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Easy Guide on Child Rights

 

Background

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?

  1. Children are more vulnerable than adults to the conditions under which they live.
  2. Children are not seen as people who have a mind of their own, a view to express, the capacity to make a choice and an ability to decide.
  3. Instead of being guided by adults, their life is decided by adults and external stakeholders.
  4. Children have no votes or political influence and little economic power. Too often, their voices are not heard.
  5. Children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
  6. They are more affected than any other age group by the actions and inaction of governments and society.

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)

  1. It applies equally to all genders to the age of 18, even if they are married or already have children of their own.
  1. The convention is guided by the principles of ‘Best Interest of the Child’ and ‘Nondiscrimination’ and ‘Respect for views of the child’.
  1. It emphasizes the importance of the family and the need to create an environment that is conducive to the healthy growth and development of children. It also considers Institution as last resort.
  1. It obligates the state to respect and ensure that children get a fair and equitable deal in society.
  1. It draws attention towards civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of a child.

Classification of Rights under CRC 

  1. Right to Survival includes Right to life, the highest attainable standard of health, nutrition, adequate standard of living, a name and a nationality.
  1. Right to Development includes Right to education, support for early childhood care and development, social security, right to leisure, recreation and cultural activities.
  1. Right to Protection includes freedom from all forms of exploitation, Abuse, inhuman or degrading treatment, neglect.
  1. Right to Participation includes respect for the views of the child, freedom of expression, access to appropriate information, freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

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:

  1. Right to free and compulsory elementary education for all children in the 6-14 year age group (Article 21 A).
  1. Right to be protected from any hazardous employment till the age of 14 years (Article 24).
  1. Right to be protected from being abused and forced by economic necessity to enter occupations unsuited to their age or strength (Article 39(e)).
  1. Right to equal opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and guaranteed protection of childhood and youth against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment (Article 39 (f)).

Besides on this, they also have rights as equal citizens of India, just as any other adult male or female:

  1. Right to equality (Article 14).
  1. Right against discrimination (Article 15).
  1. Right to personal liberty and due process of law (Article 21).
  1. Right to being protected from being trafficked and forced into bonded labour (Article 23).
  1. Right of weaker sections of the people to be protected from social injustice and all forms of exploitation (Article 46).

What is state’s responsibility towards Children?

  1. Make special provisions for women and children (Article 15 (3)).
  1. Protect interest of minorities (Article 29).
  1. Promote educational interests of weaker sections of the people (Article 46).
  1. Raise the level of nutrition and standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health (Article 47).

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 Rs

Raise the issue.

  1. Call or write your candidates and elected officials to educate them about issues in your community and the need for child abuse prevention, intervention, and treatment programs.
  2. Contact your local school district and faith community to encourage them to sponsor classes and support programs.

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:

  1. Abuse alcohol or drugs;
  2. Are isolated from their families or communities;
  3. Have difficulty controlling their anger or stress;
  4. Appear uninterested in the care, nourishment, or safety of their children;
  5. Seem to be having serious economic, housing, or personal problems.

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.

  1. Develop friendly relationships with your neighbors and their children. Problems often seem less overwhelming when you have support nearby.
  1. Get involved in school. Strengthen the parent-teacher organization and attend school events.
  1. Talk to your friends and neighbors about child rights and how to strengthen it.

Take part in community prevention efforts.

  1. Help local organizations distribute educational materials on child rights and child abuse prevention.
  1. Encourage local schools or other community organizations to provide parenting education, child safety education and legal literacy programs.
  1. Contact your elected officials and ask them to support funding for prevention efforts and policies that support children rights and protection.
  1. Start or join a community coalition to prevent child abuse and neglect.

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:

  1. Parent education programs teach parents about child development and parenting skills.
  1. Substance abuse treatment programs can help parents overcome problems with alcohol or other drugs.
  1. Family support centers offer an array of preventive support services, including many of those listed above, as well as referral to other community services.
  1. Legal literacy programs, celebrating child safety week etc.

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

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children%27s_rights
  1. http://vikaspedia.in/education/child-rights/child-rights-and-protection
  1. https://ncpcr.gov.in/
  2. http://haqcrc.org/child-rights/constitution-of-india/
  3. image – https://new-img.patrika.com/upload/mediafiles/2015/10/05/child-rights-561265515f03d_l_835x547.jpg

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