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Aadhaar: A Boon Or A Bane For Children?

The 12 digit Aadhaar number granted to every Indian citizen has been gaining limelight and media traction following the Supreme Court verdict.  The verdict of 2018 allows the Government to mandate the unique identity number to access subsidies and welfare schemes under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016. The main focus is on privacy, surveillance and the benefits citizens will eventually receive through this linkage. The silver lining is that the impact Aadhaar will have on children is often ignored. Since children constitute 39% of the population, weighing the pros and cons is essential.

Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has come up with a blue-coloured Aadhaar card known as Baal Aadhar for children below five years of age. Once they are five, they will be required to do another mandatory biometric update. This helps to easily identify children below five years and also consider revision of biometrics to reduce discrepancies .

School ID: Easy Gateway To Aadhaar

A child’s school ID makes for an easy gateway to have an Aadhaar number. Hence, it becomes mandatory for parents to enrol their children in schools to benefit from many welfare schemes.

What Makes Aadhaar Mandatory For Welfare Schemes?

Aadhaar is mandatory to avail welfare schemes such as the mid-day meal but linkage of Aadhaar to mid-day meals hasn’t actually achieved its motive. The children may benefit from these schemes upto a certain point, but it fails to make a long term impact.

A birth certificate is mandatory for the Aadhaar application. Children born in remote areas lack basic infrastructure and don’t receive proper birth certificates. This means they cannot avail the welfare schemes.

Aadhaar For Tracking and Tracing Children

On one hand, doing a biometric scan of the children and linking it with Aadhaar helps to trace children – so that they can reunite with their parents in the event of trafficking. This facilitates quick identification and begins the rehabilitation process sooner – so that they can recover from the trauma and continue to live a healthy life. But on the other hand, Aadhaar information can also be misused since it contains all the essential details of the citizens.

All kinds of data leaks can be a threat to the privacy and security of children. Agents of trafficking can trace identities and whereabouts of children, engage them in inhuman practices and deprive them of a safe childhood.

According to a recent study, 6 out of every 10 missing children can’t be traced. A majority of the untraceable children are trafficked and forced to beg on streets. Children from various states are brought to big cities by trafficking gangs to resort to tasks like begging. Since these children are sold and kidnapped at a very young age, they don’t know their roots. To avoid such cases having an Aadhaar number that is linked with their parents should be mandatory at birth. This helps the centre to keep a check and monitor the location of these children.

Aadhaar And Juvenile Relation

Aadhaar card can be considered as an age proof under the Juvenile Justice Act. The Act ensures the right to privacy and confidentiality – to give juveniles a fresh start.

But Aadhaar retains the data of children for a period of 7 years. Therefore, when they finish serving their punishment and try to live a normal life by either working or studying, their history prevents them from doing so. Since their activities can be traced with Aadhaar, their prospects reduce.

Thus, crimes committed by juveniles will continue to haunt them as they will be stigmatised in society. If not impossible, recovery and redemption of such children will be difficult. Therefore, when we consider the life juveniles expect to lead after their punishment, Aadhaar becomes an obstacle in their attempt to move on.

Aadhaar: Advantages Outweigh Disadvantages

Aadhaar gives an identity to the child and acts as a birth and address proof once made – to prevent identity fraud. It becomes easier to apply for passports and avail the government benefits. Linkage of Aadhaar with school admission is not mandatory, but it helps to ensure that there are no dropouts. The government will also understand the reach of their schemes and the areas that need more focus. Linking children from vulnerable situations to existing government schemes creates a protective mechanism for survivors of exploitation.

Overall, Aadhaar has its own set of advantages and if utilised in an apt manner, Aadhaar will prove to be an asset for children.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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