Exactly five years ago on October 10, 2014 came an important announcement that the Nobel Peace Prize for that year had been awarded to Kailash Satyarthi. Even Google servers were choked as people across the world were frantically searching for him on the internet. A man who had been fighting selflessly for the most marginalised and exploited children of the world since the 1980s had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Without being daunted by numerous near fatal attacks by slave masters of the children, without being deterred by the fact that two of his colleagues were killed in cold blood and his home and office looted several times, all that Kailash Satyarthi kept doing is to work for children across the globe.
Be it influencing national or international policies related to child rights, rescuing children through daredevil raid operations, instituting international research and capacity building of stakeholders for upholding the rights of children or leading global mass movements to bring in international legislations and institutions related to freedom, safety and education of children. Satyarthi winning the Nobel Peace Prize can be equated to the most marginalised and exploited children of this world winning the Nobel Peace Prize. It was a victory for the cause. Within three hours of the announcement, Satyarthi’s Twitter follower base rose from a meagre 75 to around 800,000. He is undoubtedly the pride of 1.3 billion Indians for the work he has selflessly done for the children of the world.
Whether we like it or not, we live in a world which is far from egalitarian. The most vulnerable are marginalised children and their communities are the worst affected by the inequalities. Worse still, young girls, women and the transgender community bear the brunt unsparingly and most disproportionately. Today, around 150 million children are languishing in child labour at a time when they should be at school and learning to build a foundation for themselves so that they become active stakeholders in the global growth story.
Out of these, around 70 million children are in worst and abject forms of exploitation as victims of trafficking for forced labour, commercial sexual exploitation, child marriages, armed conflicts, slavery, prostitution and facing violence that one can’t fathom. Half of the refugees world over are children totaling up to close to 50 million in number who are at unprecedented risk of being forced into the dark dungeons of slavery, exploitation and violence.
The Nobel Prize website states that following the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi, Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi has waged a peaceful struggle to stop children from being exploited as labour instead of attending school. In fact, the Nobel Prize Committee had always wanted to confer Peace Prize to Mahatma Gandhi, but before they could have done so, he was assassinated. By conferring the peace prize to a truly deserving naturally born Indian Kailash Satyarthi, the committee also in a way paid tribute to the Mahatma for the opportunity it had missed in the late 1940s.
Kailash Satyarthi who works for children in over 140 countries on various forums has said that the Nobel Peace Prize is just a comma in his life and he is firmly resolute that he will see the end of child slavery within his lifetime. The Nobel Peace Prize was a shot in the arm for Satyarthi as overnight his mission to make a child-friendly world got global attention. This topic that was being brushed aside by governments world over as a matter of shame could no more be skirted.
The first thing that Satyarthi did after winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 was to get Goal 8.7 included in the Sustainable Development Goals. This came with a deadline for ending child labour and exploitation in all its forms by 2025, i.e. five years ahead of 2030, because this is one goal without accomplishing which it is impossible to realise most of the other goals. He did not stop at this. To catalyse global action around this goal and the overarching endeavour for ending violence against children globally, he launched in 2016 Laureates and Leaders for Children – a platform that brings together Heads of States and Nobel Laureates to raise voice in support of the rights of the most marginalized children of this world, particularly ensuring their freedom, safety and education.
As another path-breaking intervention, He also launched the 100 Million for 100 Million campaign that mobilises the educated and privileged children and youth to hold hands of such children and youth whose rights have been violated. If one privileged child or youth steers one less privileged child or youth from exploitation to empowerment, 100 Million for 100 Million can make this world a far better place for all children.
India also saw a slew of initiatives since 2014 as a marked improvement for promoting the rights of its children. The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act 2016 brought the thirty-year-old anti-child labour law in conformance to the Right to Education Act. This also paved the way for the long-pending ratifications of the ILO Convention 138 on the minimum age of employment and 182 on worst forms of child labour. The Central Government also promulgated the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Model Rules in 2016 in line with the JJ Act amended in 2015.
On September 11, 2017, he launched the largest Mass Movement Bharat Yatra (India March) in which 12,00,000 people marched from Kanya Kumari to Delhi covering 12,000 kilometres in various legs in demand for strict laws against child rape and child trafficking. This march culminated at Rashtrapati Bawan on October 16, 2017, and its impact was far-reaching and manifold. India’s laws against child rape and sexual exploitation of children were made extremely stringent.
Several states like Madhya Pradesh went ahead and promulgated progressive laws with the severest deterrence for child rape. The Ministry of Women and Child Development swung into action to strengthen the tenets of POCSO by amending it. This comprised stricter punishment for an increased range of offences including child pornography. Because of the demand of the core-marchers of Bharat Yatra, the National Sex Offenders Registry was also created.
This resulted in the creation of a robust database maintaining the name, address, photographs and fingerprint details of sex offenders that will further aid law enforcement agencies of India to efficiently conduct investigations and strengthen prosecution, which in turn will enhance the probability of conviction and justice to the victim.
Supreme Court of India in its own motion has taken cognisance of the poor law enforcement in POCSO cases and the pendency of cases related to sex crimes against children ordering the Central Government to make a special court in each district having more than 100 cases pending under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. This will expedite the justice delivery mechanism for the victims.
Kailash Satyarthi is now rallying support for a legally binding international law against online child sexual abuse and pornography and already has garnered support from various Heads of States and also Holy Father Pope Francis at The Vatican.
Earlier last week, Payal Jangid from one of the child-friendly villages formed by Kailash Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan became the first Indian to receive the Change Maker Award by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the same ceremony where our Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also felicitated.
The Foundation awarded Payal owing to her indomitable will and unrelenting work to stop child marriages and child labour in her village and ensuring that all children particularly girls receive an education. She is one of the thousands of young change-makers who being inspired by Kailash Satyarthi is fighting for the rights of marginalised and exploited children.
Clearly, the global child rights movement started by Kailash Satyarthi is intensifying with each passing day with definitive actions and interventions to render this world child-friendly. Just like Satyarthi believes, even I am sure that we will be able to see the end of child slavery in this very lifetime.