Friday 8 April 2016
Any research or grassroots activism in the field of child rights will reveal that child rights violation isn't a phenomenon triggered by a single factor but in fact interplay of multiple catalysts. These factors are interlinked, which means that a substantial defence of child rights will require not only comprehensive policy reforms but unprecedented attempts at changing people's psyche towards the right of the child. The world's best NGO for charity in the field of child rights, Save the Children, has given a new hope to generations of children. The simplest thing you can do today is to support an NGO - every single rupee counts.
Here is how child rights violation happens in India
1. Trafficking of children, particularly for sexual exploitation
With instances where children just "disappear" overnight in some parts of India, as many as 1 every 8 minutes (according to National Crime Records Bureau data), the sordid horror of child trafficking is very apparent. Children are today traded like objects, but the nature of this crime makes it hard to track in India. This is why India is not only a hub but simultaneously a transit point for child trafficking, via Nepal and Bangladesh. At last count, 200,000 Nepalese girls under the age of 16 were found to be actively involved in prostitution in India.
There are 3 reasons behind India's child trafficking problem
i. Rampant poverty and lack of opportunities: parents sell their children for merely a handful of rupees
ii. Child trafficking as a highly profitable, albeit illegal business which has buyers from across the world. It is the third most profitable organised crime business, generating billion dollar revenues annually.
iii. Vulnerability of the child, and lack of enforcement of child rights
Save the Children, a pioneer in the field of child rights, fights the menace of child trafficking through a 3Ps strategy of Prevention, Protection, and Prosecution. The NGO uses a community-based approach to empowering children with education, job skills, and grassroots activism that frees children from labour and other forms of exploitation. India's most oppressed demographic, marginalized children, therefore, receive a new lease of life.
Violence against children, including sexual violence
One of the biggest reasons for unreported and therefore largely unaddressed incidence of violence against children, especially sexual violence, is a social stigma. 2012 saw 9500 child and adolescent murders, making India the third largest contributor to child homicide (WHO 2014, Global Health Estimates), while 1 in 3 adolescent girls between 15 to 19 years experience violence (physical, sexual or emotional), from their significant others. Child abuse is often unreported when it involves family members or by people in institutions such as schools or government homes, due to the classic family structure practiced in rural India.
According to the ‘UN Special Rapporteur On Violence Against Women’, there has been a 336% increase of child rape cases from 2001 to 2011. Neglect is an important component of emotional violence, and it occurs when children are not given enough attention, food, or recreation time.
Child labour, including working in hazardous conditions
According to a 2015 report by the U.S. Department of Labour, a list of goods produced by child labour or forced labour featured India among 74 countries with “significant incidence of critical working conditions”. Recent legislation regarding child labour has been unfavourable, with permission to children below 14 years of age to work in family enterprises or entertainment industry. This still includes scope for abuse, especially considering that India is home to the largest child labour population in the world.
It is not rare to find thousands of children toiling in the fields for 14-16 hours a day, in labour intensive professions like farming, stone cutting sector, mining industry, and zari and embroidery. This is being worsened by the entry of multinational companies into India, to exploit the lack of accountability in labour law and cheap labour. Child labour is reportedly highest among scheduled tribes, Muslims, schedule castes and OBC children, despite aggressive reservation policies favouring this demographic.
Forced displacement, caused by 'development' projects (including Special Economic Zones) migration to urban areas, farmer suicides, and armed conflict is also another cause of child labour. This often results in children being exploited into bonded child labour, a form of slavery. These children become psychologically and mentally disturbed, they thus become dependent on their 'owners'.
Discrimination against girls in education and in access to food
There is a saying in Andhra Pradesh "Bringing up a daughter is like watering a plant in another's courtyard." While there is extensive research about the socio-economic impact of gender discrimination, the biggest effect is on the mind of tomorrow's women, Indian girls, who are deeply influenced by the myth of female inferiority. This translates to a generation of women unaware of their rights and capabilities.
Even at birth, India's masses prefer a boy over a girl. Girls in India are given less food (including access to breastfeeding), fewer healthcare consultations, making anaemia and mineral deficiency common. Despite high female literacy, Delhi, Gujarat and Rajasthan still show discrimination against girls. This is seen in the high dropout rate of girls, who are expected to help with household work and taking care of younger siblings. This worsens the rural gender gap in female and male equality, as girls underperform in school. Depriving a child of their basic rights, just because they are a girl, is a gross violation of child rights.
Discrimination against children on the basis of caste, tribe or indigenous background
People belonging to scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs) have faced discrimination throughout generations, and this trend is prevalent even to this day. According to Parliamentary findings, violence against the SC/ST community has increased over the years. An upward graph emerges when seeing the number of cases lodged under the SCs/STs Prevention of Atrocities Act in 1999 (34,799), and 2001 (39,157 cases) a large number of cases of violence against SC/ST are reported in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh has the largest number of atrocities against Scheduled Tribes. Many of these cases are unregistered.
Child abuse is prevalent in Dalit and other tribal communities, and anecdotes of violence, rape, and torture are common. These acts are executed not only by high caste Hindus but also separatists and insurgents. This has resulted in systematic oppression of the community; Literacy among SC/ST population is incredibly low, and states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal have the lowest SC enrolment and attendance figures.
With the span of child rights violation in India, it is clear that this is an issue which needs to be addressed at many levels, via a comprehensive programme. The role of both NGOs and Government bodies is imperative. A policy reform can 'give teeth' to police action on those who participate in this heinous crime, only if corruption doesn't enable cover-ups, and hence erasure of these experiences. Grassroots activism by NGOs like Save the Children is, therefore, vital to be the guiding light to expose this crime, educate both children and adults, and liberate children from a life of suffering. With great tax benefits of donating to charity, a small investment can yield a huge reward when it comes to child rights. All children deserve a chance at a happy childhood and together we can help them get one.