Evolution of Child Rights in India

"Evolution of Child Rights in India" is the title of this blog. It seeks to give the students a thorough grasp of the development of children's rights around the world, with a special emphasis on India. Additionally, it seeks to give a general overview of the numerous services that fall under the purview of child rights. Additionally, it is made to give the learner the fundamental knowledge needed to act as a child rights functionary. The reader will be able to comprehend how child rights have changed over time. The reader will also have the opportunity to understand the timeline of significant advancements in India's context of child rights.
The goals of this post are:
  1. To give the students a thorough grasp of how child rights have changed throughout the world, with an emphasis on India in particular. 
  2. To give a general overview of the many services that kids can access under various child rights laws. 
  3. To increase awareness of children's issues so that the student may recognize how India's laws against child labor are violated. 
  4. To offer information that is adequate for someone to work as a functionary for children's rights.

Content

  1. History of Child Rights
  2. Issues in Child Rights
  3. Paradigm Shifts
  4. History of Legislations for Protecting Child Rights in India
  5. Situation of Children in Asia-Pacific according to ‘Humanium’
  6. Agencies for Child Rights 

History of Child Rights

Children were once thought of as "little adults," and the concept of children having special rights was unheard of. The notion of giving children extra protection first surfaced in France in the 1840s. Since 1841, laws have been passed in France to ensure children's safety at work and their right to an education. The world didn't start realizing that children needed special rights until after the First World War. The Declaration of the Rights of the Child was ratified by the International Save the Children Union on February 28, 1924, during its fifth general meeting. This document was submitted to the League of Nations, which on September 26, 1924, issued the "Geneva Declaration," stating that "Humanity needs to do its best for the child." (The League of Nations eventually evolved into the United Nations.) The five chapters of the treaty focused on children's wellbeing and acknowledged their right to growth, aid, alleviation, and protection from adults. The Geneva Declaration is a historic statement that acknowledged and proclaimed the existence of child-specific rights and the adult need to care for children for the first time. The "Geneva Declaration," which is founded on the work of Polish physician Janusz Korczak, is the first international human rights document in history to particularly address children's rights.
The UN persisted in its attempts to put children's rights in the spotlight.

Establishment of UNICEF

Numerous children endured unspeakable pain as a result of World War II. The United Nations General Assembly established the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on December 11, 1946, to address the needs of the millions of displaced and refugee children who were denied access to food, housing, and other necessities in the wake of World War II. Reaffirming the larger terms of reference established for the Fund in 1950, the General Assembly voted to continue UNICEF's mandate on a permanent basis (as a permanent international organization) in October 1953. The formal name is changed to the United Nations Children's Fund, dropping the phrases "international" and "emergency," but the previous abbreviation, UNICEF, has become too well-known to be altered. UNICEF developed into an outspoken supporter of children's rights during the 1970s. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights received assistance from UNICEF in the 1980s as it drafted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Since 1949, UNICEF has conducted operations in India. It is the United Nations' biggest agency in the nation. It has been stated that the Government of India and UNICEF have a Country Programme Action Plan 2013-2017. By minimizing imbalances based on caste, race, gender, poverty, region, or religion, the country's overarching objective is to enhance the rights of children, adolescents, and women to survival, growth, development, participation, and protection. It attempts to hasten the process of achieving the Millennium Development Goals and was developed in the framework of the 12th Five Year Plan and the United Nations Development Action Framework. Building on their more than 60 years of cooperation, UNICEF will continue to work closely with the government to advance children's rights in India.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)

The Declaration of the Rights of the Child was approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 1959 (DRC). The DRC outlines ten principles for children's rights. All of the nations did not, however, sign this document. As a result, these 10 principles merely offered a general value. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, also known as the Universal Declaration of Children's Rights, was made possible by the DRC (UNCRC). On November 20, 1989, the UN General Assembly unanimously accepted the UNCRC. This became the first legally binding international document that acknowledged all of a child's fundamental rights. The UNCRC gives legal form to the idea that children have their own set of fundamental rights and that these rights should be prioritized in all political, economic, and social decisions. The 54 articles in it outline children's economic, social, and cultural rights. The general principles of non-discrimination, the best interests of the child, the right to life, survival, and development, as well as respect for the child's opinions, are all enshrined in this document. The distinctive civil rights and freedoms, family environment and alternative care, fundamental health and welfare, educational, recreational, and cultural activities, and special protection measures are then covered in detail.

Since India adopted the UNCRC in December 1992, the Indian government is required to uphold the provisions of the UNCRC. The International Charter of Child Rights has been ratified by 191 out of 193 nations as of 2011, demonstrating its broad acceptance and recognition. Only two countries, Somalia and the USA, chose not to ratify the UNCRC. (Since Somalia currently lacks an internationally recognized government, ratification is not possible; additionally, the United States, one of the convention's original signatories, has not ratified the treaty due to reservations about how it might affect national sovereignty and the parent-child relationship.) Nothing less than "the cornerstone of a new moral ethos for children" and a tool emphasizing that "respect for and protection of children's rights is the starting point for the full development of the individual's potential, in a climate of freedom, dignity, and justice" have been used to describe it (WCD, 2000). In February 1997, the Indian government presented its initial country report under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

 Issues in Child Rights

Despite the fact that India's economy has been growing recently and the government has launched various programs to combat poverty, a sizeable segment of the population still lives in poverty. The majority of the victims of the widespread economic inequality are children. The following list comprises eight fundamental rights for kids: 1) Right to life, 2) Right to health, 3) Right to safe water, 4) Right to food, 5) Right to education, 6) Right to protection, 7) Right to freedom, and 8) Right to identity.. The following are the main issues affecting children's rights in India:

Right to life

According to vital statistics data for 2012, the "Infant Mortality Rate (IMR)" varies from 10 to 56 in the various Indian states. Since 2003, the IMR has decreased by 28% in urban India compared to 30% in rural India. According to a CRY report, the IMR is 7. (Bhandary, 2013-a). The infant mortality rate (IMR) is the number of newborn deaths per 1,000 live births in a given year. It is regarded as a crucial indicator of the quality of the population's health care, nutrition, and educational status. One of the "Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)" with a deadline of 2015 is the reduction of IMR (Varma, 2013 a). One encouraging development in the context of the right to life is the fall in IMR. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) Report, which was published on October 14th 2013, states that India's mortality rate for children under the age of five is approximately 6%. (Varma, 2013b). The main causes of the yearly mortality of thousands of children in India are poverty and cultural preferences for male offspring. The widespread deaths of girls caused by the practices of female foeticide (selective abortion), female infanticide (drowning, poisoning, suffocation, or willful neglect resulting in the child's death), and general neglect of girl children continue to have a negative impact on the sex ratio. India's kid sex ratio is steadily declining. According to census data from 2011, the child sex ratio (CSR) for children aged 0 to 6 fell even more, from 927 in 2001 to 914 females for every 1000 boys (Shrinivasan & Dhawan, 2011). In order to prevent the practice of female foeticide and stop the drop in CSR, the Indian government passed the Pre-Conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Technique (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act in 1994. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are the "socially backward" groups, according to data from the 2011 Census, with CSR among STs at 957, SCs at 933, and the total population, excluding these two categories, at 910. This pattern implied that "backwardness" would actually support gender justice, presumably because it would prevent access to sex determination methods.

Right to good health:

It is necessary for the right to life. In India, a lot of children pass away every year. The majority of these deaths are mostly caused by inadequate access to healthcare, a lack of immunizations, the prevalence of avoidable diseases, contaminated drinking water, poor sanitation, a lack of regular prenatal monitoring, unsafe deliveries, and hunger. Only 54% of children, according to a CRY report, received all the recommended vaccinations (Bhandary, 2013-b). One-third of the world's malnourished children live in India, according to the National Family Health Survey (Indian Express, 2000). In terms of mental health, the World Health Organization reports that 15% of Indian youngsters experience severe emotional problems (WHO, 2001). Child marriage is yet another concern in the context of child health (and child protection). In India, child marriage is a common practice. Regardless of their social or economic circumstances, all children have a right to care and protection, as well as the opportunity to grow and develop into fully human beings. All of these rights are flagrantly violated by child marriage. According to popular belief, up to 50% of Indian women get married before turning 18 years old. Child marriages are seen to be more common in rural areas and among lower socioeconomic groups. This practice is mostly a product of culture and custom in particular regions of the nation. Other reasons contributing to this issue include parents' lack of interest in educating their children and their readiness to send their children abroad to lessen the financial load. Early pregnancy and deliveries are the effects of this technique. The little girls' health is clearly affected, as well. The infant and mother death rates are two of the numerous negative effects of child marriage. Other issues with reproductive health also appear. Due to their infrequent attention, women have poor health status.

According to a UNICEF Stocktaking Report on Children and AIDS, the number of AIDS-related fatalities among teenagers between the ages of 10 and 19 rose from 71,000 to 1,10,000 between 2005 and 2012, an increase of 50%. Many of these victims were unaware that they were infected. In 2012, there were 2.1 million adolescents, with 12 high-burden nations housing an estimated 74% of them. India is one of these nations with a high burden. Tanzania, Nigeria, and South Africa are some additional nations. 1,30,000 adolescents in South Asia are affected overall, with 51% of boys and 49% of girls. It claims that in order to prevent an additional two million teenagers, primarily girls, from contracting the disease by 2020, an investment of US$ 5.5 billion must be made by the end of the current year.

Right to Safe Water

The right to safe water is yet another prerequisite for the right to life. In India, getting access to clean water is a big problem. India has a sizable fraction of the world's population that lacks access to clean drinking water. 20% of the rural population does not always have access to drinkable water, which is still a significant issue in rural regions (http://www.humanium.org/en). Because of this, children in these communities are more likely to experience numerous health issues related to water because they are unable to maintain the bare minimum of hygiene due to the lack of adequate water availability. Water-borne infections are generally widespread and frequently fatal due to unhygienic circumstances and a lack of adequate water. The worst victims of this hardship are children.

Right to Food

It is a right not to go hungry or experience malnutrition. India has been producing more food than it needs, but a sizable portion of the population, particularly children, continues to be undernourished. According to the Global Hunger Index (GHI) Report, India is home to 210 million of the world's 210 million hungry people. India is still listed among the nations with an "alarming" level of hunger. The GHI is based on three metrics: the percentage of undernourished people; the percentage of underweight children under five; and the mortality rate of children under five. According to the report, roughly 40% of children are underweight. (Varma, 2013). The National Sample Survey Organization claims that the amount of nutrients in food consumed per person is declining. In rural areas, it decreased from 2153 to 2020 kilocalories per person per day in 1993–1994, and from 2071 to 1946 kilocalories in urban areas (Varma, 2013). Children from wealthier sectors have issues with overeating, while those from poorer portions struggle with malnutrition. The main causes of this condition are poverty and a lack of knowledge about a healthy diet. The government offers subsidized grains and pulses to economically disadvantaged groups. There are also two significant government programs in India, the "Midday Meal Scheme (MMS)" and the "Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme," both of which have a particular focus on enhancing children's nutrition. In order to ensure that students have at least one complete meal each day, all Indian state governments have implemented the "Midday Meal Scheme (MMS)" in schools. Children in the 0–6 age range receive a supplemental nutritional meal under the ICDS Scheme. But despite being recipients of MMS, the Union Human Resources Development Ministry discovered that 54.40% of boys and 66.70% of girls in Buldhana district, Maharashtra, were underweight (Choudhari, 2013). Another report claims that every second Indian child (6–35 months) is undernourished. According to the research, which also quotes CRY, 79% of Indian children are anemic.

Right to Education

Data from the 2011 census show that 26% of Indians are illiterate. The world's highest population of illiterates can be attributed to this. Lack of parental literacy leads to a disregard for children's education. Children are also marginalized in the educational system due to caste- and gender-based prejudice. Girls are routinely denied equal access to elementary education and completion (Bajpai, 2008 p-449). Primary education is therefore far from becoming widespread. It is really concerning that so many kids do not attend school and that so many do so before finishing their education. An essential step in ensuring children's educational rights is the passage of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which took effect on April 1, 2010. It is anticipated that the recently proposed Act will make things better. Despite the RTE Act's passage, a CRY report claims that the nationwide dropout rate for elementary school students is 40%.

Right to Protection

A 2007 study by the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India, found that abuse affects more than 69% of children between the ages of 5 and 18. Numerous youngsters also experience maltreatment at home and in schools. Nationwide, there are an estimated 500,000 street children that are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation (Unicef, 2000). Numerous young women are trafficked and forced into prostitution in urban brothels (Bajpai, 2008, p.449). The goal of "child protection" is to safeguard children from any perceived or actual harm to their life, personhood, or childhood. It aims to lessen their susceptibility to injury of any type and shield them from peril. It entails making sure that no child is left outside of the social safety net and that those who are are given the assistance, care, and protection they require in order to re-enter it. The "Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS)" was introduced in 2009 by the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India, in an effort to lessen the restrictions mentioned above and to help build a system that will effectively and efficiently protect children while minimizing service gaps. It is founded on the fundamental ideas of protecting children's rights and serving the best interests of children. Its goal is to reach out to all children, especially those who are in challenging situations, by integrating the MWCD's current child protection programs into a single, centrally funded program. The ICPS focuses its efforts on helping children who are in need of care and protection as well as those who are in trouble with the law.

Child labor is a significant concern in the context of child protection. In India, hundreds of thousands of kids work in various occupations. According to statistics, India has the biggest number of child laborers in the world at 16.57 million. According to data gathered by CRY, up to 54% of child labor occurs in the agricultural industry, 18% in households, 15.5% in construction, and 4.83% in manufacturing. Why is it necessary for a youngster to work at all? According to a representative of Prayas, an NGO that rehabilitates street children, "mostly to aid their families, because the adults do not have sufficient employment and adequate income." "Children work because there is a market for labor that is inexpensive. In order to meet the demand, poor and bonded families frequently "sell" their children to contractors who offer them jobs in cities, which leads to the youngsters being abused. Many people escape and find work on the streets." Children are forced to work by social injustices, adult unemployment, and poverty. Child labor still exists as a result of the state's failure to address these problems (Sawhney, 2006). Additionally, a recent CRY survey shows that 11.8% of Indian children work as minors in some capacity.

All around the nation, child trafficking on a large scale has been observed. The issue has been made worse by widespread physical and sexual abuse of working-age children. They lack access to healthcare, live in poverty, and have insufficient access to food and shelter (Bajpai, 2008 p-449). Numerous factors point to a lack of political will, which prevents the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 from being adequately implemented.

Right to Freedom of Expression

The child's freedom of thinking, speech, access to information, and participation in decisions that influence his or her life are all covered by this right. Children are also entitled to freedom of religion. Freedom of speech and opinion are guaranteed by the Indian constitution. Children generally aren't allowed to voice their opinions, though. Children's opinions are not given the weight they deserve. Most of the time, adults make all important decisions for kids. Unfortunately, children's involvement at all levels is not valued highly enough in India. Children are always instructed to follow elders' orders without inquiry as part of cultural tradition. Children are frequently instructed not to voice their ideas in front of adults.

Right to Identity

India does not have foolproof birth registration. In India, just 41% of births—mostly in cities—are recorded. Children are denied their rights when there is no birth registration because they are viewed as non-entities. Every kid has the right to know who his or her relatives are, as well as the right to a first name, a country, and a surname. Each child's existence and rights must be recognized in writing, according to the right to identification (http://www.humanium.org/en). Children in India are still subjected to discrimination based on their status, caste, or religion.

Paradigm Shifts

The first National Policy for Children (NPC), established through this plan in 1974, was the result of a decision made during the fifth five-year plan to concentrate on child protection, shifting the emphasis from welfare to the development of the child. Children "must be protected from neglect, cruelty, and exploitation," according to the NPC. The State shall give these objectives the necessary legislative and administrative assistance. A paradigm shift in how we handle children has occurred. The focus has shifted from the welfare model to the developmental approach.

Earlier Approach

  • Needs  
  • Welfare  
  • Institutional and residential care  
  • Custodial care  
  • Segregation and isolation  
  • Beneficiary and recipien

Present Approach

  • Rights
  • Development
  • Non- residential and family-based alternatives
  • Holistic development
  • Inclusion and mainstream
  • Participant and partner

History of Legislations for Protecting Child Rights in India 

The beginning

The Apprentice Act of 1850 was India's first piece of child-related legislation. However, this act operated within the adult criminal system rather than establishing a separate juvenile justice system. Children and adults in the criminal justice system were divided for the first time in India by the Reformatories Schools Act, 1897.

Children’s Acts

The Madras Children Act 1920 was adopted as a result of the recommendations of the Indian Jails Committee 1919–1920, and it became the country's first children's law. It was a provincial statute that applied to the Madras Province at the time. The Bengal Children's Act, the Bombay Children's Act, and numerous other similar laws then came into effect. The "Children's Act," passed by the Indian government in 1960, was valid in Union Territories. The Juvenile Justice Act of 1986, which replaced all of these laws, was passed.

The Juvenile Justice Act

The first juvenile law in India that applied equally across the entire nation was passed in 1986. The Juvenile Justice Act of 1986 was revised and reenacted as the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act in 2000 in order to conform with the UNCRC's requirements. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2006 and the 2011 amendments were additional modifications. This significant piece of legislation now governs the juvenile justice system in India. The Juvenile Justice Act was subject to proposed changes by the Union Government in June 2014.

Prohibition of Child Marriages Act

In British India, the Child Marriage Restraint Act was originally passed in 1929. In 1978, changes were made. The Government of India passed the Prohibition of Child Marriages Act, 2006 (PCMA), which went into force on November 1st, 2007, in order to address the deficiencies of the Child Marriage Restraint Act. According to this Act, a child or minor is defined as a person who is younger than 18 years old for girls and 21 years old for guys. An offense that is both cognizable and non-bailable is the solemnization of underage marriages (MWCD, undated).

Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation)

The CLPR Act, passed in 1986, is the primary piece of legislation on stopping child labor. The 1938 Employment of Children Act was repealed by the CLPR Act. A person who has not reached the age of 14 is considered a child for the purposes of this Act. The Act forbids the use of children in certain dangerous manufacturing processes and occupations. Processes carried out by families with their own members are not covered by the Act. Children are not permitted to work between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. under the Act. Additionally, it is not permitted for kids to work extra hours or shifts in many businesses in a single day. No young person is allowed to work longer than six hours every day. After each three hours of work, children must have an hour of downtime. On October 10th, 2006, the Act was changed to make it illegal to employ youngsters as domestic helpers and at roadside eateries. Employing a youngster under the age of 14 is likewise prohibited under this directive in homes and restaurants.

Commissions for Protection of Child Rights

The National Commission for Children Bill 2000 was written by an expert committee that was formed by the Indian government and was presided over by Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer. The "Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005" was adopted by the government based on this draft and published as Act No.4 of 2006 on January 20, 2006 in the Indian Gazette. In accordance with the Act, statutory organizations such as a National Commission at the federal level and State Commissions at the state level may be established. These Commissions were established to ensure that children's rights were properly upheld and that laws and programs pertaining to children were carried out in an efficient manner. On 31.7.2006, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was established, and the Rules for Implementation of the Provisions of the Act with Respect to the NCPCR were notified. Also established by numerous state governments are State Commissions for the Protection of Children's Rights. The Commissions have the power to take immediate action to secure the rights and protection of children.

Ban on corporal punishment

The Supreme Court of India banned corporal punishment for children on December 1, 2000 when it directed the State to ensure "that children are not subjected to corporal punishment in schools, and they receive education in an environment of freedom and dignity, free from fear".

Right to Education Act

Beginning on April 1, 2010, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, went into effect. All students between the ages of 6 and 14 are expected to receive free and required education in a neighborhood school until they have completed their primary education, according to the RTE Act.

Protection of Children from Sex Abuse

On November 14, 2012, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act of 2012 (POCSO Act) went into effect. The purpose of this Act is to make the legal protections against child sexual abuse and exploitation stronger. In India, a unique law has been introduced for the first time to address the problem of sexual offenses against children. All children under the age of 18 are protected from sexual assault, sexual harrassment, and pornographic crimes by this law.

National Policy for Children-2012

The National Policy for Children, 2012 was adopted by the Indian Union Cabinet on April 18, 2013. The policy, which acknowledges that everyone under the age of 18 is a kid, was passed to reaffirm the government's commitment to achieving the rights of children in the nation. According to the policy, every child has inalienable rights to survival, nutrition, health, development, education, protection, and participation, and they have been acknowledged as the main focus areas. All laws, policies, strategies, and programs impacting children should be guided and informed by this policy. The concepts and provisions of this policy must be adhered to and respected in all national, state, and municipal government programs and actions across all sectors. The National Commission for the Protection of Children's Rights and the State Commissions for the Protection of Children's Rights are given the duty of ensuring that the policy's guiding principles are upheld at all levels and in all sectors. The government has also included a clause that calls for a five-year review of the policy. The nodal ministry for directing and coordinating the policy's implementation is the Ministry of Women and Child Development. and will oversee the evaluation process.

Situation of Children in Asia-Pacific according to ‘Humanium’ 

In order to categorize the nations of the world according to the conditions of children, "Humanium," an international child sponsorship NGO dedicated to halting violations of children's rights throughout the world, used the following eight criteria: right to life, right to education, right to food, right to health, right to water, right to identity, right to freedom, and right to protection. Based on the conditions of children, countries were divided into five groups: 1) Very Serious Situation, 2) Difficult Situation, 3) Noticeable Problems, 4) Satisfactory Situation, and 5) Good Situation.

Agencies for Child Rights

Even if there is increasing awareness of children's rights, more focused efforts are needed to guarantee improved children's rights in India. The debt crisis that third-world countries like India are currently experiencing is a barrier to the realization of children's rights. It is necessary to reassess policies, economic structures, and new technology (Bajpai, 2008 p-450). In India, both governmental and non-governmental organizations fight for children's rights. The following six organizations work for children's rights in India: 
1. Agencies under the J.J. Act 2000 that make decisions; 
2. Agencies that care for children in institutions; 
3. Agencies that provide non-institutional services for children; 
4. Agencies that protect children;
5. Groups that advocate for children's rights; and 
6. Funding organizations.

Reference

  1. Bajpai, Asha (2008) Child Rights in India: Law Policy and Practice, Oxford University Press, New Delhi. 
  2. Bhandary, Shreya (2013) Every second Indian child is malnourished: Report, Times of India, Nagpur, 14.11.2013 p-9. 
  3. Desai, Murali (2012) Child Protection Rights, in Encyclopaedia of Social Work in India, New Royal Book Company, Lucknow. 
  4. Dhawan, Himanshi (2013) India among 12 nations with most HIV+ adolescents, Times of India, Nagpur 1.12.2013 p-10. 
  5. Indian Express (2000)National Family Health Survey 2000, Indian Express, 22nd December 2000, Mumbai. 
  6. Kacker, L., Varadan, S. & Kumar, P. (2007), ‘Study on Child Abuse: INDIA 2007’,Ministry of Women and Child Development Government of India, New Delhi.

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