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Runaway Children: Causes and Strategies for Protection

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Published: Tue, 20 Feb 2018

Abstract

Surprisingly there is less knowledge to our public of the significance of runaway children and their problems particularly in less developed Asian countries which include Pakistan. A general statistics collected by the police department which is not an exact estimate and this wrong data might lead to this problem being intense. Subsequently, with elapsing time this problem is becoming more serious due to deteriorating financial and political condition and coming into consideration of the government. Therefore the government of Punjab with help of UNICEF on 17 March 2003 at Lahore initiated an organization named (CPWB) Child Protection and Welfare Bureau. This is the most renowned organization operating presently in Pakistan dealing with the problems of runaway children quite efficiently with foreign helps on a large scale. It is aimed for the recovery, rescue, and rehabilitation of poor and destitute children involved in abuse, beggary, burglary, neglected and exploitation by adults. A number of institution of CP and WP are being operated in major cities of Pakistan which include 2 branches in Lahore, Gujranwala, Multan ad Faisalabad.

Acknowledgements

With the name of ALLAH ALMIGHTY we were able to finish our research paper. This research was conducted with the support of the organization named CHILD PROTECTION AND WELFARE BUREAU. We greatly thank the staff members of CP & WB for the cooperation. Special thanks is placed to “ Mr. Roa Khalil Ahmad” the “Assistant Director” for guiding us throughout our visit to the Bureau and arranging a productive interview with “Muhammad Amin Malik” the “Child Protection Officer” of the bureau. Responsibility of the research paper remains with the group members which include “Furqan Fasahat”, “Kanza Munir”, “Sana Rizwan”, “Maliha Zahid” and “Amna Mahmood”.

Problems of runaway children

The term “Runaway Children” is referred to those kids or youngsters who have been found missing from home for about a few days. This is a voluntary act by the children who face miserable financial and family issues which cause them to leave their homes and become a part of public places.

Due to lack of knowledge and understanding the concept or idea of lost and missing children is less acknowledged among people of Pakistan, although it is a serious issue which is considerably growing with time. In Pakistan there is less documentation in the relevant department which lead to lack of essential information on this serious social issue.

This has been under notice by UNICEF for a long period of time because this problem is quite serious and prevalent in Asian countries especially Pakistan being a less developed nation is a major victim of it. As the financial and political conditions of Pakistan are deteriorating with time this problem has come under notice by the Government of Pakistan from recent years and necessary steps have been taken at a large scale in order to deal with this problem.

All the children are in growing process so it is natural that they are emotionally immature. In this developing age appropriate freedom for communication and proper space to express their emotions and views should be provided. When this lacks and no family support is provided a feeling of loneliness cause them to runaway.

Runaway is regarded as a serious social issue. The children who leave their homes voluntarily face miserable domestic conditions which are at times intolerable. The experiences faced by these runaway children include neglect ion, physical and sexual abuse, parental disputes which gives a sense of insecurity, sibling rivalry, failure in studies or exams and the fear of parents.

The first, foremost subtopics under consideration which are to be researched are the causes and circumstances which cause the young children to run away from their homes. This is assigned to Maliha Zahid. The second subtopic which needs to be discussed is the problems faced by children when they run away and this will be covered by M. Furqan Fasahat. The third domain which is important is the effects on the society and to be done by Amna Mahmood. Moreover, the NGOs are to be researched for this topic, and its role played in the dealing with this issue in Lahore and is worked upon by Sana Rizwan. Lastly, the criminal activities in which these children get involved will be discussed by Kanza Munir.

These above stated aspects will be worked upon by us in this research project. This topic is quite vast and more areas can also be covered to enhance the research which includes that do the children desire to go back home, or prefer living in other places. Furthermore, the research can be further enhanced by looking into the struggle of parents in finding their missing children. But these aspects are not to be discussed or researched.

Literature Review

The topic being focused in our research is “Runaway Children”. The forces and circumstances responsible for runaway, practice by children, and their rescue and protection against exploitation.

According to Rana Asif Habib, convener of initiator, there are around 10000 children in Pakistan who live in the streets. A research conducted revealed that among the runaway children 66% are victim of violence at home, education center and work place. Only in Karachi, 30000 of these children are deprived of homely comfort and are exposed to drug and sexual abuse. In order to protect, the need of legislation on child right is stressed. At least in Punjab there is a Bill of 2004 for “Destitute and Neglected Children Protection”, whereas other provinces are without any legislation. Therefore shelters and rehabilitation centers must be set up and run by state, health services and education facilities must be provided to the destitute children. On the recommendation of the UNCRC committee drafted a bill which is further waiting for legislation regarding child rights.()

The Pakistan Penal Code section 89 has made corporal punishment lawful which rather spoils the confidence of child to exist as a respectable person. It plays rather a negative role and discourages children from going to schools. Humaira Butt, SPARC School Project coordinator, said that there must be other ways besides corporal punishment, which can be effective in making discipline. It is revealed that because of corporal punishment 50% of the children runaway from schools and increases the rate of runaway children.

The most common reason why children run away is divorce and parental disputes. The second danger is the pressure of “predators” present everywhere in our community, and it’s difficult to recognize them as they look like the “guy next door”. The next is the abduction of children by their non custodial parents for using them for their own selfish interest. Fourthy many children are abducted and sold for body parts due to the underground business in practice on internet. Young girls are in danger of being kidnapped and sold for prostitution. Many children run away because of abuse and neglect by their foster parents. In developed countries like USA an “Amber Alert” system in developed. “Police can act on tips to locate a missing child” which is encouraging.

The article deals with an encouraging factor that the director of the film Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle, and the producer, Christian Colson, set up a charity trust Jai Ho for helping poor children in Mumbai, India.

The NCRC bill does not enjoy redressal power and same is with NCCWD. Problems in budget allocation in the health and education sector for children also exits. The committee is against the tendency of corporal punishment giving to school going children, because it lowers the literacy rate further in Pakistan. Another tragedy is the non registration of 70% of children at the time of birth, and the bonded labor practices in many industries and informal sectors, affecting the poorest and most vulnerable children prohibiting slavery and all form of forced labor. Though Employment of Children Act 1991 exists yet the awareness is non existent so no one report to the police and judiciary. The Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) is deeply concerned that the minimum age of criminal responsibility continues to remain very low (7 years) therefore government should raise it to an internationally acceptable level. The number of children in prisons is high and number of juvenile courts, trained lawyers and probation officers is insufficient.

Faisal Kamal Pasha and Obaid Abrar Khan, Friday, September 11, 2009. The News

It is told that Pirwadhai bus stand provide information’s that mostly there runaway belongs to families facing object poverty, illiterate and orphans. These children get involved in drugs and some are addicts of sniffing an adhesive. The city police officer Rao Muhammad Iqbal said that these children are sent to the Child Protection and Welfare Bureau. The CP and WB have recovered 1251 children from March 2008 as reported.

Edhi, the social worker of Edhi Foundation, arranged a bus from Karachi to Lahore to recruit children who were lost or had run away. Social worker says that Pakistan has a large population of runaway children or lost children, estimating their number at more than 20,000. Naveed Hasan Khan of Azad Foundation estimates that there are 13,000 to 15,000 in Karachi alone and the number in increasing. The UN, UNICEF estimates that there are 10,000 in Karachi. Due to poverty some parents are reluctant to receive their children from Edhi Homes, and also some children do not want to go back.

The articles reviewed in this research give the factual detail regarding the certain barriers which contradict the final solution of the problems. Though the NGO’s and social workers work with vigor to eradicate this evil yet the responsibility of the state is the first and foremost demand. Government institutions like Police and judiciary must play its adequate role required for addressing the cases with iron hands. Budget must be allocated to the centers of rehabilitation to let the victims get protection. Social values must be up held, especially at the domestic front. Parents and relatives must perform their duty towards small children. Instead of fighting on their own disputes the must be forced to safeguard the basic rights of their of springs. After all the parents are responsible for the upbringing of children, if they cannot take care of the tender hearts why at all they had the privilege to be called parents. Poverty must be lessened and education be made accessible to all in order to stop children runaway.

Research Questions

Domain Questions:

  • What are the causes and circumstances of running away?
  • What are the problems faced by children who runaway?
  • What role is played by the NGO’s for supporting runaway children?
  • What are the effects on the society of these runaway children?
  • What kind of criminal activities take place?

Subsidiary questions:

  • What are the major reasons for running away from home and family
  • Which is the most common age for running away
  • Description of the abuses and strange experiences faced by children which caused them to runaway
  • Where do the children go after running away?
  • How do these children survive?
  • How are they treated by the people around the outside world?
  • What difficulties are faced by them?
  • How do the bureau contact their parents?
  • What type of background do these children have?
  • How the NGO support them?
  • How is the issue handled by the ngo’s?
  • What is their behavior when they are rescued by the organization?
  • What problems the organization face in handling such children?
  • From where do these children come from?
  • What are the social effects on the society of street children?
  • Details of the main places in Lahore for runaway children.
  • Description of the psyche of runaway children
  • What are the measures and steps taken for these runaway children
  • Who helps in promoting criminal activities?
  • What incentives are provided to such children?
  • Reasons for being involved in criminal activities?
  • Which sector of the society is involved in exploiting these children?

Research and methodology

While the research was conducted, the first visit to the bureau was dated 26-03-2011 but it was not much productive. Only a meeting with the assistant director “Rao Khalil Ahmad” was possible in which the main topic of the research, goals and the purpose of visit was explained. In addition, a copy of interview question which were to be asked by the organization representative and the runaways, were handed over and the date and time of the interview was assigned by the assistant director. In exchange a handout of brief history, background and establishment of the bureau was given. The assigned date of the interview was 02-04-2011 and proved successful. The Child Protection Officer, “Muhammad Amin Malik” gave a well prepared and satisfactory interview which greatly helped in the research paper. The interview involved all the group members of which four were asking questions and one was busy in recording the movie of the interview. The answers of the interview questions were noted on the interview sheets provided by the instructor and were later signed and stamped by the CPO person. Second interview was with the runaway children in the bureau and while moving to the department of children the surroundings of the organization were keenly observed. Each child was asked similar questions, that is reason for running away, strange experiences if any, any involvement in criminal activities etc. Moreover, 20 questionnaires were prepared and filled in by the general public and the sample included students of LSE and family members.

The interview with the CPO provided ample information relating to the organization, history and background of the problem plus the bureau. Different experiences quoted by affected children were separated related to each domain and helped in analyzing the topic well. The annual report of bureau provided exact facts, figures, dates and statistical information in detail of the organization. The answers of the filled questionnaires were decoded in Microsoft Excel and statistically analyzed in Stat graphics.

Analysis of data and discussion

Causes and reasons

Children who run away from home are typically fueled by an overload of depression, anxiety, a sense of loneliness and alienation from their families and society. These kids often feel as if they have little support in times of trouble and no where to run when things get tough. Unfortunately for some children, parents realize too late there’s a problem and the child ends up a runaway on the streets. Many children run away because their parents or legal guardian abuse and belittle or neglected them. (Anonymous, 2011). The precise number of runaway children in Lahore, or across the country is unknown. Estimates by organizations working with street children suggest there are at least 5,000 in the city at any one time, with the largest number based on Data Durbar or on the railway station. The charitable Eidhi foundation , which houses runaway children and attempts to unite them with parents estimates there are at least 10,000 such children in Karachi alone. By the end of 2003 there had been 30% increase across the country in children leaving homes. They leave mostly due to domestic violence or acute social economic hardships (focus on runaway children, report, 2004 September, 8). The survey carried out on runaway children in which people where asked that would they leave there home if they have lack of resources and love, approximately 80% children disagreed on this, while 25% agree on this. According to the survey boys run away from home more than girls as boys are more aggressive and its difficult for them to control their anger . most of the children run in the age group between 10 to 16 and the main reason for running is parent dispute (appendix A and C).The first thing which comes in our mind is, who are runaway children and how can a child run from his home. What are the causes and reason due to which a child leaves his home? Home! the place which is known as heaven on earth. How this heaven becomes hell for that child? Are children forced to leave the home or they leave it by themselves. Children are innocent figure how they can be ready to face the difficulties of the evil world outside their home or the home they are leaving in is actually filled with evil people? Where these children go after running from their homes and what sort of difficulties they face. How does NGOs help them and rescue these sorts of children. In which sort of criminal activates these children usually get involved and what sort of impact these children have on society as these children are the future of our nation. To get answer of all these questions our group carried out a research on this topic as it’s the most important problem which are society is facing. The domain of my topic is causes and reasons due to which children leave their home. Nowadays( Renee, 2000) the reason for leaving home are far more tragic, things such as seriously eroded family condition where children feel neglected or unloved or they are abused. Children feel that if they don’t run away they may end up dead. According to Dr Krishna Prasad, (2000) said all children are basically insecure, as they are emotionally immature. This immaturity is a part of the growing process. Each day they become more and more secure if the family is a close knit one with enough freedom for communication and emotional expression. Thus children runaway due to different reasons such as constant quarrels of parents ,causing insecurity and hatred in child’s heart , if they feel unloved , fear of physical danger like father beating the child for wrong doing, fear that there would be withdrawal of emotional support for wrong doings.( 2000,runaway syndrome, psychology4all.com ) . Runaway children belong to different classes and have different reasons for running. Most of them belong to lower class. Children run from villages and come to cities as they think they can earn more money and live a better life. But after leaving their homes they get into wrong hands and get involved in criminal activities.

Poverty is one of the main cause due to which 60% of the children leave their homes as there is no concept of family planning in our country(Pakistan) that’s why the budget is more than the income ,so it is not possible for a poor person to fulfill his family’s needs. As the person can not fulfill his children’s wants and needs so he forces them to earn many in any case. For this reason the children try to earn money from illegal ways such as they get involved into criminal activities, they start begging, stealing etc. many children don’t want to work and so they end up leaving their homes because for them it is the last option. . In a recent interview conducted from a runaway child (Personal communication, March 26, 2011), named Ahmed Raza he told that he left his home due to the bad conditions of his home. He had 3 brothers and 4 sisters, so it was difficult for his father to support such a huge family that’s why his father used to beat him and told him to do work and earn money but he didn’t wanted to do that, so he left his home. Sometimes a child doesn’t want to leave home but he is forced by his family members to do so as they don have enough money to fulfill their basic needs so they leave them to different NGOs. Or sell them to people so they can use the children for illegal things. I witnessed this thing myself when I visited child protection bureau (CPB). A man came along with her daughter to leave her to the government department, that girl was crying and saying that she didn’t wanted to stay there his father said that he would come to meet her. The man took some money from the employee of bureau and left her there. When investigated from the people of bureau they said that the girl had ran from the place she used to work and that the man rescued her and came to drop her to the NGO so they can find her parents and send her back. . The organization was double-dealing or not I don’t have any idea but I observed it. Many children run due to their father or mother mite be ill or having a swear disease which may also be caused due to poverty. Poverty is one thing which can ruin a blissful family just with in no time. In a recent interview conducted from an employee (Mohamed Amin Malik), working in a government department (CBI), told that a child, whom their team rescued, on asking the reason of leaving home he told that her father had cancer and he had three sisters and its very difficult for him to support them so he ran from home to get some work, so that he can help out this family.

According the child protection officer (CPO) of CPB, the main reason due to which children runaway from home is due to neglect ion which is caused due to broken family or if the child is orphan and lives with his relatives . A child needs both mother and father’s love and care but if one isn’t present they mite not feel secure and would feel unloved and if both are not present then their life becomes miserable. There differen5t cases in broken families, sometime father had done second marriage and doesn’t allow the child t o meet his mother and the stepmother can be bad with the child so the child have only one way out that he should leave that hell. In recent interview (Personal communication, March 26, 2011) conducted from a runaway child who was not normal child. He told that he ran from his home because his father used to hit him and didn’t allowed him to meet his mother, so he ran from home because he wanted to live with his mother but as he was not normal he was unable to find his mother. the second reason due to which children run from their home is when their parents are no longer in the world to take care of them and they live with there grandparents , aunts or other relatives . What may come relatives can not draw a comparison with parents. If a child lives with his aunt she can never gives her/him proper time , care and love as she gives to her own children due to this the child feel neglected.. Some relatives also take work from the children and also abuse them if they don’t do work they abuse them due to these reasons the child end up leaving that place .A.Akbar (Personal communication, March 26, 2011) told that he had three brothers and one sister . His parents were dead and he used to leave with his aunt. His aunt didn’t wanted him to live with her; she used to beat him so he left that place .When he was rescued by the CPB ,they informed his aunt that Akbar is with us but she refused to take him back .

There are many different reasons due to which children leave their home .Sometimes its not big reason due to which children leave their homes but unfortunately it becomes. children are innocent and if parents only yell at them they get hurt and just leave their home and go to their relatives or friends place it’s the duty of relatives or friends to report their parents if their child comes to their place other then giving him more liability.

Sometimes children run if their parent doesn’t give them proper time as they give to their other siblings. In this way the child feel neglected and start hating his parents and run from his home although he isn’t aware of the after affects of this. Children may run due to fight between siblings and parent doesn’t stop them from doing this. They may take their fight as a normal thing but it can make a huge disaster. Many children run because they don’t want to study and their parents beat them if they don’t get good results. If a child fails he/she gets scared that his/her parents would beat him/her, so only one option is left for him/her to run away from his home.

A person is recognized by the companionship he possesses. One of the reason due to which children run away from home is peer influence. If they belong to a bad company the chances of running increases. Nowadays children listen more to their friends then to their parents. Kasim (Personal communication, March 26, 2011) told that he came to data durbar with his friends to eat rice and the CPB team rescued him from there. He just came to enjoy with his friends from his home town (Jarawaral). When investigated from the bureau people they told that the boy had ran twice from his home and the main reason due to which he ran is that he doesn’t want to do work so he ran from home with his friends

There are many different cases due to which children run from their homes from which some of the reasons and causes have been explained after research. This problem is still not solved and increasing day by day. Measures should be taken to solve this problem other wise it would become havoc for our society. Though runaway has become a serious problem , we as adults are able to control it by understanding the hearts of children and giving them loving care .it is possible to change the way of thinking, behavior and emotional status of children while they are growing .(runaway children-an overview ,2008)

Problems faced after running away

The literal meaning of runaway children are the kids who voluntarily are found missing from their homes at least a few days without taking permission from their parents or caretaker usually due to intolerant domestic conditions or violence The topic of research paper is Run Away Children, and the domain on which the research is being conducted is problems faced by these run away children after running away from their homes.

According to the Child Protection Officer, Muhammad Ameen Malik (Child Protection Center, Shalamar), there have been thirty two thousand two hundred and eighty four children rescued from 2005 till now. However according to the UNICEF report there are forty thousand still on streets who are either forced or have deliberately left their homes. The runaway ratio is increasing year by year and is around forty to fifty percent. Run away cases are mostly from the cities of Punjab and Sindh. These children are mostly from the lower middle class families who have low family income and are suffering from continuous family problems. The main reasons that force these children to run away can be listed as parental dispute, peer pressure, poverty, siblings’ rivalry and work pressure.

In certain cases parental dispute exceeds to such an extent that the small minds of children get confused. They become victims of fear of the breakage in the parent’s relationship. The frequent clashes, disagreements and constant turmoil spoil the inner happiness of young hearts, because they demand peace, love and attention which do not exist. Their dream of a happy home shatters and they shun all negative and leave. Work and peer pressure are also a major reason of running away. Often boy at the age of seven or eight years are forced by their parents to work and earn money for their livelihood. Some of them are sent to workshops and others to road side inns, where the heartless cruel owners, the so called “ustad jee”, treat these innocent souls ruthlessly. Often being punished by these “masters”, and consistently rebuked. These small bread winners of the house get over matured before time, discuss things with their co-workers about the luxuries and freedom of others boys of their age enjoy. Often they see kids of their own age traveling in large cars and being pampered by their parents. As a result they revolt. They are left with no other alternative and in search of a better life they run away without realizing the true nature of the city life where wolfs are ready to maltreat them. One reason is an unhealthy criticism regarding education and other attributes. This can be classified as siblings’ rivalry. At times parents start comparing their own children with one another. Often the younger brother feels that he has no importance in the family because he faces discouragement at every spot. In order to prove his strength he decides to go to his own way to at least avoid a situation where he imagines himself as unwanted and disrespected, which gives rise to hatred and the ignorant figure. Poverty is the most imminent reason behind this misfortune. In poverty stricken homes the inhabitants loses human compassion and becomes distrustful for other members of the family unit. Complaint of lack of food, clothes, education and shelter snatches away love and cares of a demanding and eager child. Moreover the constant insult and thrashing contribute in creating a breach and results breaking up the links.

Due to the reasons mentioned above children leave their homes. The question now arises that how do these children leave their cities? What mean of transport do they use to do this? And where do these children finally land up? According to the interviews conducted and the information collected from the management of the Child Protection Center these run away children acquired different modes of transport. Mostly they sit in trains from their local railway stations having no knowledge of their next destination. They are often drifted along on different directions, friendless and penniless. In an alien environment these fear stricken ignorant beings, in search of shelter, roam about from one place to another in quest of being recognized and acknowledged by the big city’s complex activities. And from here their difficult entourage of life takes a new turn.

After leaving homes there is danger awaiting at every step. The basic problem faced by these children is shelter, and then comes the problem of hunger. Both of these create havoc in life of these runaways. In our Islamic God fearing society the problem of hunger can be met by visiting certain center of free food but shelter is next to impossible. This shows these children the truth that they stand nowhere, no identification, no background and devoid of love and affection, they now have to make their own way into life yet threatened by dangers at every step. During day time they stay on roads but long nights are difficult to spend. They sleep on footpaths and outside the garden walls and later make friendship with other vagabonds, and tramps. The pangs of hunger force them to do all sorts of labor sometimes wiping the screen of cars and collecting pennies in return for buying food. Moral and social destructions are the consequences they face, finally one by one entangled by all bad habits. Another problem faced by the runaway children is they join the gang of villains who wickedly train these children as street beggars. At every crossing on traffic signals small children comes up asking for money which is not for their own use but to satisfy the whims of the criminal minded gangsters, thus entering into the hideous world of sinful people. Victimized by the wicked people all sorts of abuse they are exposed to and thus pay the price of leaving the security of their homes. Destruction then has no limits, sometimes these children are arrested by police and are sent to prison but police again cannot put a check on their activities. Thus they grow up as criminals and plague the society. Many of these children also get involved in drugs. Most of the beggars turns into hideous sinful criminal and are also found addicted to drugs. They are involved in selling drugs to students and youngsters. This deadly poison destroys the health and becomes the cause of many fatal consequences. They not only spoil their own life but involve the future of our nation, the youth, by exposing them to drug addiction.

The runaway children in the Child Protection Center helped in doing the research properly. The children interviewed were five in number of different ages, different backgrounds and different reason for running away. One of the children was 10 years old; he said that his step mother beats him so he ran away from home. When asked the question of what


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