 2008
The rise in incidents of street crime in Karachi and other cities of Pakistan has been the subject of a report released this week by a local NGO. What the report highlights is the growing number of street children involved in this activity. This is cause for alarm. There has been a significant rise in the number of street children, particularly in Karachi says the report adding that the reasons for children running away from their homes include domestic violence, sexual abuse and corporal punishment at schools, especially madressahs. This is an issue that has to be dealt in a proactive manner. It may be noted that street children end up joining gangs which offer them protection in return for working on the streets. The gangs force the children into prostitution and crime. There has been a rise in child prostitution in the cities as a consequence of this.
Also, incidents of petty crime have also risen as children are forced to beg, steal and borrow to retain their gang membership. Many of the children also turn to drugs and other substance abuse which only complicates the problem. The interesting thing in all this is the absence of any concerted government initiative to check this problem. Most of the work done here comes from individuals or from NGOs. They not only offer help and relief to street children but also counsel them and in some cases encourage them to return to their families so that they can lead a better life. There is an informal network in place which also helps trace missing children and unite them with their families. Despite its best efforts by the private sector, the challenge is much greater. The government needs to come up with a programme that recognizes the rights of the child and also protects children from harm. A child protection law exists only in Punjab while in the rest of the provinces it has yet to be introduced. There is no formal effort on the part of the government to recognize the problem and come up with an action plan so that the problems of street children are addressed. These children need to be given protection and put into a system that gives them some sort of education making them productive members of society. This will not only secure their future but also make the streets of the city safer for everyone.