Child rights in India
“Children need models rather than critics.”
— Joseph Joubert, French moralist
Definition of child
The major concern in India associated with the child is its definition because the term has been outlined differently in various acts. The Indian constitution and child labor (prohibition and regulation) act, 1986 states that the child is the one who is below the age of fourteen years. Article 1 of UNCRC i.e. United Nation Convention on Rights of a child; Juvenile Justice Act, 2000; Hindu Guardianship and Majority Act, 1956 and so on, outline a child as a person who is under eighteen years of age, whereas the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1986 defines a ‘child’ as someone who is under the age of sixteen and a minor who is between the age bracket of sixteen to eighteen years. The recently amended Juvenile Justice Act 2015 states that children (sixteen to eighteen years) could be treated as adults if they commit grievous crimes like rape, acid attack, murder, etc.
Children between the age of fourteen to eighteen years are defined as “Adolescent and the law allows adolescents to be employed except in the listed hazardous occupation process which includes mining, inflammable substance and explosives related work.
In Jaipur, there are many thousands of destitute, runaway, and orphaned children living without basic necessities. For them, education is an unattainable luxury or an irrelevance. They lose their childhoods and have little hope for a far better future.
History of child rights
It was in the 1840s that the idea of special protection to children emerged in France. Laws were enacted in France since 1841 to protect children in their workplace and to grant them the right to be educated. It was only the 1st World War that the world began to recognize the need for special rights to children. The ‘Geneva Declaration’ 1924, proclaiming that “humanity has to do its best for the child”, by the league is a historic document that affirmed the rights specific to children.
Why should children need special rights?
- Children are individual: Children are neither the possessions of parents nor of the state. They have equal status as members of the human family.
- Children start life as totally dependent beings: Children must rely on adults for the nurture and guidance they need to grow towards independence.
Children’s rights are human rights.
The child is treated as a normal citizen. So just like normal human rights, children’s rights are constituted by fundamental guarantees and essential human rights:
- Children’s rights recognize fundamental guarantees to all or any human beings: the right to life, the non-discrimination principle, the right to dignity through the protection of physical and mental integrity (protection against slavery, torture, and bad treatments, etc.)
- Children’s rights are civil as well as political rights, like the right to identity, the right to a nationality, etc.
- Children’s rights are economic, social, and cultural rights, like the right to education, the right to a decent standard of living, the right to health, etc.
- Children’s rights include individual rights: the right to live with his parents, the right to education, the right to benefit from protection, etc.
- Children’s rights include collective rights: rights of refugee and disabled children, of minority children, or from autochthonous groups.
United Nations convention
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child applies to each and every child who is under the age of eighteen years. All the countries in the world except the USA have ratified (pledged to follow) the Convention.
Basic principles of the Convention:
- All children are equal and have equivalent rights.
- Every child has the proper right to possess his or her basic needs to be fulfilled.
- Every child has the proper right to protection from abuse and exploitation.
- Every child has the proper right to express his or her opinion and to be respected.
The Indian constitution
The Indian constitution sees rights to children as citizens of the country, and keep with their special status the State has even enacted special laws.
Constitutional Guarantees that are meant specifically for children include:
- Right to free and compulsory elementary education for all children in the 6-14 year age group (Article 21 A).
- Right to be protected from any hazardous employment till the age of 14 years (Article 24).
- Right to be protected from being abused and forced by economic necessity to enter occupations unsuited to their age or strength (Article 39(e)).
- Right to equal opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and conditions of freedom and dignity and guaranteed protection of childhood and youth against exploitation and moral and material abandonment (Article 39 (f)).
- Right to early childhood care and education to all children until they complete the age of six years (Article 45).
Children are the gift from God and are among the foremost vulnerable sections of the society that require to be protected from the start. All children deserve equality, despite their distinction. They’re entitled to all or any of those rights, regardless of what race, color, religion, language, ethnicity, gender, or skills define them. For a country to possess sustainable development, it’s necessary to form certain that the long run of the country is taken care of properly.
Author: priyanshi bhardwaj,
Trinity Institute of Professional Studies