Saturday, 23 March 2013
India: Breaking The Silence Finally On Child Sexual Abuse
By Anjali Singh, 22 March, 2013
Child Sexual Abuse is a topic few are ready to discuss much less address. Thus it came as a welcome surprise when in May 2012 the Indian Parliament enacted its first law specifically outlawing child sexual abuse. Prior to that the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act being notified, different forms of abuse with children in India was covered by laws not designed to address them. So if a girl suffered non-penetrative sexual abuse it would be classified as “assault with intent to outrage the modesty of woman,” and if a boy suffered abuse it would be classified as per the draconian anti-homosexuality law that criminalized, “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.”
But this would only help punish the perpetrator if the police and courts would recognize the crime as non-penetrative sexual acts. But whether the law would recognize it or not, Child Sexual Abuse has been a reality that children in India have been facing continuously irrespective of their gender or societal strata they belonged to. A fact that a recently released report by Human Rights Watch confirms in a report they released in Lucknow in February 2013. One look at the report on child sexual abuse termed, “Breaking the Silence-Child Sexual Abuse in India” and the horrifying reality would become more than evident.
The report presents a dismal picture of child protection in the country particularly when it comes to preventing sexual abuse of minors within homes, schools and institutions. A comprehensive 82 page report, complete with case studies and expert comments, it proves beyond doubt the existence of child sexual abuse across classes. Highlighting inaction against the perpetrators, Human Rights Watch maintains while releasing the report that child sexual abuse in homes, schools and institutions for care and protection of children is quite common. They further stress that a government appointed committee in January 2013 itself found that the government child protection schemes, “have clearly failed to achieve their avowed objective.”
And this when in a statement released by Louis-Georges Arsenault, UNICEF Representative to India, clearly establishes children in India are facing child sexual abuse. Arsenault states, “It is alarming that too many of these cases are children. One in three rape victims is a child. More than 7,200 children including infants are raped every year; experts believe that many more cases go unreported. Given the stigma attached to rapes, especially when it comes to children, this is most likely only the tip of the iceberg. ”
But as alarming as that sounds the current report released by Human Rights Watch is not the only study done in India on a subject of child sexual abuse. In 2007 the Indian government sponsored a survey called, “National Study on Child Abuse: India 2007” through the Ministry of Women and Child Development, GoI. The findings of the study was based on interviews with 12,500 children in 13 different states, and reported serious and widespread sexual abuse, thereby bringing on record the gravity of the problem. Yet no concrete steps were initiated to deal with the problem and Renuka Chowdhry, the then Minister of Women and Child, went as far as describing the prevalence of child sexual abuse in India as “a conspiracy of silence”
What was really disturbing was the fact that the survey confirmed that 72 percent of the victims said they were abused and they did not report the matter to anyone. Only a small 3 percent of the victims’ families complained to the police or made the abuse public. Interestingly, prior to the GoI study in 2007, an India NGO named Recovery and Healing from Incest(RAHI) conducted India’s first study of child sexual abuse in 1998 called “Recovery and Healing from Incest, Voices from the Silent Zone(New Delhi 1998). The study interviewed 600 English-speaking middle and upper class women out which 76 percent said they had been abused in their childhood or adolescence. Shockingly 40 percent said they had been abused by a family member mostly an uncle or a cousin. Yet despite the study making its findings public nothing much was done by the government or related agencies to address the problem with seriousness.
Explians Menakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director, Human Rights Watch to Citizen News Service - CNS, “While great awareness has been raised about sexual violence against women in India much less is known about the problem of child sexual abuse in India. Those children that have the courage to speak up against the sexual abuse they face, the police, medical experts and even their families refuse to take cognizance of it. The children are admonished for making the allegations and reprimanded by authority figures as well. We too faced a lot of difficulty in collecting information for the survey as no one was ready to talk about the abuse they had faced.” She adds, “The interviews we conducted from April and June 2012 and more than 100 people were interviewed including independent and government child protection experts and officials, police officials, doctors, social workers and lawyers. We also spoke to eight victims of child sexual abuse and relatives of another nine victims, who agreed to discuss their experiences. One of the victim was a male and seven were females.”
The study also investigated cases of CSA within institutions both private and government which had been well highlighted in the media between 2011-2012. In the absence of effective monitoring of residential care facilities like Apna Ghar and Drone Foundation in Haryana where children were housed within an institution for care and protection and abused by the people running the home were also studied. Cases of sexual abuse within the Shiv Kuti Shishu Grih, a government residential facility for girls in Allahabad, a city in Uttar Pradesh had girls between the ages of 6-12 years facing sexual abuse by an employee for over fifteen years and it was only discovered by chance are also included. Cases from homes in New Delhi, Karnataka, West Bengal, Goa, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh were studied where alleged abusers were members of staff, older children and outside visitors including police officers. But addressing child sexual abuse, according to Human Rights Watch report is a challenge the world over, but in India, shortcomings in both state and community responses add to the problem, as victims who come forward make a complaint often suffer as a result.
Ahmed, father of a 12 year old girl who was gang raped says, “My family was ostracized after my daughter said she was raped. The attack on her took place after three men abducted her one afternoon as she was walking back to her home in the northern city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. We decided to inform the police after seeing her condition and also as many school girls used the same street and we were afraid for their safety. But instead of supporting me my neighbors shunned me as my daughter was raped. The family of my elder daughter’s fiancé cancelled the engagement as they felt public knowledge of the attack on my daughter would bring shame to their family.”
But apart from facing social ostracism, Ahmed(name changed) also had to face the ire of the enforcement agencies, “The police discouraged me from registering the complaint and accused my family of lying. My daughter was continuously saying she was raped, but the police told us not to tell anyone and settle the case. When I refused the police grabbed me and slapped me several times, they also beat up my son.” Similar insensitive approach of the police is stated by another 12 year old victim in the report. Krishna(name changed), also from Uttar Pradesh says she was raped by a member of a politically influential family. When she complained to the police, instead of taking action against the perpetrator, they detained her at the police station over 12 days.
Recalls Krishna, “The police kept insisting that I change my statement otherwise they threatened that something would happen to me. They would also insult me and call me rude names. My parents kept trying to see me but they did not allow them to talk to me because they thought my parents would tell me to speak the truth.”
While the CSA report exposes police apathy of in cases of abuse with children it also make a strong point about the insensitive attitude of the medical fraternity in dealing with child rape victims. Says Krishna who went through a traumatic experience when she was asked to go through medical examination post rape, “The doctor asked me to lie down on a table and remove my clothes. When she examined me she inserted a single finger inside me. It hurt and I was scared. I did not like what the doctor was doing to me. She then said, “Oh, it was just a small rape, it’s no big deal.”
According to Menakshi Ganguly, “The finger test has been banned by the High Courts in most states, even forensic experts maintain that this test has no scientific importance yet it is be constantly used on victims. The doctors and medical experts examining a child who has been a victim of rape maintained when interviewed by us that in the absence of any training and guidelines on how to carry out examinations of a child rape victims they have to use the existing procedures which are extremely traumatic for a child. In most cases we examined the finger test was used by doctors to examine a child rape victim.”
Agrees the mother of a three-year-old girl whose daughter had to undergo a medical examination after being raped and sodomized by her own father, “The whole experience was not only painful but distressing for both me and my daughter. Instead of examining my child in a separate room, the examination was done in a blood stained labor ward in a govt hospital in Bengaluru which further traumatized her. The doctor who conducted the examination was very young who knew nothing of examining a rape victim, she kept asking my daughter if she had bled and could she walk after being raped. Then she pulled my child‘s leg back and she screamed in pain. After the examination my daughter could not pee for 6-8 hours because of the severe pain.”
As per Dr Shaibya Saldanha, a gynecologist who works with child sexual abuse survivors in Bengaluru, “Most doctors simply do not have the skills to perform such an important role. Unfortunately no doctor, whether a general practitioner or a gynecologist or a pediatrician has been given any training whatsoever regarding child abuse examination, interviewing, how to take care, what are rehabilitation procedures, medical and psychological needs of the child. They have no idea.”
A situation that is even worse in states like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh shares Vinika Karoli , State Co-ordinator UP, Quality Institutional Care and Alternative for Children, an organization that facilitated the release of the CSA Study in Lucknow, “There were too many cases happening in UP and MP and with no protection mechanism and in absence of state rules on the Juvenile Justice Act it was difficult to get a correct picture of the situation. Through an RTI we filed it came to light that govt in UP was pinning the number of CSA cases in 2011-2012 as low as 2-3 in a year, while we were seeing over 10-12 reported in a year and a larger number that were unreported. All this has been highlighted in the study of Human Rights Watch.”
TODAY'S PAPER » IN SCHOOL
KENDUJHAR (ODISHA), March 23, 2013
Marching towards a child labour-free zone
ON WAY TO SCHOOLHundreds of children who have earlier supplemented the family income have adapted to a new routine in Odisha.Photo: Ashoke Chakrabarty
Hiramani Bentkar, 12, will no longer work on the fields in her village in Kendujhar district or help with domestic work. She now proudly walks to school, carrying a bagful of books.
Hundreds of children like Hiramani, who have earlier supplemented the family income by working at roadside eateries, garages, brick kilns, in cattle rearing and in collecting minor forest products have adapted to a new routine in Odisha, thanks to groups of children who worked to persuade their parents.
According to Hiramani, the children have formed a club in her village, Kumulabahali, in the mineral-rich Kendujhar district, about 250 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, and put up a determined fight against various social evils, including the widespread practice of encouraging girls to drop out of school to supplement family income.
The club ‘Himalaya Sisu Sabha’ has a total of 44 members, all of whom are below 18 years of age.
The children meet once a week, usually on a Saturday, and discuss the issues they face and possible actions to better their lives. The village has a population of about 1,500; most of the villagers are tribals.
The children were encouraged to form the club and work as a group after volunteers of the Peoples’ Cutural Centre (Pecuc), a non-government organisation, met them and told them that children too could take matters into their own hands and demand their due.
The NGO worked with particular focus on children who had dropped out of studies.
The efforts of the volunteers bore good results.
“Our village has now become child labour free. Almost all the children now go to school,” said Hiramani, who herself joined the club after being enrolled in the school.
Hiramani’s is only one of about 300 such clubs formed in the district.
“The situtation was shocking when we visited this village in 2005,” said Ranjan Mohanty, secretary of Pecuc, which has been instrumental in the formation of more than 300 such child rights clubs mostly in the Kendujhar area with support from International NGOs like Save the Children and Terre Des Hommes, Germany.
“A system locally termed as ‘bagalia’ (similar to bonded labourer) was widely practised in the region and mostly children were hired on annual contract for animal rearing, domestic work and other tasks,” Mohanty told IANS.
The first child rights club started with only about eight members. Gradually, more children joined the club and the numbers swelled, Mohanty explained.IANS
Friday, 22 March 2013
BANGALORE, March 21, 2013
These youngsters slogged in grime 16 hours a day
The Hindu Most of the children were brought to work by relatives and promised around Rs. 3,000 a month. File Photo: S. S. Kumar
40 child labourers freed from bars, hotels in Gandhinagar area in the city
Rescued from the various bars, restaurants and lodges in the Gandhinagar area, the line of children in the age group 14 to 16 sat on the floor of the Balakara Balamandira on Wednesday afternoon.
“Forty children were taken into custody after raids on about 10 establishments. One of them was a 13-year-old girl. Twenty-eight were from Karnataka including one from Bangalore district. Among the remaining, five were from Bihar, five from Tamil Nadu and one each from Assam and West Bengal. Most of these children were brought to work by their relatives. The children were promised around Rs. 3,000 a month,” said a member of the rescue team. “Most of them are poor and came to work for the money.”
The raid was conducted by the Special Juvenile Police Unit (West Division) along with the Upparpet police and the NGO, BOSCO.
Two infants too
BOSCO executive director Fr. P.S. George said more than 25 in the group were below 15. “Apart from these children, there were two women who were using two infant girls as beggars. One of the girls is one-year-old and the other is two years,” he added. One of the women was their mother and the other appeared to be the grandmother.
Fr. George said the children worked from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and were made to clean floors and wash tiles. Some served liquor, he said, adding that they also suspect two of the children were involved in substance abuse. Many people related to the children arrived at the Balamandira asking to talk to them. One of them, a worker at one of the hotels, claimed: “Both my boys are not underage. I don’t know what happened. We got a call saying they had been taken from the hotel. I wasn’t there at the time so I am waiting to talk to the authorities.”
However, the rescue team said that a doctor who had conducted a health check on the children said most of the children were below 18.
Jennifer Y., Child Helpline coordinator and rescue team member, said as per procedure, parents of all the children are contacted first before they are handed over to anyone else. Even if they are 18 or above, their family will be intimated. “According to a field survey, more than 60 children are working as labourers in that area. But we were able to rescue only 40. We believe the remaining children escaped before the raid.”
Upparpet police, who were part of the rescue operation, said they have booked cases against the owners of these establishments under Sections 23 and 26 of the Juvenile Justice Act and Section 374 of the IPC. SJPU Coordinator Basavraju said that they would be booked under Section 3 of the Child Labour Act.
Wednesday, 20 March 2013
TODAY'S PAPER » NATIONAL » KARNATAKA
BANGALORE, March 20, 2013
Childline posters released to help runaways
The posters offer tips to stakeholders on action to be taken
FIRST STEPS:Vasudev Sharma of Childline interacting with Joint Commissioner of Crime Pronab Mohanty at a function to release posters regarding child welfare in Bangalore on Tuesday.— Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
Children are the most vulnerable sections of society, particularly runaways. To streamline tracing, caretaking and rehabilitating them, the police released posters regarding child welfare to be put up across police stations in the city.
Joint Commissioner of Crime Pronab Mohanty, who released the posters on Tuesday, said the idea was to emphasise the crucial role of the childline.
Fr. George, executive director of BOSCO, said the NGO, which works with runaways, is constantly interacting with various departments such as the Police, Women and Child Welfare as well as and Labour. “We are aiming at a single window system where we are looking at a convergence of all units. Instead of independent pockets working towards the child welfare, a combined effort would help achieve better results.”
These posters display tips and pointers for steps to be undertaken with respect to various problems that may be encountered with abandoned or runaway children. Pointers have been displayed on issues such as child marriage, harassment, beggary, illegal adoption and also instructions on whom to contact once a child is rescued.
“There are many transfers even within the police department and so this programme also helps introduce officers to these initiatives and helps them develop a more child-friendly approach to address these issues as well,” said Fr. George. The initiative was to take proactive steps in the matter and added that they planned to specially focus on the railways where most of the children are found alone on the platforms. “We need a lot of cooperation and support from the railway authorities to help rescue these children,” he said.
It may be recalled here that following a writ petition (Civil 5365 of 2012), the Delhi High Court on February 13, 2013 directed the Railway Ministry to provide protection to children found on trains and railway platforms to help ensure their safety.
Friday, 15 March 2013
Child labour numbers – missing the real story
Mar 14, 2013
India’s ‘nowhere’ children find no space in the numbers government agencies collect for child labourers, giving credence to their collective nomenclature.
Responding to a question in India’s Parliament, Kodikunnil Suresh, India’s Minister for Labour and Employment claimed that the number of child labourers in the country has come down by five million between 2004-05 and 2009-10.
Minister Suresh attributed these numbers to the data available through National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) and claimed this was a result of the government’s multi-pronged strategy that comprises of statutory and legislative measures, rescue and rehabilitation, universal primary education along with social protection, poverty alleviation and employment generation.
Sections in civil society feel that the Minister’s rather impressive claim is based on a flawed understanding of where and how children work in India.
They point out that the minister’s claims fly in the face of report of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), a statutory body mandated to look into child rights in India. NCPCR has earlier pointed out to the misrepresentation that official figures, including the NSSO figures quoted by the Minister, in 2008. This NCPR report brings attention to the very definition of child labour, which needs to be as inclusive as possible, for us to be able to properly account for the extent of child labour in the country.
Civil society actors also point to the issue of children falling in a grey area, belonging to a category now defined as nowhere children – of whom there are 75 million in the country, according to NCPCR. NCPCR argues that nowhere children are most likely to be active in other more discrete forms of labour – working on a family farm, caring for younger siblings, doing household chores while the parents go out to earn or assisting parents in earning their household’s monthly income – all hidden forms of labour, leaving the children unaccounted for.
According to NCPCR, “irrespective of whether the child is idle, engaged in household chores or labouring as a family member, she is educationally deprived and contributes to the labour pool.”
Save the Children (SC), a child rights organisation, argues that by using NSSO data that puts the number of child labourers at five million, the minister has ignored the present discourse on nowhere children.
India, home to nearly one-fifth of the world’s children, shoulders the largest number of children actively engaged in work.
According to Thomas Chandy, SC’s CEO, the government’s figures on child labour provided by Minister Kodikunnil Suresh “are a reflection of the Minister’s preferred definition of child labour, which to our mind, doesn’t capture the extent of child labour in India”.
Chandy feels that the Minister should consider once again not only the nature of child labour in the country which is largely concentrated in the informal sector – small businesses like bidi rolling and zari embroidery – where it can’t be registered or monitored but also reconsider the steps that he claims that the government has taken to address child labour.
The issues raised by the child rights organisation point to the need for policy coherence between the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (CLPRA) and Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education. The former outlaws child labour below the age of 14 years of age in specific “hazardous” sectors while leaving a broad swathe of “unhazardous” sectors unregulated, which creates a policy environment where children are both allowed to labour and legally mandated to attend school.
Agriculture that has been deemed to be an unhazardous sector is in fact the largest employer of child labourers in the country, and with its use of strong chemicals, dangerous machinery and long hours constitutes a legal oversight in terms of its categorisation, Chandy points out.
“A proposed Bill that amends CLPRA has been tabled in Parliament,” according to Chandy, which he impresses, “needs to be urgently passed and implemented to give all children the right to attend free and compulsory education in India.”
Is child labour declining in India?
Mar 11, 2013
While the minister has claimed that child labour has actually reduced, civil society activists say that the figures the government is doling out might not be exact.
Indian minister for Labour and Employment, Kodikunnil Suresh today informed Parliament’s Lower House that child labour in the country has shown a declining trend.
Suresh was replying to a question raised in Lok Sabha, Parliament’s lower house.
He quoted a National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) survey undertaken during 2009-10 that revealed that working children in India are estimated at 4.984 million. This, he argued, reflected a declining trend.
Yet, the minister said, in a survey conducted by NSSO in 2004-05, the numbers of working children were estimated at 9.07 million – a drop of over four million in the space of five years.
“With the persistent effort of the government through implementation of different schemes the number of child labour in the country has been reduced considerably,” the minister said in Parliament, and added, “Existing legislation and policy framed by the Government have yielded positive results.”
The minister quoted the country’s census of 2001 according to which the total number of working children aged between 5 and 14 years was 12.6 million. Of these, the minister said, approximately 1.2 million children were working in the hazardous occupations/processes covered under Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.
“Elimination of child labour is an area of great concern and (the) Government of India is committed to address the issue,” the minister said.
He however stressed that it was not so simple to eliminate child labour.
“Considering the magnitude and nature of problem Government is following a multi-pronged strategy to tackle the problem of child labour,’ he said. “It comprises of statutory and legislative measures, rescue and rehabilitation, universal primary education along with social protection, poverty alleviation and employment generation. The objective is to create an environment where families are not compelled to send their children to work,” the minister said.
While the minister seemed content with the role of the government, civil society activists have come down heavily on the government for not doing enough to eliminate child labour.
India is a signatory to the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.
Presenting a point of view different from the minister’s, Kailash Satyarthi of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), a leading child rights organisation working towards eliminating child labour argued, “They have collected only 75,000 samples for the survey. In a country like India it is very small. Secondly, the government is claiming that the number of child labourers might have declined because the school enrolment rates have gone very high. This is not true.”
Satyarthi reasoned thus: BBA has rescued around 1,100 children from bounded labour in the past year. The rescue comes from raids conducted with help from the police and the judiciary. This figure of 1,100 is an official figure because of the role of the police and judges, he argues. Of these 1,100, Satyarthi says, more than 800 were enrolled in schools in their respective villages.
“You see, children who are already enrolled in schools are still trapped in bonded labour. Children enrolled in schools in states like Bihar are working in cities like Delhi. This is how data are manipulated,” he said. “On paper they are already in schools whereas the reality is totally different. So, we don’t trust this survey at all”, Satyarthi said.
India has legislated that education is the right of a child. The country passed a law in 2010 according to which children between five and 14 years of age should be in school, not at work. A mid-day meal scheme, entailing food to be served in school is meant to ensure that children do not drop out.
However, going by the example Satyarthi offers, it seems that child labour persists despite mid-day meals and enrollments in distant villages only suggest that the money spent on meals does not get served to the children.
March 14, 2013
Does our budget care about children?
A seven-year old girl was raped outside her NDMC school on 28 February, the same day that Finance Minister P. Chidambaram announced the union budget for 2013-14. The rape was a timely -- though grim -- reminder of the abuse meted out to lakhs of children on a routine basis across India. A National Child Abuse Study, 2007, conducted by Save the Children, UNICEF and the Ministry of Women and Child Development had estimated that two out of every three and 55 per cent of all children are physically and sexually abused every year. The lack of recent government data on the issue betrays the level of seriousness with which the Government treats child victims of physical and sexual abuse. And, it is this attitude that marks this year’s budget for children that does precious little more than paying lip service to the children who are in the most need of state protection.
The shocking story of rape of a Class II student who was picked up from outside her school has opened a Pandora’s Box out of which the repugnant facts on children’s lives have risen to hold a mirror to Indian society. While the Indian growth story gives us much to cheer about, it is marred by stories of early marriage, trafficking for sexual exploitation, child labour, missing children, abandoning of children, forced migration etc. Even though only specific instances catch the national attention, child abuse in its various forms has become increasingly rampant — as many as 5.19 lakh children are engaged in the workplace (NSSO 2009-10); another 7.5 million have neither featured in numbers on child labour nor do they attend school (NCPCR 2009). Furthermore, according to a Save the Children census in 2010, the national capital alone has 51,000 children on the streets in extremely vulnerable conditions. They don’t have food to eat, access to clean drinking water or any means of fleeing the grave abuse they face every day.
This year, even though there have been major increases in spending on health and nutrition as well as education, child protection has once again received step-motherly treatment. The total spending on schemes that promote child rights has been abysmally low, according to the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, a think-tank based in New Delhi.
So despite the increase in the budget for the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the total child budget as a proportion of the total union budget has seen a decrease from 4.8 per cent last year to 4.6 per cent this year. It has been noted that regardless of the yearly increases and decreases in the allocations for child budget, the Government’s own Periodic Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child shows that child protection has been the least of the Government’s concerns, with spending as little as 0.06 per cent of the union budget in the preceding years.
In continuation with past trends, within the budget allocated for children, child protection had the smallest share of 1 per cent and shockingly the total outlay for the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) has been reduced by Rs. 100 crores this year or 25 per cent of its total budget. This will be a major setback to the only national scheme that provides a seemingly comprehensive child protection scheme as it is fully funded by the Centre.
The Planning Commission Working Group on Child Rights for the 12 Five Year Plan recommended Rs. 5,300 crores for the operationalisation of child protection programmes over the Plan period and the Finance Minister’s proposal of Rs. 300 crores for ICPS is nowhere near the Planning Commission’s estimate. The government has drawn up this decrease to the non-utilisation of the money allocated to states but in providing this reasoning has failed to understand that ICPS has set down some unrealistic norms such as low salaries for trained counsellors and social workers. Very recently, the government has said that it is keen to completely abolish child labour up to the age of 14 years in line with the Right to Education Act which assures free and compulsory education up to the same age. The National Child Labour Project, which mainstreams child labourers into formal schooling, has received a substantial hike of 33.3 per cent -- but despite the hike there is no clarity on how the government plans to achieve its stated aims because of the overlap between NCLP and the bridge schools under SSA (that have been set-up ostensibly for the same reasons). This year, Mr. Chidambaram, avoided making any mention in his budget speech of how he planned to address this issue, which, apart from being important in itself, is also critical from the perspective of the government’s RtE commitments.
Given the overall thrust, it doesn’t take a huge leap of faith to imagine the short shrift that children have received once more at the hands of the country’s Finance Minister. The potential demographic dividend has been once again ignored because of misplaced priorities – the government plans to spend Rs. 2.03 trillion on defence!
Given the increasing cases of child abuse and violence -- both in urban and rural India -- we need to urgently build and promote various monitoring, rescue, and rehabilitation systems and structures. Every year, the casual manner in which the government finances children’s programmes never keeps up with total budget increments and this, sadly, indicates the lack of consideration that the government has towards the protection and care of India’s children. Instead of giving us hope for child protection, the budget does a grave disservice to vulnerable children across the country by decreasing the proportion spent of the total child budget on child protection.
The government has indeed lost another opportunity to rewrite the futures of many children like the seven-year-old who have nowhere to go and no one to depend on except the Indian government, which has now clearly developed a reputation of letting children down.
Shailey Hingorani (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Advocacy Coordinator with Save the Children
Thursday, 14 March 2013
Child rights group rescues 50 children from illegal homes
Nearly 50 children, who were kept in two illegal children’s home here for months with little food amid pathetic living conditions, have been rescued by a team of Rajasthan Commission for Protection of Child Rights, police said today.
On a tip off from Delhi, the team led by the Commission Chairperson Deepak Kalra raided a home in Mansarover area last night where 27 girls and two boys, aged between 5 and 17, were found.
They were lodged in an illegal children’s home run by one Jacob John. The children are from various states like Punjab, Manipur, Nagaland, Jharkhand and were in the house for several months.
Empty liquor bottles, stale food and fungus covered vegetables were found in the home, police said. ”The children’s home was running without permission.The children lived in a poor state and they were given stale food. They did not have proper food for the last few days and were hungry,” the police said.
Another such child home was also raided and 20 boys rescued in Jawahar Nagar locality, they said. The children were brought here on the pretext of providing them education were never sent to school and not allowed to go out of the home.
Jacob has been arrested for illegal confinement of kids and he is being quizzed, they said.
Tuesday, 12 March 2013
TODAY'S PAPER »
NATIONAL » NEW DELHI
JAIPUR, March 12, 2013
Rescued child labourers narrate their tales of woe
Exploited and marginalised children from three districts of Rajasthan narrated their tales of suffering and struggle and gave voice to their dreams at a workshop organised here on Monday to draw the policymakers’ attention to the prevalence of child labour in the desert State. The event also provided an opportunity to children to highlight their contribution to bring about positive changes.
International advocacy group “Save the Children” organised the workshop to provide an interface among children, community leaders, policymakers and journalists. The children were mostly rescued child labourers and those saved from exploitation in Alwar, Bharatpur and Chittorgarh districts.
Depicting their insight and maturity, young children touched the subjects of child marriages, child labour, gender-based discrimination, biases related to caste and religion, right to education, malnutrition and the Government schemes for children during their interaction with the participants.
They outlined a picture of positive change brought about with the establishment of “Baal Mandal” and “Baal Manch” in their villages, which they said had generated a new ray of hope for them.
Pushkar from Chittorgarh district recounted the story of his family’s poverty, his father’s addiction to liquor and his mother working as a labourer at agricultural farms. He spoke about his desire to study and narrated the experience of attending a global conference in New Delhi two years ago when he rubbed shoulders with VVIPs.
Satish from Bharatpur and Shaukat from Tijara in Alwar district described how they saved the children of their village from child labour and took them to schools. A young girl, Meera, stopped child marriages in her village, while Madhu succeeded in getting a new high school for her village through her efforts.
Udai Lal from Chittorgarh narrated his moving story of suffering from a rare heart ailment and his open heart surgery through the Chief Minister’s Life Saving Fund and said he wanted to study hard and earn distinction in his life.
Senior journalist Rajendra Bora said the society must appreciate delicate sentiments of children and be more sensitive to their issues. “It is the elders who inculcate prejudices among innocent children and prepare the ground for social exclusion,” he said.
Save the Children State coordinator Prabhat Kumar said a significant portion of Budget must be allocated for children’s welfare and institutional efforts made for their protection. State Commission for Protection of Child Rights member Noor Mohammed said children’s voices were being heard in the backward regions with increasing awareness.
Prayatna chief executive officer Malay Kumar, CUTS executive director Arun Talwar and Ashray Care Home coordinator Sushila Devi also addressed the workshop.
Monday, 11 March 2013
Child rights panel for lowering of admission age under RTE quota
Bangalore, Mar 9, 2013, DHNS :
The Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has recommended increasing the age for admission to schools under the RTE quota from the current six years to seven, and reducing the income ceiling to Rs one lakh from Rs 3.5 lakh.
The suggestions were made during a workshop organised by the Commission in the City on Saturday. The workshop was organised in accordance with a February 12 High Court order which directed various stakeholders, including the government, to examine better methods of enforcing RTE Act in the State.
“As far as the income criteria is concerned, preference should be given to those families with an income of Rs one lakh and then subsequently to those earning Rs two and three lakh,” said Umashankar, the Commissioner of Public Instruction, during the panel discussion.
A recommendation by the Child Rights Trust also called for the quality of education in government schools to be on a par with that in private institutions. Admitting the dismal condition of government schools, Umashankar said: “Private schools maintain quality which is the reason why I am sending my own children to private schools.”
Nagasimha Rao of the Child Rights Trust retorted that quality in government schools may improve if officials sent their own children to such schools.
Considering delays by the government in reimbursing RTE funds to private schools, Dr Gulshad Ahmed from the Karnataka Unaided Minorities Schools asked that the government disburse money allocated for RTE in one instalment.
The Panel members also examined needs of the disabled children. “The RTE Act should be amended to include specific provisions for disabled children like a special curriculum and infrastructure and specific reservations for them,” said Kathyayini Chamaraj from Citizens Voluntary Initiative for the City.
Attendees also suggested that the chairperson of the Child Rights Commission be given a cabinet berth to give the commission more powers. “At the moment, the commission is only a recommendatory body and the government may not take its suggestions seriously,” explained Lakshmi Prasanna from the Association for Promoting Social Action.
Better monitoring of education schemes like mid-day meals, disbursement of school uniforms and school textbooks were some of the other recommendations. “Even the general public has every right to seek the court's intervention in this regard,” said Justice Hulavadi G Ramesh, who inaugurated the event. “The government, educational institutions and society at large should take the right steps to implement the act.”
Friday, 8 March 2013
THURSDAY, 07 MARCH 2013 20:28
PNS | PHULBANI
Pradhan said girls in residential primary schools are exploited by teachers and employees.
Citing example of the agitation of the Ghumusar Mahila Sangh against child abuse and protection of child rights, she said the State Government didn't take any exemplary steps to punish the child abuser of Gunjibadi School under Nuagaon block though the Sangh had lodged a case against the culprit.
Women leaders Sumabati Pradhan, Hirabati Pradhan, Bimala Mallick and Suchitra Nayak demanded proper monitoring of food, health, protection of school children and other facilities in the Government and private schools in the district.
"If the district administration does not take proper and immediate action against the teacher (Sahu), people from all walks of life including women organisations of the district, panchayat organisation, Mission Shakti, Child Welfare Committee, lawyers and mediapersons would take the issue into the streets," said Keshamati Pradhan.
TODAY'S PAPER » NATIONAL
HYDERABAD, March 8, 2013
Call for efforts to check child labour
Labour Department organises workshop on migrant child labour
Giving a boost to the rescue and rehabilitation of trafficked and migrant child labour, Commissioner of Labour B. Ramanjaneyulu said that all child welfare committees with magisterial powers will be provided a list of shelter homes run by the government and NGOs in all the districts.
The assurance was given when the chairpersons of CWCs raised difficulties faced by them in finding appropriate shelter homes for rescued children.
Failure on the part of labour department officers to submit documents related to the rescued children and their employers to fix accountability, reluctance of the police officers to register FIRs were other factors that came in the way of taking action against the violators of law, they explained.
The Labour Department organised a workshop on prevention, rescue, repatriation and rehabilitation of trafficked and migrant child labour with all the stakeholder departments here on Thursday. It also prepared a protocol to give role clarity to every stakeholder including labour, Juvenile Justice, Women Development and Child Welfare, Rajiv Vidya Mission, Police department etc.
Mr. J.C. Sharma, Principal Secretary, Labour, said the social evil could be checked only with effective tracking of child rights from release and rescue to rehabilitation until the child completed 14 years.
Significantly, more and more migrant child labourers from other States like Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Orissa etc., were coming to the State and repatriating them was proving to be a problem.
With the government firm on making the State free of child labour by January 26, 2014, Mr. Ramanjaneyulu said that an action plan was formulated with focus on creating awareness against child labour with support from different groups including students, strict implementation of Juvenile Justice Act and rehabilitation. About 800 children were rescued from all over the State since the launch of the special drive in January, he added.
Ms. Usharani, Special Project Director, Rajiv Vidya Mission, said that under the Right to Education Act, every child below 14 years should be in a regular school.
Thursday, 7 March 2013
Conflict not cultural pressure behind child brides
06th March 2013 04:41 PM
13.5 million girls around the world married before their 18th birthday in 2012.
New research released today suggests that parents in the developing world marry off their juvenile daughters out of financial desperation rather than cultural pressure.
A report by World Vision identified a link between conflict and natural disasters and child marriage.
"Early marriage is a brutal curtailment of childhood and a violation of children's rights, yet many parents around the world believe it is the best possible way to ensure their daughters are looked after," said Hannah Stevenson, a policy advisor and co-author of the report.
She continued: "The public perception in the West is that these types of marriages are down to convention, but our research found that in most cases parents fear the child will starve or have no money, especially when have lost everything through war.
"They think the only way for their child to have a decent life is to marry her off at a young age. They do it with a heavy heart, they don't really want to marry them off at all."
The report will be launched in London at Parliament today, with World Vision urging the Government to use its global influence to lobby against child marriage and set a goal of ending the practice by 2030.
Last year, 13.5 million girls around the world married before their 18th birthday. Half of all girls living in least developed countries marry before then, while one in nine girls marry before they turn 15. Most of the world's child spouses live in South Asia (46 per cent) and in West and Central Africa (41 per cent).
World Vision's detailed research in Somaliland, Bangladesh and Niger found that early marriage is often perceived by families as a "protective measure and often in response to a crisis", said Ms Stevenson.
Of the 25 countries with the highest rates of early marriage, the majority are affected by conflict, fragility or natural disasters, the report found. Girls trapped in early marriage tend to be poor, under-educated and living in rural areas where birth and death rates are high and where conflict is common.
The report, Untying the Knot, cited the case of a mother called Amira facing the prospect of marrying off her 12-year-old daughter due to the conflict in Syria.
Her family are refugees in Lebanon where they are forced to rent a home for £65 a month, an exorbitant amount.
Amira, a mother of five, told researchers that 12-year-old Sheereen "would be our survival". Amira is seven months pregnant and with another mouth to soon feed, she is running out of options.
The report says that when Sheereen was asked for her thoughts at being married at 12, she could not answer.
Does Sheereen dream about her future? Her mother answers for her: "She doesn't answer you because no one has ever asked her this before."
Alem Gebrekidan, 36, an Ethiopian who founded the 'The Former Child Wives Foundation', was married at the age of ten, widowed at 13 with a one-year-old child
"At the same time lots of my friends were being married too," she said. "None of us were happy but we had no choice. The decision was made by our parents.
"When my son was one month old, my husband was killed in the conflict in northern Ethiopia. I was widowed but I still had a baby to care for. I was very afraid that I would not know how to care for my son.
Leaving after her husband died, she found her way on her own to Britain. "I had never spoken English and could not read or write because I had stopped going to school after I got married.
"I learnt English and to read and write in England and settled here. My son stayed with my mother in Ethiopia. He is now 25 years old. I feel overwhelmed with sadness when I think of him."