Child-friendly courts

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IN a country where the child rights debate has been a belated one, it is heartening to note that a recent Supreme Court judgement calls for the state to establish child-friendly courts with specially trained judges. The apex court recognised that the welfare of minors should be `the foundational principle` in settling custody matters. `It is the duty of the courts to assess and determine a course that would have served the best interest of the minors,` observed Justice Athar Minallah in the order. The verdict came on a family dispute instituted by a petitioner to challenge a Lahore High Court decision, which upheld granting custody to the father. In addition, other aspects the impact of the court atmosphere, specialised training for judges, provision of childcare and Article 35 of the Constitution, whereby the state is obligated to `protect the marriage, the family, the mother and the child` were also accentuated, making it a significant ruling for children.

These considerations must be applied on a war footing because effects of trauma become visible in later years, often jeopardising the potential of youngsters. Moreover, empathy and sensitivity should be extended to every `child in conflict with the law`, such as juveniles, witnesses and victims. First, the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance, 2000, an exemplary law, which defines protections with the aim to rehabilitate juveniles in society, has to be enforced so that children are not subjected to handcuffs, corporal punishment, labour and harsh sentences. Instead, their medical and legal aid, special courts, speedy trials and protected identity are ensured by the state. Second, supplementary measures art therapy to assuage angst and a video link facility for a child`s deposition to avoid contact between the child, offender and witness are imperative for confident and productive generations. Lastly, every citizen should be familiar with child protection laws so that our most precious resource is never vulnerable.

Acknowledgement: (Editorial) Published in Dawn News on 3rd June 2024.
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