CHILD PROTECTION IN INDIA
Social justice > Human Resources > Women and Child issues
- The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted searches at 59 locations across 20 States and one Union Territory, as part of a pan-India drive against the circulation and sharing of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM). The operation was code-named “Megh Chakra”.
- The latest report released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that 1,49,404 cases of crime against children were registered in 2021. Every hour, there were 17 crimes against children in India, translating to 409 crimes every day.
- Of these, 36.05 % were under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).
- Eight children were trafficked every day in the country in 2021
- Crimes against children increased sharply by 351 % between 2011 and 2021.
- There was a 16.2 % rise in cases of crime against children in 2021 from the previous year. The crime rate registered per lakh children population is 33.6 in 2021 in comparison with 28.9 in 2020.
- COVID-19 pandemic has left children far more exposed and vulnerable towards violence.
THREATS FACED BY CHILDREN IN INDIA:
- Foeticide & infanticide:
- At least 9 million girls are ‘missing’ in India as a result of female infanticide from 2000 to 2019.
- According to Lancet, about 68% of the deaths of children under the age of five in India can be attributed to child and maternal malnutrition.
- The Global Hunger Index 2021 report has termed the level of hunger in India “alarming”. At 17.3%, India has the highest child wasting rate of all countries covered in the GHI. Child stunting stands as 34.7 percent in 2016–2018.
- Child labour:
- An NSSO Report from 2017-18 suggests that 95% of the children aged 6-13 years are attending educational institutions while the corresponding figures for those aged 14-17 years is 79.6%.
- Child marriage:
- UNICEF estimates suggest that each year, at least 1.5 million girls under 18 get married in India, which makes it home to the largest number of child brides in the world - accounting for a third of the global total.
- Sexual violence:
- A third of all cases of crime against children in 2021 (53,874 out of 1,49,404) were registered under the POCSO Act.
- Human trafficking:
- Incidents of child trafficking continue to increase. According to NCRB data, around 8000 Children were trafficked in the last 3 years in India. Moreover, the pandemic has amplified the menace of trafficking.
- Cyber threats:
- India had one of the highest exposure to online risks out of any country. Threats from cyberspace include child pornography, spamming, radicalisation and cyberbullying among others.
- Substance abuse:
- More and more children are getting into alcohol consumption and psychotropic substances in India. This is severe in areas like Punjab.
EXISTING MEASURES FOR CHILDREN:
- Specific constitutional provisions:
- Article 21 A: Right to free and compulsory elementary education for all children in the 6-14 years age group
- Article 24: Right to be protected from any hazardous employment till the age of 14 years
- Article 39(e): Right to be protected from being abused and forced by economic necessity to enter occupations unsuited to their age or strength
- Article 39(f): Right to equal opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and guaranteed protection of childhood and youth against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment
- Article 45: Right to early childhood care and education to all children until they complete the age of six years
- National commission for Protection of Child rights:
- Right to Education Act, 2009
- The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
- Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act
- The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (1986, amended in 2016)
- Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012
- Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000:
- Section 67B of the Act provides stringent punishment for publishing, browsing or transmitting of material depicting children in sexually explicit act, etc. in electronic form.
- Indian Penal Code (IPC)
- Sections 354A and 354D of IPC, 1860 provide punishment for cyber bullying and cyber stalking.
- Policies & Schemes:
- National Policy for Children, 2013
- As children’s needs are multi-sectoral, interconnected and require collective action, the Policy calls for purposeful convergence and coordination across different sectors and levels of governance.
- The Policy has identified four key priority areas:
- Survival, health and nutrition
- Education and development
- Based on the Policy, the National Plan of Action for Children (NPAC), 2016 was developed.
- Mission Vatsalya:
- Formerly called the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), Mission Vatsalya aims to:
- Secure a healthy and happy childhood for every child in India
- Foster a sensitive, supportive and synchronized ecosystem for development of children
- Assist States/UTs in delivering the mandate of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015
- Achieve the SDG goals
- Under the scheme, institutional support, such as shelter homes, and non-institutional services, such as adoption, are covered.
- Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)
- Efforts in telecom and cyber space:
- Helpline numbers, like 24x7 helpline 1098 for children in distress
- PENCiL portal is an online platform that aims at engaging the Central Government, State Government, District, civil society and the public in eradicating child labour to achieve the target of child labour free society.
- POCSO e-Box is an online complaint box for reporting child sexual abuse. It is a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) initiative to help children report such crimes directly to the Commission.
- UN Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC):
- Hague convention on Adoption of children
- International collaborations:
- Indian agencies collaborate with agencies like INTERPOL to address threats against children.
- For instance, “Megh Chakra” was being carried out following the inputs received from Interpol’s Singapore special unit based on the information received from the authorities in New Zealand.
- Proper management of care institutions:
- The safety and security of child care homes have been a matter of concern ever since sexual assaults were reported in child care institutions in Deoria in Uttar Pradesh and Muzaffarpur in Bihar in 2018.
- Create more infrastructure:
- There is a severe lack of child care institutions (CCI) in India, particularly in the north-eastern states. As a result, the number of children residing in these CCIs are in excess, which pose a potential risk to the rights and protection of these children.
- Improve conviction rates:
- Despite having several legislations for child protection, the actual conviction rate is dismal. For instance, the conviction rate in human trafficking cases is only about 1.5 per cent. This situation needs to be improved through creation of special courts.
- Formalisation of economy:
- Millions of child labourers remain invisible, due to the informal nature of their job. This can be addressed by promoting the pace of formalisation of Indian economy.
- Awareness generation:
- Patriarchal notions and societal acceptance are major contributors towards violence against children. This can be tackled by improving awareness on the need of protecting and investing in our children.
Q. Give an account of the concerns faced in ensuring the protection and development of children in India. What measures have been taken to address these concerns?