Let’s start of with some quick stats: Around 22.8 million children aged 5-16 are not in school in Pakistan. Out of these 22.8 million, more than 12.5 million children are involved in child labor in Pakistan.
While Pakistan does have child labour laws, they are not taken as seriously as they should, and they do not cover everything. Here is an example:
“No child below the age of fourteen years shall be engaged in any factory or mine or any other hazardous employment.”
What this law doesn’t target is domestic child labour, or ‘invisible labor’. Domestic labour is a huge informal sector in Pakistan, it is actually around 73% of the Pakistan’s economy. Children are working in homes instead of going to school.
Childhood is a social construct, and Pakistan seems to still be far behind where childhood is concerned. According to historian Phillipe Aries, in the Middle Ages ‘the idea of childhood did not exist’ because children were expected to work at a much earlier age, and there is often barely any distinction between children and adults. Is this not the case with so many of our children here?
You have young children working in homes and taking care of other people’s children. As a result, they are expected to work at a much earlier age, and are treated as adults.
In some cases, it is because there is no other way for destitute families. Their parents may believe that making their children work in other homes is the best way to get a roof above their heads and food to eat everyday.
Article 25-A of the Constitution demands that the state should provide free and compulsory education to children of the age group 5 to 18 years.
“The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such a manner as may be determined by law”.
Currently, Pakistan is at the position of 154th out of 182 countries in the global ranking on child rights.