Children and childhood across the world, have broadly been construed in terms of a ‘golden age’ that is synonymous with innocence, freedom, joy, play and the like. It is the time when, spared the rigours of adult life, one hardly shoulders any kind of responsibility or obligations. But, then, it is also true that children are vulnerable, especially when very young. The fact that children are vulnerable, they need to be cared for and protected from ‘the harshness of the world outside’ and around.
This being so, the adult-child relation, parents, in particular, is said to provide ‘care and protection’ – serving thereby the ‘best interests of the child’ and meeting their day-to-day ‘needs of survival and development’. The adult is presumed to be the guardian and in that respect expected to take the responsibility of a child’s welfare and development. Whether or not, the premise underlying this is correct or not, the childhood ‘reality’ on the whole is questionable, demanding critical evaluation. Accordingly, idealistic notions and representations associated with children and childhood have been challenged, especially concerning poverty, disease, exploitation and abuse rife across the globe. Many also believe that childhood is that period during which children are subject to a set of rules and regulations unique to them, and one that does not apply to members of other social categories. It is indeed a period in a person’s life during which she/he is neither expected nor allowed to fully participate in various domains of social life. It is thus not a world of freedom and opportunity but one of confinement and limitation in which children are ‘wholly subservient and dependent’. This being so, childhood is nothing short of a world of isolation, sadness, exploitation, oppression, cruelty and abuse.
The UNCRC outlines the fundamental human rights that should be afforded to children in four broad classifications that suitably cover all civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of every child:
Right to Survival:
• Right to be born
• Right to minimum standards of food, shelter and clothing
• Right to live with dignity
• Right to health care, to safe drinking water, nutritious food, a clean and safe environment, and information to help them stay healthy
Right to Protection:
• Right to be protected from all sorts of violence
• Right to be protected from neglect
• Right to be protected from physical and sexual abuse
• Right to be protected from dangerous drugs
Right to Participation:
• Right to freedom of opinion
• Right to freedom of expression
• Right to freedom of association
• Right to information
• Right to participate in any decision making that involves him/her directly or indirectly
Right to Development:
• Right to education
• Right to learn
• Right to relax and play
• Right to all forms of development – emotional, mental and physical
CRC and India
Adopted by the United Nations in 1989, the CRC is an international agreement legally binding on the parties signatory to it. It has incorporated in its various articles rights of children without any discrimination whatsoever. It was ratified by India on 11 December 1992. It has a preamble setting out different principles the CRC is built upon.
It is based on four basic principles:
1. Non-discrimination (Article 2)
2. Best Interest of the Child (Article 3)
3. Right to Life Survival and Development (Article 6)
4. Right to be Heard (Article 12)
Steps that can be taken to improve the lives of children.
· Strengthen the reporting mechanism on violence against children by making it more accessible to children.
· Develop a framework for the protection of children from online abuse and ensuring privacy, safety and confidentiality of data shared on digital platforms.
· Enhance financial investment on child protection components
· Sensitise parents, service providers and community for early identification and management of children facing abuse and violence; and sensitisation of children, parents and caregivers on gender issues.
· Create awareness amongst children on safe usage of online platforms and protection from cyber abuse.
· Strengthen the juvenile justice system in India and provide care, support and rehabilitation to survivors, particularly of sexual violence.
· Ensure safe schools by integrating safe school principles in curricula, conduct awareness-raising workshops and develop capacities of teachers and other staffs
· Emphasise on vocational training for children especially those involved in labour after they complete the age of 15 years.