History and Back ground:
Camel racing is known as popular entertaining sport in the Middle Eastern States, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE); where climate is hot, terrain is dry and most of the land is desert. Camel Racing involves the jockeys aging from 4 to 10 years old children who are ruthlessly tied to the Camels to run in deserts on certain tracks; where these children are usually crushed under the feet of contesting Camels.
In order to manage these children, children trafficking of four to ten years old from Pakistan and other South Asian mostly under developing, has become a common practice for last three decades. Yet, most of the studies done in this context, cover issues like reasons for trafficking, target communities from where children have been trafficked, routes of trafficking etc. However no report yet could empathize with the innocent & victim children being used as the camel jockeys in such areas because a comprehensive investigative report was missing describing the situation of these helpless and small children.
Human-trafficking has become a grave concern for the Government of Pakistan particularly and World’s civil societies generally. Over a million people are reportedly trafficked each year; women and children are alarmingly noticed as the main victims. The reasons sorted out for human-trafficking are prostitution, bonded labor etc. Lack of individual liberty and hazardous, exploitative working environments are the major concerns in human trafficking; indicating the straightened violation of human rights. Children abducted or taken from Pakistan to convert them to camel jockeys share large figures of human-trafficking.
Articles of UN Convention disproving child abuse
However with passage of time the international community has realized the magnitude of the problem and devised instruments to combat this menace. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Children (UNCRC) explicitly prohibits exploitation of children and recognizes their inherent need for special care, protection and upbringing within the family.
- Article # 6:
“Every child has the inherent right to life, and the state has an obligation to ensure the child’s survival and development.”
- Article # 9:
“The child has right to live with his or her parents unless this is deemed to be incompatible with the child’s best interest. The child also has the right to maintain contact with both parents if separated from one or both.”
- Article # 11:
“Te state has an obligation to prevent and remedy the kidnapping or retention of children abroad by parents or third party.”
- Article # 19:
”The state shall protect the child from all forms of maltreatment by parents or others responsible by parents or other responsible for the care of the child and establish appropriate social program for the prevention of abuse and the treatment of victims.”
- Article # 32:
“The child has the right to protected from work that threatens his or her health, education or development. The state shall set minimum ages for employment and regulate working conditions.”
- Article # 33:
“Children have the right to protection from the use of narcotics and psychotropic drugs, and from being involved in their production or distribution.”
- Article # 34:
“The state shall protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse, including prostitution and involvement in pornography.”
- Article # 35:
“It is the state’s obligation to make every effort to prevent the sale, trafficking and abduction of children.”
- Article # 36:
“The child has the right to protection from all forms of exploitation prejudicial to any aspects of the child’s welfare not covered in articles, 32, 33, 34 and 35.”
The above captioned articles of the convention illustrate that it is our collective responsibility to take care of children vis-à-vis all the state is responsible for protecting children from all forms of exploitation including sexual abuse, commercial exploitation, abusive labor. Being a party to UNCRC, Government of Pakistan has ratified the Optional Protocol on trading of children, child prostitution and child pornography. It has also ratified ILO Convention 182 on elimination of worst forms of child labor. However Pakistan has been categorized high among the countries of origin, transit and destination for women and children trafficked and exploited.
From where children are obtained?
It is a known fact that children are trafficked from Pakistan to rich Gulf States to indulge in so-called amusement of Camel racing. It has been observed that these children are mainly obtained from poor families in the southern part of Punjab province, and unfortunately this trade has been a cold-bloodedly continued for past so many decades. It is needed to be ponder upon that how many families have either willfully or involuntarily have lost their kids.
Who is responsible?
No Authenticated data over the volume of this trafficking is yet available due to merciless mafia involved in this nasty game. However there have been studies conducted; aimed at understanding some of the aspects i.e. impetus for trafficking, ultimate affected communities and the trafficking routes. None have focused on the children’s traumatic experience once they had been trafficked.
What Pakistani Government is doing?
The President of Pakistan promulgated prevention and control of human trafficking Ordinance on 3rd October 2002 to prevent and control human trafficking to protect and assist victims of trafficking. The penalty marked out is a fine and prison sentenced of 7-10 years. Further in May 2005, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have signed and agreement to help return the re-integrate under age camel racers to their native countries. The UNICEF and Government of UAE and Pakistan took joint responsibility to ensure immediate actions undertaken for smooth repatriation of these children with their families and communities. Since the large majority of children are from the Punjab, the Government of Pakistan gave this important mandate to the provincial government of Punjab and in particular its Child protection and Welfare Bureau (CPWB), Lahore.
Media Coordinator, Child Protection and Walfare Bureau, Lahore