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The definition of “CHILD” in the Indian legal and policy framework is someone below 18 years. Our laws are not child friendly nor are they child-oriented. Here are a few figures for you to figure out the scenario:
- Less than half of India’s children between the age six and fourteen go to school
- Only 38% of children below two years are immunised
- Over 50% children are malnourished
- 1 out of every six girls does not live to see her 15th birthday
- Of 12 million girls born, 1 million do not see their first birthday
- Females are victimised far more than males in childhood
- 53% of girls in the age group 5 to 9 years are illiterate
- There are 2 million child commercial sex workers between the age 5 and 15 years
- 17 million children in India work out of compulsion, not by choice
Children are the future of a nation. Yet they have been neglected a lot in India, which is evident from the existence of infant mortality, child morbidity, child malnutrition, childhood disability, child abuse, child labor, child prostitution, street children, child beggary, child marriage, juvenile delinquency, drug addiction and illiteracy.
Trafficking in people, including children, is a violation of fundamental rights. International estimates indicate at least 1.2 million children are trafficked each year, many of them subjected to prostitution, forced into marriage or unpaid labour, or recruited into armed groups. “Child labour” is, generally speaking, work for children that harms them or exploits them in some way (physically, mentally, morally, or by blocking access to education).
Forty percent of India’s population is below 18. At 400 million, we have the world’s largest child population. At 17 million, we have the ‘distinction’ of being home to world’s largest population of child labourers. This is the official figure; activists say that the real number is much larger. Constitutions of most countries, including India, have provisions forbidding child labour. Its elimination is one of the Millennium Development Goals adopted unanimously by the UN.
Children should not have to work for a living. Childhood is when a person needs nurturing, schooling, time to play and explore the opportunity to grow both emotionally and physically. When a child is forced to work, it hampers his growth, stunts his psychological and intellectual development, and prevents him from realizing his full potential. Child labour is an unmitigated evil and any society which suffers from it should be grossly ashamed of it.
Child labour & trafficking are just symptoms. They are not the real problem. The problem lies elsewhere. Unless the root problem is countered, mere addressing of the symptom makes the situation immensely worse for the victimised children. In India, children’s vulnerabilities and exposure to violations of their protection rights remain spread and multiple in nature. There is a wide range of issues that adversely impact on children in India, making them especially vulnerable. With such future citizens in large numbers, the future of our country is bleak.
So, on this occasion of Children’s Day, please think. Are we worth celebrating a Children’s Day with the viral existence of such evil practices as child trafficking & child labour in our society.