SAARC countries unite to protect child rights and co-operate on cross-border issues including trafficking and repatriation

Working towards a vision of a region free from violence against children, representatives from South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) renewed their commitment to end atrocities against the children in their region at the meet of the member countries in Colombo recently.

The countries unanimously adopted the South Asia Call for Action on Ending Violence against Children. Representatives from SAARC countries were meeting as follow-up on regional consultation on the UN study on violence against children, which was held at Colombo from 26-31 May.

The countries collectively deliberated, along with civil society organisations, experts on child rights, professionals, and academicians, and called for immediate action on “developing and strengthening equitable national and local child protection systems including laws, policies and standards that prevent, mitigate and respond timely and appropriately to all forms of violence and to ensure that mechanisms and services are accessible to all children.”

At the meet, the Indian delegation was headed by Union Ministry of Women and Child Development Joint Secretary Dr. Vivek Joshi who made a presentation on the legislative steps taken by India to eliminate violence against children. He also made a special presentation on the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Bill, 2012.

“There SAARC countries participating in the meet unanimously recognised the fact that despite the progress made across South Asia to address violence against children, children continue to experience serious forms of violence and child protection challenges, including child labour, corporal punishment, sexual abuse and exploitation, child trafficking, migration and displacement, imprisonment, discrimination related to HIV/AIDS, disability, minorities, orphans, street children and children in need of care and protection, as well as various forms of harmful practices such as child marriage,'' noted a statement issued by the Ministry. The group has also resolved to work towards developing and implementing laws and policies that focus on safeguarding children from potential harm and ban all forms of violence against children in all settings, including home and family, schools and educational settings, care and justice systems, work settings and the community.

“SAARC countries will also look at addressing social norms and practices that are harmful to children by promoting social change to end violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect of children and look into consolidate and validate a national system for disaggregated data collection, analysis, dissemination, and a systematic research agenda to inform policy development and resource mobilisation to protect children from violence,'' said Dr. Joshi.

The group has opted to review/adopt and implement a national plan of action to integrate the recommendations of the UN study. The countries will cooperate through structure, processes and resources in the best interest of children to address cross-border issues, such as trafficking, missing children, HIV and AIDS and drug abuse and repatriation.