As India is suffering from the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, children are among the most vulnerable groups suffering in this period. Many children have lost their parents within a span of few weeks. This has led them to a dreaded situation and put them at the risk of human trafficking or prostitution.
Social media posts are flooded with messages of adoption of these stranded children, which is an illegal act and invites legal consequences as mentioned by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. In this article, I’ll be talking about the legal angle of how these social media posts on different platforms such as Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter are illegal and how these increase the risk of Covid-orphaned children.
First of all, let us talk about social media posts that are widely circulating. Sharing posts that mention details of a vulnerable child and inviting people to adopt them is illegal under Section 80 and 81 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, which prohibits the offering and receiving of children outside of the provisions laid down in this Act or selling and purchasing children. Doing this can cause imprisonment for 3-5 years and fine of up to Rs 1 lakh.
There is due process that needs to be followed when it comes to adopting orphaned children. If someone has information about an orphaned child, they should first contact those of the four agencies: Childline 1098, District Child Welfare Committee (CWC), District Child Protection Officer (DPCO) or the helpline of the State Commission for protection of child rights.
Following this, the CWC will assist the child and place them in the immediate care of a specialised adoption agency. Thus, it is the state that takes care of children who require care and protection until they are 18 years of age.
Now, when a child attends the age of majority adoption, it can be done either by Indian prospective adoptive parents or non-resident Indian, or foreigners, in that order of preference.
India is considered one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of child trafficking and prostitution, according to the data of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The 2018 report highlights that out of all cases of child trafficking that happened that year, 51% were of children, of which more than 80% were girls. Presently, the most affected state is West Bengal, followed by Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Assam. Trafficking of children is for forced labour for all kinds of domestic work. In many cases, girls are sexually exploited or forced into prostitution in these states.
Children are one of the most important assets of a country. They are going to be the future workforce of the nation, so our future depends on how thee kids grow and develop. The focus in the process of adoption is the child’s welfare and restoration of their rights to the family.
Article 39 of the Constitution prohibits children from being abused. Therefore, orphaned children who have lost both their parents, or have been abandoned or surrendered due to the Covid-19 pandemic must not be neglected and left to face uncertain future. They must be taken care of by authorities entrusted with the responsibilities under the JJ act.