Global Human Rights Defence


Quite Thirsty. Islamabad Pakistan. Source: © Abdul Qadir Memon/Flickr, 2013

Author:Kirsten O’Connell

Department: Pakistan Team


“The child should be fully prepared to live an individual life in society…in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity” (Extract from the preamble of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child). Pakistan’s progress in safeguarding child rights through the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is disappointing, and children remain one of the most vulnerable groups of the population in every aspect (CRM, 2015). Despite the government’s claims to the contrary, children’s rights have not improved notably in the last 25 years since Pakistan ratified the CRC in 1990. The government lacks commitment to protecting and promoting children’s rights in any meaningful and sustainable manner. The weak political will to improve child rights is demonstrated by the absence of a holistic approach, a feeble effort to improve coordination, data collection, awareness raising, capacity building, attitudinal change, and in particular the government’s failure to establish bodies to monitor the implementation of the CRC. Delays in related legislation and poor budgetary allocations for children are also characteristic of State handling of the matter of child rights (CRM, 2015).

The CRC defines a child under Article 1 as any human being below the age of eighteen years, unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier. On the other hand, child rights can be defined as “the rights, which are concerned both with the protection of the individual child and with the creation of the conditions in which all children can develop to their full potential” (Sadruddin, 2011). However, in Pakistani law there is a lack of consistency in the definition of the child and gives different age limits for different purposes (Sabreen, 2017). For example, the Majority Act 1975, states a minor is a person who has not attained the age of 18 years (Berti, 2003). The Pakistan Penal Code 1860 fixes the age of criminal responsibility under Sections 82 and 83 at 10 years for a child. (Sabreen, 2017) The Children (Pledging of Labour) Act 1933 defines a child as a person under 15 years. The Constitution of Pakistan 1973 lowers this age limit by prohibiting employment of a child below the age of 14. (Berti, 2003) This all demonstrates the lack of inter-departmental consistency and therefore poses a challenge for the National Commission for Child Welfare and Development (NCCWD) and other agencies. As a continuum from above, practical implementation of various legislations at the provincial level also becomes difficult. For example, the Constitution of Pakistan mandates free education for all children from five to 16 years and prohibits child labour and child marriages. However, despite these mandates, and continued efforts from various State and non-State agencies, this goal is far from being achieved (Younus & et al., 2018). Furthermore, there is a fundamental issue in defining a child and aligning the definition to the CRC even after Pakistan ratified the UNCRC. For instance, there is a parallel Federal Shariat Court system in Pakistan which defines puberty as the end of childhood. These contradictions in the fundamental state task of defining a child, which should technically inform all laws related to children, create significant hurdles in the way of protecting child rights (CRM, 2015).


The Constitution of Pakistan 1973 is the main document that guarantees the fundamental rights for every citizens without any discrimination of language, colour, creed, or caste. It includes various articles that enshrine child rights and child protection, such as Article 25, that guarantees the right to education, Article 11 (3), that relates to the prohibition of hazardous labour of children, Article 25 (3), which empowers the government to make special provisions for the protection of women and children, and Article 35, that guarantees the protection of family, mother and child (LRF, 2020). Apart from the constitutional provisions and legislation at the federal level, there are also various provincial laws. These include the Sindh Child Protection Authority Act 2011, and the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013 (LRF, 2020). In 1979, the NCCWD was established by the government of Pakistan. The NCCWD is responsible for monitoring and evaluating the children who are receiving their constitutional, legal and administrative rights. It also makes suggestions for amendments to the constitution and national laws and formulates national policies and legislation for child welfare, development and protection (Younus & et al., 2018).

Furthermore, Pakistan was the sixth country in the world to ratify the CRC, and subsequently adopted it within less than a year after it was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989 (LRF, 2020). The CRC was the first legally obligatory international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights, civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. Therefore, Pakistan has State obligations to protect children in Pakistan by setting standards for their healthcare, education, security and legal, civil and social services and to develop legislation that will help build children’s lives, so they can develop to their full potential, free from discrimination, hunger, neglect, exploitation or other abuses (Sadruddin, 2011).


When signing the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Pakistan committed to take legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect and fulfil the rights of all children born or living in the State. However, Pakistan has yet to fulfil that commitment. The concluding observations of the UN Committee on the CRC exposed numerous delinquencies on Pakistan’s part, such as, the State’s inability to legislate in favour of children, barriers to enforcement of child laws, weak coordination among stakeholders, poor financing of interventions related to child welfare by the government, negligence and corruption of local level government officials to check child labour and child abuse.

Furthermore, the State has not established a national commission on child rights. In September 2017, the Parliament of Pakistan passed a law which provided a legal basis for the establishment of a National Commission on the Rights of Child. However, no concrete steps have been taken yet. The following year, in January, 2018, a six year old girl Zainab Ansari of Kasur was raped and murdered, which prompted the Parliament of Pakistan to pass the Islamabad Capital Territory Child Protection Act in May, 2018. This law provided the creation of a Child Protection Advisory Board and led to the establishment of Child Protection Institutions (CPIs), which aim to assess the issues and needs of child protection and to develop childcare plans. However, the government machinery failed to create this board. Furthermore, according to Sahil, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), the cases of sexual abuse of children has increased from nine per day in 2017 to 12 per day in 2018 (Aziz, 2019).

The major categories of child abuse include abduction, sodomy and rape and the data from Sahil reports indicated that children between the age of six and fifteen are the most vulnerable to abuse. In regard to child labor, UNICEF reported that 16 percent of children between the age of five and 17 are involved in child labor. The domestic child workers suffer the most at the hands of their employers, and at times result in their deaths. The horrific murder of 16 year old Uzma at the hands of her employers in Lahore is one of many examples. In regard to education and health of children in Pakistan, the State is lagging behind. The Constitution of Pakistan gives children the right to education but 22-30 million children between the ages five to 16 are still not in education. Furthermore, the UN Committee on the CRC pointed out that 35 percent of child deaths under the age of five are caused by the lack of access to safe drinking water and malnutrition (Aziz, 2019). The Employment of Children Act 1991, was the first pro-child law passed in Pakistan, yet millions of children are found engaged in hazardous occupations, including auto workshops, brick kilns, scavenging, carpet weaving and beggary. There were a number of other laws passed by the national and provincial governments over the decades, but their adequacy and efficacy in addressing the problems faced by the children has been questionable.                

A key example is the study conducted by UNICEF in 2019, in which experts reviewed 108 child related laws in Pakistan with respect to their legal effectiveness. They found that a considerable percentage of these laws do not comply with international standards or do not conform to the criteria set by the CRC. They found that only 25 percent are fully compliant to the CRC, 41 percent are partly compliant, and 16 percent are weakly compliant, whereas 19 percent are in contradiction to the principles of the CRC. Furthermore, when it comes to the enforcement of laws, they found a considerable number of laws are not implemented at all. One of the reasons child laws are not enforced is due to lack of budget. One of the lacunas in Pakistan’s parliamentary system is that assemblies neither have time nor resources to follow up with the ‘executive’ to monitor implementation of the laws passed by them. The past and present governments in Pakistan have launched few programs to address the problems faced by undernourished poor children because of the lack of required financial and administrative support. The budgetary allocations for such programs did not correspond to the quantum of the challenge and requirements on the ground, hence their scope and impact was limited. These programs were also ad hoc and could not be sustained or scaled up (Aziz, 2019).

For example, Tawana Pakistan, a school nutrition program launched in 2002 to address poor nutritional status and school enrolment of primary school girls ended in 2005. Currently, there is no program that provides nutritional supplements for vulnerable children. The budget for education and health sectors is insufficient compared with the extensive number of people in need, especially the malnourished, poor and children out of school (Aziz, 2019). The economic issues, rising food prices, scarce energy and fuel, and consequently increasing poverty in Pakistan are all gravely concerning. The several humanitarian crises in the form of devastating floods in parts of Pakistan have caused enormous damage to the population, livelihood and infrastructure.

Furthermore, in a detrimental  move for children’s rights, Pakistan adopted the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan in 2010, handing over powers to the provinces, and recognising free, compulsory education as a fundamental right. The federal government of Pakistan is no longer responsible for child rights related legislation in the provinces, including administration and financial allocation, except in the federal territories and those areas not forming part of a province (CRM, 2015). While it was hailed as potentially improving governance in Pakistan, the transition of power has not been smooth, leading to significant confusion regarding roles and responsibilities at every level, including international commitments to the CRC. Technically, now, any child rights developments, whether stemming from domestic need or international conventions are not the responsibility of the provinces but there is currently no mechanism to ensure effective implementation or accountability (CRM, 2015). Furthermore, the National Plan of Action (NPA) for Child Protection was put in place to address child sexual abuse, exploitation, child pornography and prostitution, health, shelter, poverty, child labour, education and child morality. In a survey conducted in 2016 from media reports of 86 national, regional and local newspapers, it found that 4,139 reported cases included abduction, missing children and child marriage. The abusers were mainly acquaintances (1,765), followed by strangers (798) and in some cases, acquaintances that were developed with a stranger (589). In 2016, the Pakistan Penal Code was amended through Criminal Law Second Amendment Act 2015 to address the problems of child sexual abuse in the country. The changes included an increase in minimum age of criminal responsibility from seven to ten years, and sections related to child pornography were charges under the general Pakistan Penal Code sections of rape and sodomy. This was the first of many steps required to ensure better implementation of legislation related to children (Younus & al., 2018).


In conclusion, the National Commission on the Child Rights Act 2017, which was to be constituted immediately with a secretarial and a Child Rights Fund should be created without delay. The laws related to child issues passed by provinces, such as, the Punjab Destitute & Neglected Children Act 2004 should be enforced. The provinces should implement a strict monitoring system if such laws are violated in order to convict perpetrators. This article has demonstrated that most children in Pakistan are deprived of their rights as citizens and an alarming number of them are falling victim to harmful practices every year, causing countless child rights violations. Given the gravity of the situation in Pakistan, the State should be central in striving for more political will and coordination with its provinces and institutions in the oversight of legislative implementation and to honour the CRC (Aziz, 2019).



Aziz, M. A. (2019, February 27). The rights of the Pakistani child. The News International. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from

Aziz, M. A. (2019, November 19). Child Rights in Pakistan. The News International. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from

Berti, S. B. (2003) Rights of the Child in Pakistan: Report on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by Pakistan. World Organisation Against Torture.

Child Rights Movement, CRM. (2015) Implementing Child Rights In Pakistan: Alternative Report For UN CRC. Child Rights Resource Centre.

Legal Rights Forum. (2020, July 12). Child rights, protection and governance. LRF. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from

Sabreen, M. S. (2017). The Age of Criminal Responsibility and its Effect on Dispensation of Justice. Pakistan Law Review, VIII, 104–122.

Sadruddin, M. M. S. (2011). Study on the Important Issues of Child Rights in Pakistan. The Dialogue, VI(1), 13–30.

Younus, S. Y., Chachar, A. S. C., & Mian, A. M. (2018). Child protection in Pakistan: Legislation & implementation. PAKISTAN JOURNAL OF NEUROLOGICAL SCIENCES, 13(2), 1–4.



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Coordinator - Tibet Team

Mandakini graduated with honours from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Her team analyses the human rights violations faced by Tibetans through a legal lens.

Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

Gabriela Johannen is a lawyer admitted to the German bar and holds extensive knowledge in the fields of human rights, refugee law, and international law. After working for various courts and law firms in her home country, she decided to obtain an LL.M. degree from Utrecht University where she studied Public International Law with a special focus on Human Rights. Additionally, while working as a pro-bono legal advisor for refugees, she expanded her knowledge in the fields of refugee law and migration.

Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

Lina Borchardt
Team Head (Promotions)

She is currently heading the Promotions Team and University Chapter of Global Human Rights Defence. Her background is the one of European and International Law, which I am studying in The Hague. She has previously gained experience at Women´s Rights organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey over the past years.
She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

Wiktoria Walczyk
Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.


Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.