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Child Development

Situation of child rights in India


Children rights are articulated in ‘Convention on the Rights of the Child’ (CRC) at international level and as a signatory to this convention Indian Government has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the 11th of December 1992. (see appendix 1 for details). In India, commitment to cause of children is perceived through constitutional provisions, policies, programmes and legislation.

The Constitution of India in Article 39 of the Directive Principles of State Policy pledges that “the State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing .... that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused, and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength, that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner, and in conditions of freedom and dignity, and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation, and against moral and material abandonment.” As a follow-up of this commitment and being a party to the UN declaration on the Rights of the Child 1959, India adopted the National Policy on Children in 1974. The policy reaffirmed the constitutional provisions and stated that “it shall be the policy of the State to provide adequate services to children, both before and after birth and through the period of growth to ensure their full physical, mental and social development. The State shall progressively increase the scope of such services so that within a reasonable time all children in the country enjoy optimum conditions for their balanced growth.”

Indian Constitution provides a comprehensive understanding of child rights along with fairly comprehensive legal regime exists for their implementation through laws for betterment of children in the country, such as Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986; Child Marriage Prevention Act, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000, etc.; national plans for human resource development and Five Year Plans have provided the wherewithal to deal with child related issues. The thrust in defining child rights is that each child is allowed to do activities that make her/his life happy, healthy and safe along with responsibilities towards other children and adults, to make sure they get their rights.

That means our government now has to make sure that every child has all the rights explained in the Convention. Moreover, Indian Constitution is law of the land; yet, despite constitutional guarantees of opportunity and civil rights, millions of children face wide-spread deprivation and discrimination on the basis of caste, religion, ethnicity and religion. A large part of this stems from being seen through the lens of adults who make decisions for them, and who prefer to address their welfare rather than their rights. Even the basic need for birth registration that will assure them a nationality and identity remains un-addressed, affecting children’s rights to basic services. We hear children are dying of starvation, female sex ratio dips, little children, barely able to stand, are married off flouting all laws, many children are locked, abused, sodomised - the list is endless.

 

The problem begins with the very definition of ‘child’ within the Indian legal and policy framework. The CRC defines children as persons below the age of 18 years, however different laws stipulate different cut-off ages to define a child in India. In the absence of a clear definition of a child, it is left to various laws and

interpretations. Even if we articulate child rights in the framework of human rights, such as accessibility to basic rights, we need to consider some rights exclusively of children, as human rights framework is inadequate in matters like violence on children in different forms, which are aggravated with external forces and processes like liberalization, privatisation and globalisation as well as environmental degradation and pollution lead to a further deterioration in quality of life of citizens.

We need to consider the following points

1.       It is important that Indian government recognizes rights of children rather than mainly well-being through welfare approach. She needs to promote and protect rights as a positive social value. Therefore, the perspective of child rights requires to be child-centred, child friendly, not

2.       Any understanding of human rights of children cannot be confined to some children – ‘poor children’, ‘working children’ and ‘marginalised children’. Violations of children’s rights are not limited to the poor and downtrodden. They happen in middle class and elite homes too.

3.       A child born out of wedlock or of a void or illegal marriage is considered ‘illegitimate’. Children pay for the decisions taken by the parents and are denied inheritance rights. Even worse, a child born of rape is stigmatised and treated as ‘illegitimate’, both by society and law.

 

Accessibility to basic rights
This includes – health care, primary education, water, sanitation and environment inadequate living conditions, protection from violence, trafficking and social stigmatization.

1.       In India, children suffer from malnutrition or die of starvation and preventable diseases. According to UNAIDS, there are 1,70,000 children infected by HIV/AIDS in India. Children affected by the virus-whether children of victims or those who are infected themselves-- live on the fringes of society, ostracised by people they call their own, unloved and uncared for, even as our government continues to squabble over numbers of affected people. Even juvenile diabetes is reported to be taking on pandemic proportions.

2.       Our public health systems are inadequate and not efficient to take up such challenges, besides resolving existing health problems faced by children for survival. There is no law addressing the issue of public health. It needs to be dealt under the Reproductive and Child Health Programme of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, with a focus on reproductive health and safe motherhood and child survival.

3.       India is a home to one of the largest illiterate citizenries in the world. Despite the promise of free and compulsory education, enrolment and dropout of children remains a key issue where beatings, abuse, physical and mental torture faced by the students in schools is one of the reasons for the high dropout rate.

4.       Thousands of children are homeless or living in inadequate living conditions. Thousands of others are displaced in the name of development and progress. Yet others are de-housed as a result of natural calamities - the floods, cyclones, earthquakes that have come to become almost a regular feature in our country. In all of these, while whole communities are affected, children are affected even more. An estimated 3.3 million children were affected by the super-cyclone that hit the coastal districts of Orissa on October 29, 1999. How many children were actually displaced, how many died in the earthquake that hit Gujarat on 26 January 2000? No one has exact numbers. This is true of all such situations of disaster or displacement. This is to ensure that there are no long-term psychological implications. In the absence of a holistic disaster mitigation policy, which is also designed to be child friendly, this will not be possible. The same is true for rehabilitation policies for development- related displacement.

5.       The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation Act) was enacted in 1986, to specifically address the situation of children in labour. However, this law distinguishes between hazardous and non-hazardous forms of labour, and identifies certain processes and occupations from which children are prohibited from working. It leaves out a large range of activities that children are engaged in and are exploited and abused. The large-scale exploitation and abuse of children employed in domestic work and hotels are cases in point.

6.       Child trafficking is one of the most heinous manifestations of violence against children and taking on alarming proportions - nationally and internationally. Although, very little reliable data or documentation is available, meetings and consultations across the country have revealed the gravity and the extent of this crime. It is high time we understood and realized that children are trafficked for a number of reasons and this cannot be treated synonymously with prostitution. The absence of this comprehensive understanding and a comprehensive law that addresses all forms of trafficking to back it makes this issue even more critical.

7.       Adoption of children continues to be determined by religion of the adoptive parents or the child when religion is known, as it is decided as per personal laws. Only Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs can adopt children legally while Muslims, Parsis, and Jews personal laws do not allow adoption. Moreover, the law has serious flaws discriminating against married women; it allows only married men to adopt and only allows for adoption of children of opposite genders if a couple has one before. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 also provides for adoption making no exception on the basis of religion. So more complications may arise. Greater checks and balances are required to ensure that adoption is legal and proper, and that it is not being used as a means of trafficking of children.

8.       Armed conflicts across the country, based on religion, ethnicity, and caste have affected the lives of children everywhere - children continue to suffer from the conflict in Gujarat, Punjab, Kashmir and in many of the North Eastern States. The ongoing situation in has led to many child casualties. Children are both victims and perpetrators, brainwashed and incited into following adults in spreading violence. Even as they are seen as perpetrators of violence, they are victims of an adult worldview imposed on young minds.


Various individuals, groups and non-government organizations (NGOs) working with and for children feel that it is only with the ratifying of the Child Rights Convention that children’s rights to participation began gaining formal recognition, although several had initiated processes to enlist participation of children and young adults long before the CRC. There is, however, no universal or accepted definition of child participation and each one has defined it according to their own understanding. There is still a fairly long journey before this ‘inclusion’ of children’s participation is internalised and accepted widely.

Is the situation confronting the lives of our children bleak, or is there reason for hope? Can we promise them an India that truly shines? What do elections hold for these non-voters? Lest we forget, they are the adults of tomorrow, and they will hold the adults of today accountable someday.

Child Development Centre

Untouchability and strong caste and gender ideologies operate in the minds of people of rural areas of Banaskantha, Kachchh Rajkot, Sabarkantha and Bhalbara area of Anand district. Child marriage, superstition, lack of formal education, negative bias towards the girl-child still exists. The tribals, Dalits, other OBC and minorities are victims of economic, social and political domination of the so-called upper caste groups in the area. Due to poverty, caste discrimination and gender bias against women, these children and mainly girls are victims of gender biased socialization.

In 1997 BSC set up the Bal Vikas Kendras (BVKs – Child Development Centres). It was first planned intervention with children, through the BVKs set up at the village level. The BVKs are village-level classrooms, one in each village, with an educator in charge of each BVK. The children of the targeted community in the village come here for a couple of hours every morning, where they are made to undertake various activities aimed at developing and sharpening the psycho-motor skills of the children. The activities include: singing songs, acting/reciting stories, making toys/pictures out of clay, leaves or other waste articles.

BVK centres has also served as a space in understanding children's world view, environment, socio-cultural and economic life of the community that has vital impact on their upbringing and formation in terms of values, attitudes and behaviour patterns. BVK plays an important role in understanding children and accompany them in their early years of formation so that they are exposed to right values and behaviour patterns and role models, which are humane and promote equality, dignity and counter antihuman values.

1.       Bal Vikas Kendra has been to reach to the remotest corner of the Kachchh, where access to primary education facilities still does not exist.

2.       There were 74 Child Development Centres catering to 1850 children.

3.       The attendance in Child Development Centres is 95%

4.       Over the past ten years, 8500 children have been enrolled in primary schools in Banaskantha, Rajkot, Anand and Kachchh districts. They have been no drop out from school.

5.       The exposures to new places have given them new knowledge, feel more confident.

6.       Special programmes like “rappelling” & “over fly” were designed to ameliorate their fear and develop motor skills. Fear which was a predominant feature among the children disappeared. They started exhibiting such skills in the villages

7.       Special programmes like singing, acting, colouring & drama were developed to develop psycho-motor skills. Children can sing, dance without any fear or shyness in school or public functions.

8.       The attitude of parents towards education has changed. They feel the need to get their child educated. This is indicated by parent’s readiness in sending their children to school and parents involvement in process of follow-up with Government officials in getting primary school sanctioned in Ganeshpura. Similar process is followed in Limbdivand.

9.       The Child Development Centres developed as a space to break inter community (tribal-Scheduled castes-minorities)barrier

10.   The Child Development Centres developed as a space to create new positive environment for encouraging girl child towards education.

11.   The Child Development Centres developed as a space to create positive environment for special kids like physically challenged, deaf & dumb. For these special kids BVK has given a ray of hope and an optimistic future.

12.   The mainstream school has started acknowledging the efforts taken by the BVK programme in the field of education-enrollment campaign; involvement of parents for motivating children for education; providing extra knowledge for supplementing formal education.

 

1.       Over the years the educators has developed a pedagogy of education which is developed in a book form called “ Gammat Sathe Gadhthar”

2.       Over the years the educators have developed stories, poems, songs which is local specific, children friendly, language used by the community and valued based.

Target groups: The project target the Dalit, Koli (Adivasi), Muslim children with a special emphasis on the girl child. The programme seeks out to 1500 children in the age group of 3-6 years, approximately 100-125 children in the age group of 7-15 years and 60 teachers of BVKs from 60 villages.

Target area: Twenty villages of Rapar blocks, five villages of Bachchau urban block, , five villages of Bachchau rural block of Kachchh district, twenty villages of Vav block of Banaskantha district, ten villages of Malia block of Rajkot district.

 


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