The Express Tribune Editorial 18 September 2019

UN report on Rohingya crisis

 

The warning carried in a recent UN report is pretty loud and clear: as many as 600,000 Rohingya Muslims still living in Myanmar face a “serious risk of genocide”. They are the ones who failed to escape the August 2017 military-led offensive in the Aung San Suu Kyi’s homeland. It is understandable, therefore, why nearly a million Rohingya refugees — who managed to find shelter in Bangladesh two years back — prefer the inhuman and insecure camp life there to a return journey to Myanmar. For many in these squalid camps, Bangladesh still feels like paradise, compared to Myanmar. Thus, the repatriation deal signed between Myanmar and Bangladesh, the country that hosts most of the Rohingya refugees, in November 2017 has been literally dead ever since.
The UN report issued in Geneva validates the repatriation fears of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, stressing that the “deplorable” and “deteriorating” situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state makes it “impossible” for the fleeing population to return. The report prepared by a fact-finding mission of the world body after interviewing nearly 1,300 witnesses says sexual and gender-based violence by the Myanmar military “remains a prominent feature of conflicts” in Shan and Kachin states. The mission report says that the evidence gathered by it has been passed to a new investigative mechanism for Myanmar which will support any future prosecution in international courts.
The Myanmar military offensive against Rohingya is a textbook example of ethnic cleansing with soldiers involved in rape, murder, burning down of entire villages, planting landmines, and using civilians as slave labour. The sheer barbarism being endured by these stateless people cannot be overemphasised. The UN report must not be rendered a mere file material, and must help wake up the world to what is regarded as the gravest crimes against civilians under the international law.

 

 

Ending corporal punishment

 

The inhumane practice of inflicting corporal punishment on students prevails in Pakistan, though it is banned in many other countries of the world. Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international rights organisation, has urged the Government of Pakistan to take measures to end corporal punishment in schools across the country. Mentioning the case of Hunain Bilal, a 17-year-old student in Lahore who died on Sept 5 of injuries after his teacher allegedly severely beat him, HRW called on the government to “act urgently to end abuse in schools and create a safe environment for Pakistani children to learn without having to fear for their lives.” According to reports, Hunain had failed to memorise a lesson and his teacher punched him repeatedly, grabbed his hair and hit him against the wall. The teacher is reported to be in the habit of severely beating students and for this he was removed from the job, but returned after six months. The boy’s father has also claimed that his son was being harassed for non-payment of school fee. He said the fee was deposited on the day the boy died.
In a statement, HRW said Hunain’s death was the most recent and egregious instance of the widespread problem of corporal punishment in Pakistan’s schools. “Beatings leave students frightened, sometimes injured, and unable to learn effectively, making it more likely that they leave school. Pakistan faces an education emergency. Nearly 22.5 million Pakistan children are out of school, most of them girls, and corporal punishment remains a significant reason,” the statement said. Quoting data from Society for the Protection of the Rights of Child, HRW said it showed corporal punishment caused up to 35,000 children to drop out of school every year. It drew the government’s attention that the federal minister for human rights last year had proposed legislation seeking to end corporal punishment in the country. We should strive to establish a society where the mind is without fear and the head is held high

 

 

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As if a woman taking a veil or draping herself in a chador will remain safe from harassment, the government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa came up with an order on Monday meant to tackle the mounting menace – only to be withdrawn the same day, due to widespread public criticism. As if the problem is with the victim, the order made it mandatory for female students at public schools to cover themselves up with a gown, an abaya or a chador “in order to protect them from any unethical incident” during school timings and while on the way to school from home and back.

The provincial government devised this ‘cover-up’ for catering to the “doubts raised by parents about the safety of their children”, simply ignoring the fact that if at all, this fabric shield solution will subscribe only to girl students, and that too at public schools. What about the girl students enrolled at private schools as well as the boys who are equally vulnerable to the heinous crime that’s so very prevalent in our society? According to a recent report by NGO Sahil, of the total number of child abuse cases in the country in the year 2018, about 49% involved male children.

It’s indeed unfortunate that while the child abuse cases were expected to fall in the wake of the Zainab rape and murder case that sparked widespread outrage and protests across the country at the advent of 2018, they have rather increased. Does that show that even a death penalty to an abuser is insufficient as a deterrent? Well, not exactly. This deterrence needs to be supplemented with many more measures under a comprehensive strategy to deal with the growing social evil.

Instead of applying a shallow solution – like the one that the K-P government tried to enforce – to a deeper problem, there is need to take a holistic approach. The state authorities and all others concerned must come up with a comprehensive strategy that entails strengthening the law, ensuring thick and fast convictions, and changing the societal mindset.

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