Child Trafficking in Sindh province

PAKISTAN: Domestic child trafficking pervasive – report
Reuters, 19 Jun 2006
Source: IRIN

ISLAMABAD, 16 June (IRIN) - A new study on child trafficking has revealed that levels of domestic child trafficking in Pakistan's southern Sindh province are much higher than those for international trafficking in the country.

The report entitled, 'Fading light: A Study on Child Trafficking', released earlier this week, coinciding with the marking of International Day Against Child Labour, also highlighted the lack of recognition of complexities involving domestic child kidnapping, smuggling and trafficking in the country's existing laws.

The report focused on both trafficking of children within Sindh province and across the border. The province has recorded a high occurrence of human trafficking compared with other provinces, according to child rights activists.

"[The] primary objective of this research was to explore the links between child labour and child trafficking and also the magnitude of child trafficking in Sindh province where child labour is highly pervasive," Fazila Gulrez, a child rights activist working with the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), told IRIN on Thursday in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

The study done by SPARC also attempted to assess the scope of child trafficking while correlating the problem with level of education of children and their families, employment patterns within families, migration, as well as cultural practices, Gulrez added. Domestic child trafficking occurs often from rural to urban areas mainly for economic reasons.

According to SPARC, an estimated 8 million children are currently working in Pakistan, with almost two-thirds employed full-time. While in Sindh, children make up a quarter of the unskilled workforce and can be found in virtually every factory, workshop, field, informal sector and domestic service.

In Pakistan, the traffickers use different networks and routes that vary according to the purpose of trafficking. However, the extended southern coastline between the south port cities of Karachi and Gwadar are often used for international human trafficking to Gulf states.

The South Asian state serves as a source, transit and destination country of women and for children trafficked for sexual exploitation and bonded labour. While there are no exact figures on the number of people trafficked, the issue remains a source of concern for both governmental and nongovernmental bodies.

The Pakistani government has taken some legislative and administrative measures to deal with the problem. In 2002, the federal government introduced the Human Trafficking Law, proposing imprisonment for human traffickers and compensation to victims.

However, children's rights' activists say that the law addresses only international trafficking and neglects domestic trafficking.

The new SPARC study, conducted in the rural areas of seven districts of Sindh, found that Karachi remained the most popular destination for child traffickers where the children end up in forced child labour in harsh working conditions.

The study also found that within the borders of Pakistan, children are trafficked more for forced labour than for sexual exploitation.

The report calls for a national study on child trafficking to measure the magnitude of the problem and develop strategies to discourage and eventually eliminate it.

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