Put children first – Vote for Child Rights

Wednesday, 20 November 2013 – 7:00am IST Updated: Tuesday, 19 November 2013 – 5:48pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna webdesk

The innocence knocking at your car window at the traffic signal you encounter each morning , that young domestic help seen in the bazaar struggling with a huge bagful of veggies, that little boy selling tricolor flags at the roadside are all, simply Children. If only you had noticed them for whom they were…children. If only the government had recognised them for who they are and that they have rights of their own! 

So why are they bereft of the rights that are ‘right’fully theirs? Because there is a lack of sincere political will in supporting the case of Child Rights in India. You would ask if Children actually have rights. Yes they do, in fact the government of India has ratified (technically if not in total spirit of implementation) by the United Nations Charter on Children’s Rights (UNCRC)* that outlines the 10 rights that every child is entitled to. But truly speaking, can we safely say that every child in India enjoys ‘special protection, and is  ‘given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him/her to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity’? India has the right intentions at heart, but are we truly keeping, “the best interests of the child” in mind when we draw laws of the land? As the Indian general elections draw closer as voters and candidates, we are charged with the responsibility to see to it that children’s interests do not slip off the political radar yet again  This is why CRY is reaching out to you with a list of urgent issues and their solutions to make the country more child-rights-friendly. 

Firstly who is a child? As per the Article 1 of the UNCRC, “a child means every human being below the age of 18 years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”.  The article (unfortunately) also gives individual countries the freedom to determine at its discretion on fixing the age of when a child ceases to be a child. India too defines a child in varied ways, depending on which law you are viewing the ‘child’ from! For instance, as per the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act, 1986, a child is a person who has not completed 14 years of age. The effect of this incorrect definition is that effectively children between 14 an d18 are legally allowed to work ,making them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Moreover the law itself only prohibits employing children in some hazardous industries leading to the horrifying phenomenon of you ng children in our country doing “non hazardous work “like domestic work Such  Definition dichotomies pertaining to ‘who is a child’ persist in the Indian scenario and those  needs to be streamlined so all our laws define children as per the UN CRC we signed on to. 

Even as India approaches the 16th Lok Sabha elections, we at CRY are looking at mobilizing and advocating the cause of Child Rights with all political parties to ensure that leaders (at national and regional level) look at Child Rights as an intrinsic aspect of governance. It has to be understood that any change gets intrinsically (and irrevocably I must say) linked with political resolve and only with the complete involvement of governments any long term change can be truly made possible. You may wonder why go to the government at all? Because government makes laws and the laws (in the case of the children) decides if children go to school or spend their childhood as bonded laborers. Our nationwide “Vote for Child Rights” election advocacy campaign is a concerted attempt at getting political leaders to include Child Rights in their party manifestos, indicating their clear commitment towards the cause. The campaign is based on in-depth research and analysis on Child Rights indicators and reflects the aspirations of children across different states of India. Our own Child Rights Manifesto that we wish and hope becomes an integral part of diverse party manifestos across the country. The Child Rights Manifesto** focuses on key issues and areas that are impacting child rights in our country and offers recommendations to alter the grim child rights situation as it stands today.

The campaign unveils a day before Children’s Day, to ensure that the celebration of Children’s Day truly stands for something concrete and ensures long term change for the children of India. To make it a pan-Indian movement, we need your help, because like CRY’s founder Rippan Kapur believed in and what we at CRY also commit to “What I can do, I must do”, in essence that is exactly what you too can do, so stop waiting, take the “Vote for Child Rights” pledge and work with us towards making long term policy changes. 

The author is CEO of CRY – Child Rights and You.