In 2007, the then President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam had said, “The rights of women and children and their aspirations are of paramount importance in our march towards an inclusive and equitable society”. Despite the numerous measures taken in the country, Indians hardly ever ask the question – How safe is my child?
In India, child abuse is highly misunderstood. Most parents fail to look beyond safety in terms of constant chaperonage. Child abuse may take many forms – from physical violence to sexual abuse, from emotional neglect to malnutrition, discrimination to exploitation. The nation suffers from a deep seated awareness of the various forms of abuse and neglect that children suffer from.
A look at the country’s child labour scenario is heart wrenching. The 2011 Census report pegs the number of working children in the country between 5 and 14 years of age to be at 43.53 lakh. A number of NGOs, however, believe that the official count falls short, that the number of child labourers in the country is far more. Despite the presence of a Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act which details some 18 occupations and 65 processes which are hazardous and in which child labour may not be employed, it is estimated that a number of these regularly employ children under 14 years. Manufacturing of match sticks, crackers, and precious stone cutting sector have to be highlighted as some of the hazardous occupations that employ children. Agriculture engages about 60 percent child labour. Poverty, lack of social security, and lack of wage negotiability are key reasons for employment of child labour in the country. According to UNICEF India has the greatest child labour force in the world. While domestic labour is rampant, nothing much is done about it until some case of abuse crops up in the media.
According to a news report from 2014, about 135,000 children are estimated to be trafficked in India each year. Trafficked children are sold into slavery, domestic servitude, beggary, and the sex industry. Children are kidnapped and often even bought from remote villages, more from impoverished families. The child trafficking industry is India’s greatest shame and yet very little has been done about it in terms of policing. In a number of states, powerful cartels manage trafficking, buying off parents and the police to keep away legal restrictions. According to Childline India, some 1,000 to 1,500 children are smuggled from India to Saudi Arabia each year to beg during the Hajj. Child trafficking is highest in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu.
Child Sex Abuse
Sexual abuse is one of the greatest threats to the safety and health of Indian children. Child sex abuse (CSA) has been on the rise in the nation. About 10 percent of the urban homeless in the country are children and one in every two urban homeless child is believed to be sexually abused. The horrifying reality of CSA has just about started to dawn on the nation. According to a recent news report, about eight cases of sex crimes against children have been registered each day over the past two years but conviction rates are as low as 24 percent. In cases of CSA, boys are just as much at risk as girls, says a UNICEF report. According to a study of 13 Indian states 69 percent children reported being physically abused of which 54.6 percent were boys. In cases of CSA, 88.6 percent children were abused by a parent or a close family member. Much of the trafficking is conducted under the guise of marriage – especially that of young girls under 14 to much older men.
Malnutrition and Disease Prevention
While it is not clearly visible in urban regions and among the middle class, malnutrition is one of the greatest threats to the children of our country. About 30 percent of the malnourished children of the world live in our country. Control of preventable disease is another area where Indian children are extremely vulnerable. While polio has been eradicated thanks to the extensive drive undertaken by the government, there are a number of vaccines and inoculations that can save precious lives but are not administered due to ignorance or poverty. According to the United Nations, about 4 children die in India every minute, most of these from preventable conditions and diseases such as pneumonia, malaria, diarrhoea, measles, typhoid etc. About 2.1 million children in the country die before they are 5 years old. According to the National Urban Health Mission, “More than 46 percent of urban poor children are underweight and almost 60 percent of urban poor children miss total immunisation before completing one year.” While undoubtedly much is being done is the field of mother and child health by the union and the state governments, poverty and subsequent malnourishment still remain looming menaces.
Female Foeticide & Gender Discrimination
Despite being proud of a legacy of strong queens and women leaders, girl children are not safe in the country. That is, if they are born at all. Female foeticide and gender discrimination are rampant, so much so that the sex ratio in many states is skewed and calamitous. According to news reports, the sex ratio in India as of 2014 is 943 females to 1000 males. Some states are well below this national average – Haryana has a sex ratio of 879 females to 1000 males. An allied evil is discrimination based on the child’s gender. Girl children in India are often denied education and healthy nutrition too. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao’ campaign is one giant step in generating awareness and combating this evil, and yet India has to make much progress in this area. Female foeticides are surprisingly, much higher in number in urban India than in rural areas.
Childline – 1098
CHILDLINE India Foundation (CIF) launched a toll free helpline CHILDLINE in 1996 to aid children in distress. The initiative is supported by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) and focuses on street children who are victims of abuse. The toll free number 1098 is manned round the clock and operates in 291 cities or districts of the country providing support to children in need. Over 31 million calls have been attended to since inception making a great headway in the field of child safety and protection.
What Can I Do?
Report – Report all cases of suspected child abuse in your vicinity to the police, CHILDLINE, or the appropriate NGO for the safety and protection of the child/children involved.
Donate – Donate generously to NGOs such as the Akshaya Patra Foundation which help in providing midday meals to about 1.4 million children each day.
Volunteer – Volunteer to spend a few hours each week with Teach for India – a programme that aims at providing quality education to underprivileged children.
Promote – Promote the cause of girl children under programmes such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaigns through your family and friends.
Connect – Connect with various NGOs and organisations working towards protection and safety of children in your neighbourhood.
Essay on Children’s Day for Students
Amendments in the Child Labour Law
Is Your Child Obese?
Sukanya Samriddhi Account: New Scheme for a Girl Child in India
Child Labour in Diamond Industry
Child Labour in Sivakasi Fireworks Industry
Child Trafficking in India
Employment of Children in Mines
Child labour in India
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme
Stop Female Foeticide – Save the Girl Child
How to improve the position of girl child in the rural areas of India
Child abuse in India
Child Marriage in India
Life of Street Children in India
Children Safety and Disaster management in schools