There are 472 million children in India under the age of 18 years, representing 39% of the country’s total population. Large percentages i.e. 29% of that figure constitute children between the ages of 0 to 6 years. In addition, 73% of children in India are living in rural areas. Child Rights perspectives are enshrined in the constitution of India and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
It is clear that in India promoting children’s rights is a government priority which is enshrined within the constitution and protected in legislation. Despite this, children in India continue to face challenges in attaining these rights, particularly those related to access to education, forced labour and child marriage. Given that, children make up 39% of India’s 1.21 billion populations, it is imperative that the rights of these children are met. It is essential as prime stakeholders, we all must know what rights children have and work collaboratively for child protection.
Who is a “CHILD”?
Every one of us has different interpretation of the concept of child. Some use age criteria like 18, 15, 16 years while others believe the person’s dependency makes him/her a child. According to International law, a ‘child’ means every human being below the age of 18 years. This is a universally accepted definition of a child and comes from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), an international legal instrument accepted and ratified by most countries including India.
Indian Legal Framework has no exact uniformity while defining a child. However, India has always recognized the category of persons below the age of 18 years as distinct legal entity. That is precisely why people can vote or get a driving license or enter into legal contracts (and can even drink beer) only when they attain the age of 18 years. Marriage of a girl below the age of 18 years and a boy below 21 years is restrained under the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929. Moreover, after ratifying the UNCRC in 1992, India changed its law on Juvenile Justice to ensure that every person below the age of 18 years, who is in need of care and protection, is entitled to receive it from the State.
This means, all people in your village/town/city below the age of 18 years have to be treated as Children and need your assistance and support.
What makes a person a ‘child’ is the person’s ‘age.’ Even if a person under the age of 18 years is married and has children of her/his own, she/he is recognized as a child according to international standards and as well as Indian Laws.
Why do children need special attention?
What is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child?
The most significant of all international laws for children is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, popularly referred to as the CRC. This, together with our Indian Constitution and Laws, determine what rights all children must have.
Features of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
Classification of Rights under CRC
What are the Child Rights under our Indian Constitution?
All people under the age of 18 are entitled to the standards and rights guaranteed by the laws that govern our country and the international legal instruments we have accepted by ratifying them.
The Constitution of India guarantees all children certain rights, which have been specially included for them. These include:
Besides on this, they also have rights as equal citizens of India, just as any other adult male or female:
What is state’s responsibility towards Children?
National Commission for Protection of Child Rights
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is an Indian governmental commission, established by an Act of Parliament, the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act in December 2005, thus is a statutory body. The commission works under the aegis of Ministry of Women and Child development, GOI. The Commission began operation a year later in March 2007.
The Commission considers that its Mandate is “to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programs, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.” As defined by the commission, child includes those up to the age of 18 years.
Building Gateways for Protecting Child Rights
We all have a role to play in building strong communities in which families and children are valued and supported. It is in these kinds of communities that children are safest from abuse and neglect. Here are some things we can do as a concerned individuals:
Implementing the Five R’s
Raise the issue.
Reach out to kids and parents in your community.
Anything you do to support kids and parents in your family and extended community helps to reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect.
Report suspected abuse or violation of child rights.
If you suspect abuse or any violation of child rights is occurring, report it—and keep reporting it until something is done. Contact child protective services (like 1098, online web portals) or your local police department.
Remember the risk factors in family and community settings.
Child abuse and neglect occur in all segments of our society, but the risk factors are greater in families where parents:
Recognize the warning signs of child.
Some of the warning signs that a child might be abused or neglected include:
– Nervousness around adults;
– Aggression toward adults or other children;
– Inability to stay awake or to concentrate for extended periods;
– Sudden, dramatic changes in personality or activities;
– Acting out sexually or showing interest in sex that is not appropriate for his or her age;
– Frequent or unexplained bruises or injuries;
– Low self-esteem;
– Poor hygiene.
Build a support network by getting involved in your neighborhood.
Take part in community prevention efforts.
Learn how your community supports child rights.
The following programs may be offered through schools, healthcare clinics, social service agencies, or community- or faith-based organizations:
Finally, to sum up
Children are rights holders and their dependency upon us should not be viewed as burden or state’s unproductive assets. UNCRC, Indian Constitution and Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005 are key instruments dealing with Child Rights in India. Protecting their rights should not be viewed as only state’s policy and responsibility. However, we as a citizen must come forward to solve issues dealing with children.
And finally let’s not forget what our great scientist Dr. Kalam has once said, “Let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow.”
Sources and References