Child Rights in India

- By Aryaki Sethi

Why is it important to give ‘rights’ to our children instead of advocating an assistance based approach where the welfare of children arises out of sympathy? Our perception of child rights and the process of implementation of these rights transforms the quality of life that we deliver to our children. In understanding these rights, we must adopt an omnichannel approach. On one hand, we must hold the ‘duty bearers’ accountable, this includes the legislation, police, civil servants and basically all workers affiliated with the government. On the other hand, we should educate our children to know their rights and encourage them to call out violations. However, these two pillars of child rights can only be built on the foundation of a society that brings these laws to life with an approach guided by awareness and respect.

Child rights violation is a pressing concern for our nation to address. Sadly, The Economic Times reported over 92,000 calls against violence were received by the child helpline number in the first 11 days of the national lockdown in 2020. You can also reach out to the national child helpline number at 1098 to seek legal help or help spread the word and make these rights accessible to all children. While reaching out is crucial, knowing your rights will help you speak from a place of awareness rather than helplessness. One such law that ensures justice to these children is known as Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012. This law protects children from rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and using the child for pornographic purposes. While laws are enforceable in courts, protection can only be ensured when laws are implemented and socially advocated.

In the revolution for serving the best interests of children, we must identify the root causes of the problem.

One of the major reasons for violation of child rights is poverty. The hand-to-mouth economic conditions of several families in India leads to child labour. Many child rights’ activists have fought against this evil. Article 24 is the fundamental right that has allowed laws like the Child Labour Prohibition Act, 1986 to be passed. Under this act, children below the age of 14 years can not be employed in a factory, mine or hazardous working conditions. Its amendment in 2006 banned children of this age group to be hired as domestic workers. With the enactment of article 21(A), it became important to impose the amendment of 2016. Now, children below 14 years can not be employed in all occupations and those between 14 and 18 years in hazardous occupations. This Indian law is inspired by the right to life, survival and development under the Convention on rights of the child by UNICEF. While society progresses at a slow pace, the trends are indeed positive.

“The best brains of the nation may be found on the last benches of the classroom.” rightly said by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Dr Kalam rightly understood the need for greater acceptance of children’s choices and non-discrimination of children irrespective of factors like caste, creed, gender, and so on. Often we find that children whose passion does not fit in the mainstream expectations of academia are often viewed as the ‘outcasts’. Such social labels at a vulnerable age often lead these children to illegal ways of life. The Juvenile Justice Act,2000 protects minors who are homeless, orphans, mentally or physically challenged, terminally ill, beggars or victims of drug abuse, trafficking, armed conflict, or natural calamities. Article 21(A) and article 45 providing the right to education helps secure their places in classrooms by providing free and compulsory education as a fundamental right. With appropriate rehabilitation and skill training, many of these children are capable of turning their lives around.

Children in their formative years are especially susceptible to the influence that can alter the paths of their lives drastically. So, while the government formulates laws, it is the citizens who are responsible for the implementation of these laws. It is crucial that they are taught in schools and at home and that children are encouraged to report a violation of their rights. A fundamental aspect of child rights is the right to be heard and taken seriously. It is essential that children are included in formulations of these rights and are treated as changemakers. Therefore, the aim of such laws has always been to empower children to uncover their true potential and write their destiny, their own way!

About the Author

Aryaki Sethi is a content writer and mental health advocate. She is currently pursuing Bachelor of Applied Science , Psychology and Health Sciences from the University of Toronto Scarborough.