As a 1992 signatory to the United Convention On the Rights of The Child (UNCRC), India has steadily evolved its laws and policies to give protection and empowerment to children. The UNCRC defines the nation’s obligation to help children have access to a list of essential rights. These 41 articles can be understood under 4 broad themes. It is important to understand that they all interact and are integrated with each other. They also form the blueprint of how child rights are being fought for throughout the world by different governments, NGOs and concerned individuals.
1. Survival rights
Survival rights include a child’s right to life and essential needs like nutrition, shelter, living standards and medical services. (Articles 23 and 24) include access to Medical care, nutrition, protection from harmful habits (including drugs) and safe working environments under the right to health. These articles also mention access to special care and support for the special needs children.
2. Development rights
A child’s development rights include a right to education, play and leisure, access to cultural activities, information, as well as freedom of thought, conscience and religion. A right to education is paramount in this regard as it helps children maintain discipline and enhance life skills while finding a safe and healthy environment to nurture physiological development. This environment can only be achieved with the inclusion of freedom from violence, abuse or neglect.
3. Protection rights
These rights exist as safeguard against child abuse, neglect and exploitation. They also include care for refugee children, a child-friendly justice system as well as rehabilitation for child victims of abuse. Those who have lost their families must be cared for by people who respect their ethnic group, religion, culture and language. They also must be protected from ill-treatment, and sexual or physical violence, including violence as a means of discipline. This also considers the sale of children along with prostitution and pornography of children. Children must be protected from armed conflict, and governments must protect children from participating in armed struggle. Children also must be protected from working in difficult or dangerous conditions that compromise their health, or access to education or play. The justice system must not permit death or life sentences, as well as sentences with adult prisoners.
4. Participation rights
These rights address a child’s freedom to express opinions and speak on matters affecting their own lives. They also must be free to join associations and assemble peacefully. As they mature, the children must be permitted to participate in social activities. Children deserve the right to express their opinion freely without any fear of contempt and have their voices heard when adults are deciding on their behalf.
How child rights are violated in India – a few examples
1. Harmful ‘traditional’ practices, including early marriage
child marriage dates back to an era with lower life expectancy and hence seemed practical. Now it is just a part of tradition’ forced upon children, instead of being free to decide when and whom to marry. Therefore, girls are forced into illiteracy; their future is defined as homemakers and nothing more.
2. Trafficking of children, particularly for sexual exploitation
NCRB data shows that In India, as much as 1 child disappears every 8 minutes. . India is not only a centre, but also a transit point for child trafficking, via Nepal and Bangladesh.
3. Violence against children, including sexual violence
Sexual violence is the most largely unreported incidence of violence against children repressed due to social stigma. 2012 saw 9500 child and adolescent murder cases (WHO 2014, Global Health Estimates), and 1 in 3 adolescent girls experience violence from their significant others.
Save The Children fights for child rights through a strategy of 3Ps: Prevention, Protection, and Prosecution. These rights are in sync with the vision of the United Nation, equitable access to resources. No matter what a child’s race, colour, religion, language, ethnicity, gender or abilities are, each child deserves to have access to these essential rights. When you support an NGO like Save the Children, you are taking part in an initiative to give every child a future that he deserves. You can donate money, or donate your time to one of the many campaigns or volunteer-driven activities that the NGO runs across 18 states throughout the year.