'c r e s k'  - "creating awareness" on Women and Child Rights, Consumer Rights, Environment Safety, Health, Hygiene and Pollution Control    
 
Human Rights - Child Rights in India
 
- A White Paper - July 2006
 
"Children have rights as human beings and also need special care and protection"

Acknowledgments

I thank the individuals for their valuable and generous assistance in the course of researching this report. I also thank and honour the many children who spoke with me, recounting their personal experiences of hardship. My special thanks to various governmental and non-governmental organisations from where I could collect the statistical data to compile this report.

References

Information and Statistics published by various governmental and non-governmental institutions including:

  • National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development

  • Ministry of Women & Child - Government of India

  • Department of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Human Resource Development - Government of India

  • Ministry of Labour & Employment - Government of India

  • Department of Elementary Education – Government of India

  • The Ministry of Social Justice  & Empowerment – Government of India

  • Child Rights Information Network (CRIN)

  • UNESCO

  • Committee on the Rights of the Child, United Nations

 Objective

 -         Promote and strengthen a culture of child rights in Indian society

-         Influence decision-making institutions for affect change in the best interest of the child

To explain the basic rights of children:

  • The right to survival - to life, health, nutrition

  • The right to development - to education, care

  • The right to protection - from exploitation, abuse, neglect

  • The right to participation - to expression, information and thought

 And provide recommendations to protect those rights.

The most important issues related to “Child Rights” in India are: 

  1. Child Education

  2. Child health and nutrition

  3. Child Labour

  4. Child Abuse & exploitation

  5. Torture in schools

Creating “Child Rights” awareness among the society is the first step towards Protecting and realizing children's rights.

“The goals of human development are deeply intertwined with the development and empowerment of women and children, as they together comprise significant proportion of the total population of the country as per the 2001 Census. Women as an independent group accounted for 495.74 million or 48.3%, whereas children (0-14 years) formed about 34% of the total population. These sections not only constitute the precious human resources of the country but their socio economic development sets the pace for the growth of the rest of the economy.”

- Department of Women and Child Development Annual Report - 2005-2006, Government of India - Ministry of Women & Child

As per the above report, India has 350+ million children, more than any other country in the world. Their condition has improved in the last five decades, with child survival rates up, school dropout rates down, and several policy commitments made by the government at the national and international levels. Resource allocations by the State, however, remain quite inadequate to take care of the survival and healthcare needs of infants and children, their education, development and protection.

There are more children under the age of fourteen in India than the entire population of the United States. The great challenge of India, as a developing country, is to provide nutrition, education and health care to these children. 

India has made some significant commitments towards ensuring the basic rights of children. There has been progress in overall indicators: infant mortality rates are down, child survival is up, literacy rates have improved and school dropout rates have fallen. But the issue of Child Rights in India is still caught between legal and policy commitments to children. 

Socio-economic factors must also be taken into account. The girl-child has a lower status in India and enjoys fewer rights, opportunities and benefits of childhood as compared to the boy-child. The boy-child has first right on family and community resources. The girl-child is also neglected in matters of feeding and health care. 

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which India has ratified, defines children as persons below the age of 18. However, in India there are several different definitions of the child. The Census of India defines children as those below the age of 14. But social scientists include females in the age group of 15-19 years in the girl-child demographic data.  

According to the Constitution of India (Article 23), no child below the age of 14 must be employed in a factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment. Article 45 says that the State will provide free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of 14.

The legal conception of a child varies, however. The age of majority is 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys under the Indian Majority Act. On the other hand, under the Indian Penal Code, the age of sexual consent for girls is 16 years.

These different age-specifics under different laws confound the very definition of a child.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child says in its Concluding Observations of January 2000: "In light of Article 1, the Committee is concerned that the various age limits set by the law are not in accordance with the general principles and other provisions of the Convention. Of particular concern to the Committee are the very low age of criminal responsibility under the Penal Code, which is set at seven years; and the possibility of trying boys between 16 and 18 years as adults. The Committee is concerned that there is no minimum age for sexual consent for boys. The Committee is further concerned that minimum-age standards are poorly enforced (e.g. the 1929 Child Marriages Restraint Act)."

Government Policy on Children

On November 20, 1989, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC). On January 26, 1990, the opening day of the session, 61 countries signed it. It came into force on September 2, 1990 with 20 ratifications. It covers all children under the age of 18 years, regardless of sex, colour, language, religion or race.

- United Nations

India ratified the CRC in 1992.

Several constitutional provisions protect the children of India. Among them: Article 15 affirms the right of the State to make special provision for women and children; Article 24 provides that no child below the age of 14 shall be employed to work…in any hazardous employment; Article 39(e) of the Directive Principles of State Policy provides that children of tender age should not be abused and that they should not be forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength; Article 39(f) requires children to be given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth be protected against exploitation and moral and material abandonment; Article 45 of the Directive Principles of State Policy provides for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14.

Prior to the Fifth Five Year Plan, the government's focus was on child welfare, through the promotion of basic minimum services for children. This culminated in the adoption of the National Policy for Children in 1974.

The Fifth Five Year Plan (1974-79) saw a shift of focus from welfare to development, and the integration and co-ordination of services after the launch of the Integrated Child Development Services, 1975.  

The Sixth Five Year Plan was the period of strengthening child welfare and development. It led to the spatial expansion and enrichment of child development services through a variety of programmes.

The focus of the Eighth Five Year Plan period (1992-97) shifted the focus to human development through advocacy, mobilisation and community empowerment. 

The Government of India has declared its commitment to every child in the Ninth Five Year Plan (1997-2002).  

But despite these laws, policies and commitments, what is the actual situation of India's children vis-à-vis health, education, early childhood care and protection? 

The government admits that the task of providing health care to 375 million children is an enormous challenge; especially since one-third of them live in conditions of abject poverty and neglect. 

The first six years in a child's life are crucial. It is in these years that the physical, cognitive, language and social development of the child is at its peak. Investment in early childhood care and education (ECCE) is essential. 

Investing in early childhood care and education means: comprehensive maternal care and entitlements; provision of crèches, child care, nutrition; immunisation and health care; pre-school education; protection and care to children; and creating child care services to release girls from sibling care responsibilities, so they can get an education. 

Education and Development 

Articles 28 and 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child recognise the right of children to education. The development of children is integrally linked to their right to education.

Article 28 makes it obligatory for State agencies to recognise the right of children to education. This is to be achieved on the basis of: equal opportunities; compulsory primary education freely available to all; secondary, higher education accessible to all children; educational and vocational information and guidance; measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and to reduce the drop out rates. 

By virtue of Article 29, State agencies agree that the education of the child shall be directed to the development of the child's personality, talents, and mental and physical abilities, to their fullest potential. 

In 1993, the Supreme Court clearly declared education a fundamental right. It said, "Though the right to education is not stated expressly as a fundamental right, it is implicit in and flows from the right to life guaranteed under Article 21." 

In spite of the achievements in health, nutrition and education, the government admits that the special needs and rights of children in difficult circumstances have remained "subdued" in the larger framework of meeting other basic needs of children. The National Plan of Action emphasises the need for tackling the root causes of such situations. 

The major constraint in providing services is the paucity of reliable data on children in difficult circumstances. Some of the data that is available is as follows, but it must be remembered that these data are guess-estimates and projections: 

The following groups of children have been included in this category by the Government of India: 

  • Children in labour

  • Street children

  • Children who are neglected  

  • Children who are physically or mentally challenged

  • Destitute children in need of adoption

  • Drug addicts

  • Children in prostitution

  • Children of prostitutes

  • Children of prisoners

  • Refugee children

  • Slum and migrant children

  • Convention on the rights of the child has provisions for all children who need protection.

 There are about 74.4 million children according to the National Labour Institute, who are neither enrolled in schools nor accountable for in the labour force. These are all potential child labourers. The 45 per cent of children who are out of school are also prospective child labourers.

 - National Labour Institute 

India has the dubious distinction of having the largest population of street children. Street children suffer from destitution, neglect, abuse and exploitation. It is estimated that in urban areas alone there are 11 million children on the streets. Of them 420,000 street children live in the six metropolitan cities of the country. 

Children of construction workers and migrant labourers are deprived of health, nutrition and education facilities.

Over the years there has been an increase in the number of child prostitutes. Government of India estimates put the number at 400,000. According to UNICEF, almost 15 per cent of prostitutes enter the profession before the age of 15 and 25 per cent enter between 15-18. A number of children in prostitution are children of prostitutes.

 - UNICEF

According to government estimates, at least 25,000 children are engaged in prostitution in the major metropolitan cities: Bangalore, Calcutta, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai. The Central Advisory Committee on Child Prostitution estimates this number at 100,000. Unofficial estimates say India has two million prostitutes, of whom 20 per cent are below 15. Almost all of them became victims of exploitation when they were children, i.e less than 15 years old. 

According to government estimates, one in every 10 children is born with, or acquires, a physical, mental or sensory disability. So India could have 12 million disabled children. 

Recommendations:

 At Society 

  • sexual education for children

  • punish those who commit the acts against child

  • create support centres for victims

  • set up free phone lines to break the silence

  • ensure children's safety

  • educate children about sexual violence

  • ratify and conform to laws protecting children

  • create preventative laws and disseminate information about them

  • create committees for eliminating violence against children

  • find healthy ways for children to spend their free time

  • limit TV Channels

  • forbid harmful traditional practices by law

  • launch awareness campaigns for the community

  • create local committees for child protection

 At work place, in the streets and in institutions

  • sensitise employers about child rights and consequences of corporal punishment to children

  • respect children

  • educate employers to listen to children

  • ensure children's safety at work

  • value alternative education methods

  • encourage and support the development of child led organisations

 At School

  • increase the number of education advisers and sensitise teachers about corporal punishment

  • create councils for discipline in schools that can work in partnership with children's organisations

  • establish and disseminate internal rules of conduct

  • sensitise education inspectors about corporal punishment

  • ensure children's security in schools

  • parents have to accompany younger children to school

  • offer alternative punitive measures

 At Home

  • sensitise parents about the consequences of violence against children

  • teach parents how to communicate with their children (parents' school)

  • prioritise dialogue with children

  • train them on education without violence

  • offer alternative disciplining methods

  • inform parents about child rights and laws that ban corporal punishment

  • alleviate poverty and increase family benefits for children

  • parents must get to know their children better and reasons for them misbehaving

  • adopt and implement laws on violence against children

 Other Recommendations to Government of India:

It is just not possible for the government to fight the battle alone. Every individual in the society should contribute to this effort. For a participative action, government should be encouraging the following projects:

  • Minimum Rs.1/- Project: Collect a minimum of Rs.1/- from every Indian (Close to 100 crores can be collected) and use it for poor child development - (Keep Hundi in Government Banks to collect this)

  •  Release a postal cover / post card with campaigning information on Child Rights

  •  Form local communities with volunteers for campaigning and creating awareness on child rights

  •  Celebrate Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru's birthday as "Children’s Rights Day" rather than children’s day alone

  •  Start a scheme "Sponsor a child" and get sponsor ship from Individuals, business man, politician, Cinema field etc. Give the sponsors some tax benefit to encourage sponsorship

  •  Schools to have awareness classes for "Child Rights"

  • More child help line telephone numbers should be in place and popularise those by means of advertisements campaigns

  •  Strict Law to be amended on TV Channels which telecast and encourages violence, sex and vulgar programs

  •  Special police stations for protecting "Child" (Like Women police stations)

To the fellow Indians….

Let us extend our helping hand to our Government in all possible way to eradicate poverty and establish child rights!

Let us extend our helping hand to our Government in all possible way to eradicate poverty and establish child rights!

 

 
   
 

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