Children need a lot of love, care, and protection as they are extremely vulnerable and prone to abuse and exploitation. Nearly one-third of the total population of almost every country consists of children. As children are extremely innocent they need to be protected and be given a good positive environment for their overall development. However, children are ill-treated, neglected, and abused in almost all countries of the world and India is no exception. Social reformers and Indian leaders raised their voices for protecting the rights of children and therefore long term measures have also been taken in this direction. Still, exploitation and abuse of children are widespread in India.
Child abuse can be understood as any ill-treatment of a child such as severe beating, sexual abuse, or physical violence which is life-threatening. Such mistreatment includes abuse that may be done to a child either by the parent or any relative or any other person. It harms the mental and physical growth of the child and has serious effects on the mindset of the child.
TYPES OF CHILD-ABUSE:
Physical punishment to a child-
Parents sometimes inflict severe physical punishment to correct the wrong behavior of the child. This also happens in school where a child is punished by the teachers for either not completing their homework or for bad behavior. Although this measure is taken by parents and teachers for good of the child this physical punishment builds a feeling of shame, insecurity, and insult in the child. We all have seen many instances of extreme physical punishments such as the severe beating of a child which causes serious injuries to the child that may at times result in the child’s death.
Sexual abuse of children-
In recent times the sexual exploitation of the child is continuously rising both at home and outside. Children are sexually abused by their relatives, teachers, maids, caretakers, security personnel, school bus drivers, etc. This form of abuse is not only confined to the poor classes of society but also in the middle class and higher classes. There are also cases where the children are sexually abused by their relatives or close family members for years as the child is not even able to report abuse to anyone out of fear and shame.
Children are employed in hazardous, risky, or dangerous activities in factories. Generally, the poor section of people send their children to work in such hazardous industries to support their family without considering the physical damage that such work can cause to the children. This is common, especially in urban areas. Many children who work as domestic servants in homes are sexually exploited by their masters. Child labor is prevalent because children are preferred to be hired as they cannot cause labor problems, they are ready to work for more hours on low wages, and they can be easily hired and fired as they are not given any rights or benefits that are given to the adults. Child workers are generally employed in the match-stick industry, carpet-making industry, beedi-making industry, firecracker industries, glass, and bangle manufacturing industries, etc.
CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN IN INDIA:
Kidnapping and abduction
Procuration of minor girls
Selling and Buying of girls for Prostitution
Abetment of Suicide
Exposure and abandonment
PROTECTION TO CHILDREN BY LAW IN INDIA:
Article 15 of the Constitution of India prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. Clause 3 of Article 15 states that nothing in this Article shall prevent the State from making special provisions for women and children.
Article 23 of the Constitution prohibits trafficking in human beings and forced labor and any violation of this provision is an offence punishable under the law. Trafficking of women and children for immoral purposes is carried on a large scale in India. Trafficking means to hire, purchase, and sale of women and children as if they are goods or commodities. Parliament passed the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1956 to punish those dealing in the trafficking of women and children.
Article 24 of the Constitution declares that no child below the age of fourteen years is employed in any hazardous factory or mine that adversely affects the physical and mental growth of the child.
Article 39 (f) of the Constitution provides that the State should give children opportunities and all kinds of facilities to develop healthily with freedom and dignity and their childhood and youth shall be protected from exploitation and moral and material abandonment.
Article 45 of the Constitution asks the State to provide free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years. This provision is made for the educational and intellectual development of all children. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, that came into effect on April 1, 2010, gives effect to this constitutional guarantee. This right is also given to disabled children.
Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 was passed by the Government of India to protect the interest of the children and regulate their employment. The Act prohibits the employment of children in some occupations like those dealing with automobiles, garages, mines, handling of toxic or explosive substances or workshops of beedi-making, carpet weaving, cloth printing, cement manufacture, building construction, etc. This Act also specifies the hours of work, weekly holidays, annual leave with wages, payment of minimum wages to working children, health and safety measures that must be observed in household enterprises, and government schools. Further, more Acts were passed to prohibit the employment of children such as the Factories Act, 1948, the Mines Act, 1952, the Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966. These Acts prohibited the employment of children below the age of fourteen years in any factory or mines.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 replaced the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986. The new Act provides for the care, protection, treatment, and rehabilitation measures to promote the well-being of children. The Act was incorporated on the principle of the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration. The Act provided a child-friendly procedure to be observed in dealing with the juveniles in conflict with the law and children who need care and protection. This Act stipulates that no order shall be passed that sentences the juvenile to death or imprisonment. The Act provides for adoption, foster care, sponsorship, or placement at an after-care organization for rehabilitation and social integration of children residing in children’s homes.
COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD (CRC):
CRC is a United Nations body made to ensure children enjoy equality, respect, dignity, and human rights. It consists of independent experts who are responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that was adopted by the General Assembly on 20th November 1989 and came in to effect from 2nd September 1990. This Convention includes rights of children such as the right to life, right to acquire a nationality, right to freedom of expression and thought, right to education, right to benefit from social security, right to an adequate standard of living for the child’s overall development, right to good health and treatment of illness, right to protection against illegal interference with the child’s privacy, family, home, etc.
The Member States undertake to submit to the Committee the reports on measures taken by them to give effect to the rights specified in the Convention and their enjoyment through the Secretary-General of the United Nations Organization.
The key principle given in CRC is the principles of protection of the best interest of the child, non-discrimination, and right to life. The provisions of CRC required India to make laws and take steps for protecting children from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury, abuse, neglect, mistreatment, or any kind of exploitation including sexual abuse. CRC prohibited the child from being subjected to torture or inhuman treatment. The dignity of the child needs to be respected and protected.
To eradicate the problem of child abuse we need to teach our children about good touch and bad touch from a very young age. Parents should be more vigilant and ask their children to tell them openly about any incident of a bad touch that made them uncomfortable. As the child grows up such incidents make them feel depressed, insecure, and aggressive. The Government should make sure that the children below the age of fourteen years are given free education for their over-all development. Various constitutional and legal protections are given to children but these provisions should be properly implemented.