Street Children in Pakistan

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Children (under 18 years) who spend most of their time on the streets. There are between 10 to 100 million street children worldwide, depending on the exact definition used. The target group is homeless and vulnerable street children including their families, who are at high risk of exploitation and physical and emotional abuse, especially through forced commercial sex and violence in the streets.


"Street children" is a term often used to describe both market children (who work in the streets and markets of cities selling or begging, and live with their families) and homeless street children (who work, live and sleep in the streets, often lacking any contact with their families). At highest risk is the latter group. Murder, consistent abuse and inhumane treatment are the "norm" for these children, whose ages range from six to 18. They often resort to petty theft and prostitution for survival. They are extremely vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. An estimated 90% of them are addicted to inhalants such as shoe glue and paint thinner, which cause kidney failure, brain damage and, in some cases, death.

Street Living Children: children who cut ties with their families and live alone on the streets •20% girls
Mostly 12-18 years old

Street Working Children: children who spend all their time or most of their time working on the streets to provide income for their families or for themselves. These children have a home to return to and do not usually sleep on the streets. •50% girls

Mostly 6 to 15 years old

Children of Street Living Families: children who live with their family on the streets. •50% girls
All ages


Street children are those for whom the street (in the widest sense of the word, i.e. unoccupied dwellings, wasteland, etc.) more than their family has become their real home, a situation in which there is no protection, supervision, or direction from responsible adults. Out-of-school children often live in dreadful conditions and are victims of abuse. Many of them suffer from various diseases due to these conditions. Many have hardly been to school or no longer go to school. If these children survive hunger, thirst, dangerous and badly paid jobs, prostitution, sexual abuse, diseases, exclusion, police harassment, problems with the law, imprisonment, drugs, and household "jobs" that are really little more than slavery, they will grow up illiterate adults, and alienated from a society that failed to protect them. Children in these situations often have limited or no access to the formal education system due to poverty, discrimination, lack of identity papers, inflexible school timings, direct and indirect school fees.

It is often assumed that the problem of street children originates through the totality of urban problems, and that the phenomenon is exclusively urban: there are no "rural street children." However, while it is true that Pakistan’s street children are usually found in its urban concentrations (e.g. Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore etc.), many of these children have rural origins. Some of the children have taken refuge in the city from natural or man-made disasters. A large proportion comes from urban slums and townships, and from broken homes or female-headed households. Some of them may have been abandoned by their families but many of them run away from home because of abusive and exploitative family relations. Others come to the cities by themselves, drawn by friends and/or the glamour and promise of city life. The table below summarizes the reasons given by street children as to why they were on the streets.


For decades, Pakistan has focused on urbanization- locating industries in major towns and cities, an unequal distribution of resources with a marked...
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