CHOICE OR COMPULSION

Have you ever wondered, a young servant boy ‘CHOTU’ being slapped because he is late with a customer’s chai order or a young girl dressed in old, torn, rags weaving her way among the dense and chaotic traffic of India’s city streets to sell balloons, flowers for few rupees, if these children have rights to good healthcare, nutrition, adequate schooling, freedom of expression, protection from anything that may be harmful?
Do children have rights? If so, do they have all the rights that adults have or do they have rights that adults do not have? If they do have rights how do we ensure that they are treated in the morally right way?
Every person on the planet has rights and so does every child regardless of their age, it does not matter, if one is a boy or girl, who they are or where they come from. Just because they are children, it does not mean their opinions can be silenced. However, because of their exceptional status, whereby, children require extra protection and guidance, they also have some special rights of their own that helps them to be happy and healthy.

WHOM WE CALLED A CHILD?

According to international law, a ‘CHILD’ means every human being below the age of 18 years. This is a universally accepted definition of a child and came from the United Nations Convection on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and internationally legally accepted and ratified by most of the countries.
India is one of the largest democracies in the world. India has always recognized the category of persons below 18 years as distinct legal entity, because they are not seen as person who have a mind of their own, a view to express, the capacity to make a choice and an ability to decide. That is why, precisely, people can vote or get a driving license or enter into legal contacts only when they attain the age of 18 years.
Presently, India is the home to the most number of children, as per 2011 census, about 472 million children in India under the age of 18 years, representing 39% of the country’s total population. Whereas, India suffers from one of the highest non-registration rates children in the world. Only 41% of the births are registered, in which 59% are from urban areas and 35% are from rural areas. However, according to analysis, 73% of children in India are living in rural areas, often have limited access to fundamental needs such as nutrition, good healthcare, education, protection. This means all persons in your village, town, city below the age of 18 years have to be treated as children and need your assistance and support.

RIGHTS OF CHILD

Children and young people have the same general human rights as adults and also specific rights that recognized their special needs. These are called Children’s rights and they laid out in United Nations Convection on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
Basic quality of life should be the right of all children, rather than a privilege enjoyed by a few. Child rights as the minimum entitlements and freedom that should be afforded to every citizen below the age of 18 regardless of gender, color, religion, national origin, race, language, birth, status, opinion, wealth, disability, or other characteristics.

United Nations Convection on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) draws four sets of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights, that a child deserve –

  • Survival ( right to life, healthcare, nutrition )
  • Development ( right to education )
  • Protection ( freedom from all forms of exploitation and abuse )
  • Participation ( freedom of expression)

Child rights just go beyond the human rights, which exist to ensure fair and proper treatment of people across the world, and promote their well-being.

NEEDS OF CHILD

Right to life, healthcare and nutrition
“Health is wealth”

“Everyone has a right to life, liberty and the security of persons”, despite Article 21 and the fundamental right enshrined in the constitution, life, survival, and child development remain areas of concern in India. Nearly 1 million children die under the age of five, an estimated 39 deaths per 1000 live births. There are 204 million undernourished Indian children.
There are the visible children of India, separate for the “disposable” children, who are killed before they are born because they are female, or those who die from lack of food or not have access to primary health care. It is extremely important for a child to access good quality health nutritional facilities even before it is born to ensure its proper physical and mental development. Children should be provided with safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.

Right to education
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”– Nelson Mandela
Education is considered as one of the most important factors for the development as an individual as well as a country. Every child has the right to education, it helps a child to socialize and it opens up door for a better future. India continues to have largest number of illiterate people in the world 287 million adults, which 37% of the world’s total population. Each one of them, should have right to complete schooling, under Article 21-A of the constitution, the Right to Free and Compulsory elementary education for all the children in the 6-14 year age group.

Right to protection
Each one of us has the right to protection which means that we need to be safe from all sorts of violence, whether at school or the street or even at home. Children have the right to protected from the harmful traditional practices to name a few- child trafficking, child labour, child abuse. Some of the fundamental rights for protection of a child.

Article 24- Right to be protected from any hazardous employment till the age of 14 years.

Article 39(e) – Right to be protected from being abused and forced by economic necessity to enter occupations unsuited to their age or strength.

Freedom of expression
Just because they are children, it does not mean their opinions can be silenced. All children deserve the right voice their opinions, free of criticism or contempt. Right to equal opportunity and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and dignity, provided under Article 39((f).

INDIAN CHILD’S CHALLENGES

“I speak not for myself but for those without voice… those who have fought for their rights…their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated” – Ms. Malalal Yousafzai
There is no doubt that tremendous progress has been made in the few years in improving the status of child rights, but, India’s children continue to face some of the harshest conditions, despite of, much progress in recent decade, millions of children are still living without their basic rights, because of lack of enforcement initiatives. In jurisdictions, for instance, children are not allowed to vote, to marry, to buy alcohol, to have sex, or to engage in paid employment. Equally, these are things that should not be done to children because they are children. They are subjected to cruel and inhumane treatments every day. The condition of underprivileged kids and underprivileged youth is harsh and needs urgent attention.

CHILD LABOUR

“The hands which are meant for holding pens and books are washing dishes and serving plates”
Hopeful children neatly dressed in school uniforms making their way to school- on foot, on bicycles, cramped in auto rickshaws, joyously crowded on cycle rickshaws, riding in mini or air conditioned school buses, or luxury automobiles fill the morning landscape in India. While some children carry their overloaded schoolbags to sophisticated facilities, others carry their meager supplies to buildings with broken-down walls and no sanitation, hoping there would be a sports period that day, while still others carry guns to fight in adult war.
The unescapable destiny determined by birth, the low status, along with patriarchal belief that children are owned by their fathers. For the millions of underprivileged people in India, education is the high priced luxury, and this negative outlook continues or with every new generation. Poverty damages childhood with significant effects on a child’s physical and mental, as well as educational achievements.
Children are abandoned, they do not get a chance to step in a school. Children were treated as a source of cheap labour to be exploited in every possible manner. It limits the expectations of the child’s ability to perform well in school, constantly reminding them of the miniscule chance they get. Child labour result of adult unemployment or low parental wages forcing children to contribute to home. Underprivileged kids usually, started earning to have a livelihood and taking care of the members of the family become a primary matter of concern in one’s life, education stands a little or very often, no chase of pursuance. But this does not mean that they require no protection, if they are 15 or 16 years old and started earning, they entitled to receive it from the state.

CHILD MARRIAGE

Marriage of a girl below the age of 18 years and a boy below 21 years is restrained under the Child Marriage Restrained Act, 1929. For instance, some children in our country are made to marriage under the age of 18, and have children of her/his own, she/he is recognized as a child. And they should not receive less protection because the community feels they have matured. We must provide the very best protection, opportunities, and help in order to ensure them the best start in life on their journey to adulthood.

CHILD ABUSE

“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul” – Dave Pelzer
In India, 69% of children of age 5 to 18 years are victims of abuse. More than half of the abuses inflicted upon children are committed by a close group of people who have a relationship of confidence and authority with the child. Almost, 65% of school-going children have faced corporal punishment at the hands of academic staff. Every 15 minutes a child is sexually abuses.
They suffer from many forms of violence, many small comments may effect a child deep down like observation on the basis of complexion of a child, teasing a child on figure or size. If a child is gay, what’s his fault, he should also be treated equally. Because of these tiny things, many children are facing drepression. 83% parents were responsible for emotional abuse including humiliation and comparison.
In majority of the cases, parents were responsible for physical abuse in any forms which they think their authority, locked a child somewhere in the house as a form of punishment to them, or slapping a child.

CONCLUSION

In India, there is a saying that “ Bache Bhagwan Ka Roop Hote Hai” means “a child is treated as a gift of God” , but the society recognize the wrong, when servant in our home is a child or the makers of soccer balls we carelessly kick is a child.
Until the harmful beliefs that view children as less valuable than adults, girls as less valuable than boys, are challenged and changed, little progress can be made in reducing the vast inequalities experienced by the majority by Indian children. The high percentage of children living in rural areas often results in negative repression in terms of children accessing fundamental rights.
Children are neither the property of their parents nor are they helpless objects of charity. They are human beings and are the subject of their own rights. They deserve to be healthy, happy and full of hope. And they can’t do it alone. What are we doing to keep children’s right today?

AUTHOR

Shivangi Gupta