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Deccan Herald » Edit Page » Detailed Story
Our children and their rights
By Sabu Joseph
The need of the hour is to spread awareness on child rights issues.

As we celebrate the Child Rights day we need to take a look at the status of our children and their rights. Child rights imply that children have certain entitlements and there are limits to what they should do and what adults can make them do. Most countries don’t allow children to vote, marry, smoke, drink, have sex or engage in paid employment. What entitles children to this special status is their young age and the innocence associated with it.

In the present day context, almost all of us accept that a child has the right to special care and protection. Thanks to UN for adopting the Convention on Child Rights in the year 1989. Till today 191 countries across the globe ratified the convention. In India, while we boast of an economic growth of 8 percent or more for the last few years and showcase this to get into the elite league of G8 nations and other forums, we also qualify to be in the league of the “most dangerous countries” to children, based on the parameters like death by malnutrition, child labour, sexual abuse and violence to our children.

The media, particularly the electronic one, highlights the “economic development” in a big way, but mostly remains silent on the other side of the story. How can a country, who neglects its own children, shamelessly lobby for a position in G8 or UN Security Council?

Wider participation

Having realised this, the government has recently banned domestic child labour and children working in restaurants and eateries. But even after 20 years of initiation of Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 in hazardous industries, the situation hasn’t changed much. This shows that laws and regulation alone cannot solve the issue and it needs a wider social mobilisation and participation from the civil society.

The much talked of Right to Education bill has gone into oblivion denying millions of children the opportunity to equitable and quality education. The central government abdicated its responsibility and passed the onus to the states citing the reason that the centre’s coffers do not have enough funds. Is it because the right of a child to equitable and qualitative education is the last priority of the government?

Disturbing scenario

Another disheartening scenario can be seen in child mortality rates. A recent WB report says that Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) failed to curb the mortality rates even after World Bank pumped millions of dollars for this cause this year. A country where 47 percent of its children come under the bracket of malnourishment, we can’t even compare ourselves with our neighbours!

Following the UN declaration on the Rights of the Child 1959, India adopted the National Policy on Children in 1974. Though the policy is a welfare statement with no recognition of child rights it recognised the responsibility of the state to some extent to provide for children’s well-being. The policy stated that “it shall be the policy of the State to provide adequate services to children, both before and after birth and through the period of growth to ensure their full physical, mental and social development. The State shall progressively increase the scope of such services so that within a reasonable time all children in the country enjoy optimum conditions for their balanced growth.”

Subsequently, we ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 2nd December, 1992. We are also a signatory to the World declaration on Survival, Protection and Development of Children. There is a lack of political will to implement the provisions of these conventions and treaties.

With crores of our children not finding recognition of their rights in the society, the need of the hour is to spread awareness about Children’s issues among the general public, media, NGOs, teachers, legislators, judiciary and our children. It’s of paramount importance to educate our children about their rights and also the common man on the ways and means to protect the rights and innocence of our children.

Let us all get together and protect our children. Only then we can proudly claim to be a developing nation.

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