Juvenile Justice Tramples on Children - Pakistan

Most children are in detention for minor crimes, and face tremendous hardship in jail, where they are abused by adult inmates, prison guards and others, says the author Anees Jillani in "Cries Unheard: Juvenile Justice System in Pakistan".

The government has failed to recognize the rights of young children who break the law, usually for petty offenses like stealing an apple or sleeping on the street at night, which is viewed as a punishable offence.

In 2000, there are more than 4000 child children ''one in Karachi and the other in the southern Punjab town of Bahawalpur - are not sufficient to keep up with the increasing number of young offenders."
And although child prisoners are kept in separate juvenile cells,prisoners in Pakistan.
As many as 90 percent of the children are awaiting trial, and have been in prison for periods that exceed the punishment for the crimes they committed. There are also instances of children being found not guilty by the courts after being interred for years.
Most of them are in jails for adults since the only two specials prisons for these ''do not effectively separate children from adults, (and) young prisoners are often subject to exploitation or sexual abuse'', an official at Rawalpindi's Adiala Jail is quoted saying.

Severe overcrowding in Pakistani jails means that prisoners are just herded like cattle into wards. ''Sanitary and washing facilities are poor and lack privacy; access to medical and dental treatment is difficult; educational and vocational training opportunities are poor or non-existent".

''Indeed no juvenile justice system would be effective without corresponding initiatives for alleviating social and economic exclusion of children; providing educational opportunities; ending race and gender discrimination; and development of community-based initiatives, including strengthening families and promoting acquisition of parental skills,''

Hence, we clearly see the need ''to abolish the death penalty for children under the age of 18 years... [and to] increase the minimum age for criminal responsibility from the existing seven years".

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