KARACHI: Soon after Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto’s announcement to introduce an awareness programme on child sexual abuse as part of the school curriculum, the Sindh government formed an 18-member committee under the chairmanship of the chief minister for the effective implementation of child protection rights.
Chief Secretary Rizwan Memon issued a notification in this regard, which stated that the CM would be the chairperson of the committee. Meanwhile, the chief secretary, provincial ministers for education and law, Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid, adviser to the CM for social welfare, special assistants to the CM on human rights, education secretary, provincial secretaries of home, social welfare and human rights, provincial inspector-general, Advocate Zia Awan, Sidqa Bari of Indus Resource Centre, Abdul Bari Khan of Indus Hospital, Aahung Manager Aisha Aijaz and PeaceNiche Chairperson Khalid Mahmood are the other members of the committee.
According to the terms of reference (ToR), the committee will monitor the implementation of the decisions taken regarding changes in the curriculum for imparting life skills-based education to children in schools of the province.
“The committee has also been tasked to monitor the progress on teachers’ training on the modules of Life Skill Based Education,” the notification read, adding that 18-member committee will work as a watchdog, keeping an eye on the implementation of actions required to be taken under the Child Protection Authority, 2011 and other relevant laws with regard to protection of the rights of children.
Progress will be monitored by the committee on a monthly basis, according to the notification.
Bilawal stresses need to sensitise children
Earlier, addressing a press conference at the PPP Media Cell, Bilawal announced the introduction of an awareness programme on child sexual abuse as part of the school curriculum.
“We have discussed this sensitive issue at length and the Sindh government will include in its next year’s syllabus the topic of child sexual abuse from class six,” Bilawal said, adding it is high time and everyone should stand up on this issue.
The PPP chairperson, who was flanked by singer and education activist Shehzad Roy, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman and Education Minister Jam Mehtab Dahar, said,
“There is nothing wrong in sensitising our children about this issue. Nothing will change if we follow the old syllabus”.
“I ask the chief minister to implement this in letter and spirit” Bilalwal said, adding that the information included in the programme is child-friendly and culturally appropriate.
He also announced that every year, his party will mark a day in January as ‘Anti-Child Sexual Abuse Day’.
“On this day, we will organise seminars, walks and rallies against this menace and mobilise children and parents,” he said.
When asked about the capital punishment for the suspect involved in the rape of Zainab in Kasur, he said, “This is a sensitive issue. I don’t want to talk about capital punishment. Despite the hanging of culprits in Saudi and Iran, this crime continues in both the countries,” he remarked.
Police should be apolitical
Even though the PPP chairperson expressed satisfaction over the performance of police in Sindh, he said that there is dire need for police reforms.
“Police should be independent and apolitical. I have asked the chief minister to bring reforms in the police after consultation with other political parties,” he said adding that we were following an age-old police system.
Referring to his nonprofit organisation Zindagi Trust, Roy said they first introduced an awareness programme on child rights and child sexual abuse in government schools in 2009.
“At first, parents were doubtful about what we were teaching,” Roy said, adding that parents thought their children were being misguided.
“But gradually, when they [the parents] saw how beneficial this programme was and how much the awareness was needed, they grew to appreciate it,” Roy added.
It is important to teach children about what constitutes inappropriate touching and behaviour from strangers as well as people in their family, he cautioned.
“More than that, it is crucial to teach children what to do and how to talk about an incident should they become a victim,” he added.
More in Sindh