“Rights for Children, Rights for the Future”
Children are pure, sensitive, trusting, and full of hope. Their childhood should be natural, cheerful, and loving surrounded by protective families and society. Maturity should come with new experiences. Children can flourish and reach their highest potential only when given equal opportunity and basic rights. It is very important to protect children from exploitation and abuse. Children should be rightfully assured of adequate nutrition and healthcare and should be protected from harmful influences.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) defines a child as every human below the age of 18 years. Child rights should be provided to every child below the age of 18 years regardless of race, gender, birthplace, or wealth. All the rights should be non-discriminatory. Rights could not be particular with specific children, in fact, rights should be ensured to all children including the underprivileged who could be street children, physically and mentally disabled children, girl children, children indulged in labour, children in juvenile institutions, etc. Eglantyne Jebb, a British social reformer, was the first person to focus on the rights of children during the first World War. She founded the “Save the Children” organization. She was driven by the belief that every child deserves a healthy and happy life.
“There are things about your childhood you hold onto because they were so much a part of you”. A child is very sensitive and they must have a healthy and joyful childhood for the proper development of their personality and individuality.
At the International Level
Facts stated that 218 million children are in forced labour, 1.7 billion children globally are affected by some kind of violence each year, every 2 in 5 girls in the least developed countries marry before reaching the age of 18, 450 million children live in conflict-affected areas. These major growing problems drew the attention of the International bodies for the rescue and protection of the children.
The first efforts were taken at the international level by the League of Nations. It adopted the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child which states several rights including the right to be fed, the right to receive health care, the right of orphans to have shelter, etc.
Afterwards, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) recognized the need for children’s right to education and social protection. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959), which enunciated 10 principles for the protection of children’s rights. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989. It incorporates children’s civil and political, social, economic, and cultural rights.
Organizations at the International level like the ECPAT International, World Vision, Humanium, PLAN International are doing remarkable jobs to advance children’s rights by providing resources, sponsorship programs, and awareness programs.
At the National Level
“Children - The Future of the Nation”
The development of a nation can be achieved by the development of its children. India is a vast country with a population of 1.38 billion. There are 472 million children in India which is 39% of the total population. Earlier not much importance was given to the rights of children. There was no concept of primary education, children helped their parents in the field and household work. Barriers like child marriage were prevalent which affected the proper growth and development of children. During the British invasion, the situation was worsened. There were legislations and provisions to protect the rights of children. After independence, framers of the Indian Constitution acknowledged the importance of children’s rights and added numerous provisions for its protection in the Constitution of India. Post-independence India took responsibility for the welfare of the children. There were several child welfare schemes which consisted of financial assistance to dependent children, maintenance of orphan and destitute girls, foster care services, special nutrition programs, family and child welfare projects, etc.
Articles 14, 15(3), 21, 21A, 23(1), 24 & 29(2) of the Indian Constitution explain the basic rights given to the children for their protection from exploitation, malnutrition, forced labour, and to provide them with free and compulsory education.
Other major Acts enacted by the government for the protection of children:
➔ Prohibition of the Child Marriage Act, 2006 was implemented on 1 November 2007.
➔ Child Labour Act, 1986 was enacted to prohibit the engagement of children in certain employments.
➔ Section 370 and 370A of the Indian Penal Code provides measures to counter the threat of human trafficking including trafficking of children.
➔ POCSO Act, 2012 was enacted for the protection of children from sexual offences.
➔ Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 for the protection of children who are in conflict with the law.
➔ The Commission for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005 established a statutory body, the National Commission for the Protection of Child’s Rights (NCPCR) ensures the establishment of a special court for children for speedy trial of offences.
➔ Female Infanticide Prevention Act, 1870 is for the protection of female infants from being murdered.
Policies made by the government for the protection of children:
➔ National Policy for Children, 1974: This policy was mainly concerned with health, education, and equal opportunity. It stated that special care should be taken for physically and mentally challenged children.
➔ National Policy on Education, 1986: This policy gave great importance to primary education. Operation Blackboard and Sarva Siksha Abhiyan are some of the popular programmes under this policy.
➔ National Policy on Child Labour, 1987: This policy was made to eliminate child labour from society. This policy focused on the health, education, nutrition, and development of the children.
➔ National Health Policy, 2002: This policy aimed to provide health education and regular health checkups at schools. This policy is also aware and prevents different diseases.
At the Local Level
“You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation” – Gordon B. Hinckley
It is a fact that in India, 27% per cent of children live in urban areas whereas 73% live in rural areas. Children living in rural areas are often deprived of access to basic fundamental needs such as nutrition, health care, education, etc. Children from rural areas, slums, Scheduled Tribes/Castes, Other Backward Classes, and tribal communities suffer from poverty, malnutrition, child marriage, bad schooling facilities, lack of sanitation facility, poor hygiene, etc. NCPCR feels the situation of children in rural India is of national concern. At the state and district level, many initiatives are taken by the government for the protection of children’s rights. The Government of India is partnering with notable NGOs to reach and help children in rural areas. District authorities are also giving importance to the mental health of children by providing psychiatric help to children suffering from trauma, and by various awareness programmes.
Government Schemes for Rural India:
➔ National Literacy Mission Programme 1988: It is a programme to increase the literacy rate in society. It mainly focuses on children’s education.
➔ Integrated Child Development Services: It is a government programme that ensures basic facilities for children under 6 years of age. The facilities include food, healthcare, education, etc.
➔ National Child Labour Projects: It is a scheme to rehabilitate child labourers.
➔ Midday Meal Scheme: It aims to provide better nutrition for school-age children. this scheme offers free lunch to the children of primary and upper primary government schools of India.
➔ SABLA Scheme, 2011: This scheme is for girl children between the age of 11-18 years. It provides awareness about the need for proper nutrition and healthcare for adolescents
Children are the foundation of society. Certain basic human rights belong to every person, similarly, children’s rights are very important for the proper growth and development of a child. It is well said that children are the creators and shapers of a nation. To protect the rights of the children, various initiatives have been taken at the International, National, and Local level. Literacy and healthcare are the two most important rights of a child. Awareness is a greater demand to make society conscious of their rights. Several institutions and help centres should be allocated in urban as well as rural areas to protect and ensure children’s rights. The children’s rights over the past three decades showed remarkable progress at the global level. Significant improvement and enhancement have been observed but still, there is a long way to go.