Senate passes law against child abuse

ISLAMABAD – Senate on Friday passed a bill that criminalises for the first time sexual assault against minors, child pornography and trafficking.

The amendment to the penal code, which will go into force after being ratified by the president, also raises the age of criminal responsibility from seven to 10 years of age.

Under the revised legislation, sexual assaults will now be punishable by up to seven years in prison. Previously, only rape was criminalised.

Likewise, child pornography, which was previously not mentioned in the law, will be punishable by seven years in prison and a fine of 700,000 rupees ($7000).

Pakistan last August was rocked by a major paedophilia scandal when it was revealed that hundreds of pornographic videos of children from the village of Hussain Khanwala in Punjab province had been created and were being circulated.

About 20 arrests were made, but only the acts of rape and sodomy were punishable by law.

The new amendment also criminalises child trafficking within Pakistan. Previously traffickers were only liable for punishment if they removed children from the country.

“This is a very important step to realise the obligations of Pakistan” under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Sara Coleman, chief of child protection at UNICEF, told AFP.

“Now we have to turn our attention to the law’s implementation,” said Valerie Khan, the director of Group Development Pakistan, a local NGO which advocates legal reforms.

She also called for the “establishment of a national commission on child rights, which is essential to monitor and coordinate the implementation of the law.”

Staff Reporter adds: The Senate yesterday made a heated debate on national curriculum after a lawmaker showed his concerns over the use of “controversial and derogatory” remarks against Baloch nationals in the curriculum books being taught in Punjab at intermediate level.

At first, the objection came from a treasury member from Balochistan, Mir Kabir, on the last day of the parliamentary year of the Senate who quoted some “insulting” remarks about Baloch people from the book “Sociology of Pakistan” written by Abdul Hamid Thaga.

“Baloch means uncivilised people… who live in the deserts and loot caravans… they loot and kill people,” the senator read out some lines of books that he said were being taught at intermediate level in Punjab.

He also quoted a reference from the book saying that Baloch people neither send their girls to school nor their women could go outside for work.
Kabir said that history was being distorted by teaching such kind of stuff, and he put a question mark on the ability of what he said an all time smart looking chief minister of Punjab.

Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq remarked the issue was serious in nature and demanded formation of a committee to inquire into the matter.
Another treasury member, Mushahid Ullah Khan said that there was need to examine what kind of curriculum the next generation was being taught. A serious action is needed, he said.

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