Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16754 Child Protection Policy In Pakistan-Concept Matters

Thursday, January 12, 2012: 2:30 PM
Constitution C (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Tahira Jabeen, MSW & Master in Public Policy, PhD scholar, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
Evidence suggests that child protection systems around the world are underpinned by a narrow conceptualisation of the individual-psychological model in which state intervene to investigate the incidence, rescue the children and treat the pathological behaviour of the abusers. However, such cases are comparatively rare. Most cases involve broader acts of omission or commission caused by socioeconomic and structural factors. A system addressing these issues would conceptualise child protection more broadly. Such broader conceptualisation is even important for developing countries of the global South for reasons including the large percentage of the world's children living in the South,enormous protection issues,and resources constraints in these countries. However, there is little research on this issue from the countries of the South like Pakistan. I sought to answer the broader research question, 'how do policy makers in Pakistan conceptualize child protection?' by gathering data on sub-questions including the priority child protection issues for Pakistan; how these issues are decided, defined and interpreted; assumptions about childhood and child protection behind these definitions; and missing issues. I used three research strategies: i) in-depth interviews, ii) documents analysis, and iii) media coverage analysis. While the first strategy provided access to the ideas of policy makers, the second helped explore the translation of individual ideas into official policy. With time and resource constraints involved, the third was useful in; providing, though crude, alternative for non-existent ‘incidence and prevalence' studies of child maltreatment; and making available a ‘comparative' of how far policy makers' conceptualisation reflects the existing realities. Four major themes emerged in terms of findings; first, various protection issues including child labour, corporal punishment and harmful traditional practices such as child marriage are widespread. However, official recognition of these issues is gradual, starting early 2000s only. Second, the membership of the child protection policy community is ‘elitist' not only in expertise and authority claims, but also in that all the members (politicians, bureaucrats, civil society representatives) belong to the small aristocracy of Pakistan representing a population one-third of which lives below the poverty line. Third, child protection policy is yet at the stage, where most conceptual issues are highly contested involving competing ideologies of culture, religion and international child rights standards. It also involves social and structural issues such as status of children in society and re/distribution of resources as means of child protection. Last, the policy response has been to avoid the fundamental ideological questions and settle issues on ad-hoc basis. This resulted in policy & practice which is neither based on individualistic models nor does address the structural causes of protection issues. These findings have implications for child protection policy, practice and research in Pakistan. It implies that policy makers had to reflect on ideological issues and settle them to formulate a relevant policy, and to take into account contextual factors including the institutional arrangements and socioeconomic forces. It also highlights the need of ‘incidence and prevalence' studies to realize the seriousness of the issue and to find concrete basis for state policy.
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