fora fora - a sharing note published by NAVA (Networking Alliance for Voluntary Actions). NAVA is network of a small group of NGOs initiated in 1990. e-journal version of fora re-appearing from 2014. Vol: 1 Issue: 1 Edit
Fora, started several years ago lasted for 20 issues. Each issue printed on foolscap paper, about 4 pages, physically mailed by book-post. Indeed quite a process, and, ofcourse expensive for a small initiative like NAVA, doing it with own resources, not funded by any donor agency! As the days passed by, communication became IT dependent, but affordable, for a surfaced once again ! This time as e-journal, with least financial implications. While friends share their spare in keying in, and e-mailing it, the process is bearable. Let us hope for the best. We once again request our network friends to share their events and happenings so that we will be happy to spread across .
Girl Child: A Consultation Our network partner Swadhina organised a consultation on the occasion of National Girl Child day on 27th January at their Kolkata centre. Two of their university interns from Mizoram jointly prepared a paper on that occasion. We are happy to share the paper here. The Rights of Girl Child in India A. Introduction:National girl child day is celebrated every year on 24 th of January as a national observant day for the girl child. It is celebrated to increase the awareness among people about all the inequalities faced by the girl child in the society. Inequality about girl child is a vast problem which includes many areas like inequality in education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, protection, owner, child marriage and so many. It enhances the meaningful contribution of the girls in decision making processes through the active support of the parents and other community members. India is a party to the UN declaration on the Rights of the Child in 1959. Accordingly, it adopted a National Policy on Children in 1974. The policy reaffirmed the constitutional provisions for adequate services to children, both before and after birth and through the period of growth to ensure their full physical, mental and social development UNICEF (2005) report on the state of the Worldâ€™s children under the title â€œChildhood Under Threatâ€? , speaking about India, states that millions of Indian children are equally deprived of their rights to survival, health, nutrition, education and safe drinking water. It is reported that 63 percent of them go to bed hungry and 53 percent suffer from chronic malnutrition. The report says that 147 million children live in kuchcha houses, 77moillion do not use drinking water from a tap, 85 million are not being immunized, 27 million are severely underweight and 33 million have never been to school. It estimates that 72 million children in India between 5 and 14 years do not have access to basic education. A girl child is the worst victim as she is often neglected and is discriminated against because of the preference for a boy child. 1
B.Girl child in India The girl child’s discrimination begins before birth in the form of female foeticide. Sex selection has been argued as the consequence of technology. But simply because it is a consequence it does not excuse the fact that between the years 1981-1991 a whopping 11 million girls joined India’s missing women a group of 35 and 40 million .According to Amartya Sen there are more than a hundred million women missing in the world of which India has 37 million missing women by 1986. Another figure as recorded by UNICEF, said that in 1984 in Bombay out of the 8,000 abortions that took place 7,999 of them were girls. Girl children are murdered shortly after being born when family comes to know the sex of the child or killed slowly through neglect and abandonment. In 1993 in Tamil Nadu 196 girls died in suspicious circumstances.’’ Some were fed dry, un-hulled rice that punctured their windpipes, or were made to swallow poisonous powdered fertilizer. Others were smothered with wet a wet towel, strangled or allowed to starve to death’’. The larger consequence to both female foeticide and infanticide has been the sharply declining sex ratio. The adult sex ratio fell from 972 females for every 1000 males in 1901 to 927 in 1991.Only recently has the ratio increased to 933 in 2001,but the child sex ratio (ages 0-6)have dropped from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001 According to the United Nations Cyberschoolbus paper on the girl child out of the 130 million children not in school, almost 60% of them are girls. By the age of 18 girl children have received on average 4.4 years less education than boys. In India, the Ministry of Human Resource Development showed the average enrolment rate of girls, ages 6-14 and 14-18,as 93.47% and 61.5% girls drop out of school before completely class-xii According to special report on girl child and labour by International Labour Organisation (ILO) more than 100 million girl children between the ages of 5and 17 are engaged in child labour, out of which over 50% of them are in hazardous industries and 20% of those are below twelve years old. It is hard to get correct statistical information about the girl child labour since the kind of the work ,girls undertake is more invisible than that of boys. For example, agricultural work, domestic work and working in home based workshops. Many girls are engaged in active labour in guised as households chores.ILO shows that 10% of girls are engaged ‘’household chores’’ for more than 24 hours in a week which is twice as much as boys. One of the most gender specific forms of child labour is child prostitution ages have dropped from 14-16 years in 1980’s to 10-14 years in 1991. According to United Nations Cyberschoolbus paper on the girl child at least one in three girls and women worldwide has been physically harmed or sexually abused in her lifetime .Female genital in her lifetime. Female genital mutilation though not common in India affects millions of girls and women every year. Sakshi a Delhi based NGO conducted a survey of 357 school girl children.63% have experienced serious sexual abuse in school, where teachers molested their students sometimes in the presence of children. C. Violation of Child Rights: The convention on the Rights of the Child defines basic rights of children covering multiple needs and issues. India endorsed it on December 11, 1992. Following are a few rights in the immediate purview of India. 1.The Rights to Education: 50% of Indian Children aged 6-18 do not go to school. Dropout rates increase alarmingly in class III to V, its 50% for boys, 58% for girls. 2.The Right to Expression: Every child has a right to express himself freely in whichever way he likes. Majority of children however are exploited by their elders and not allowed to express. 3.The Right to information: Every child has a right to know their basic rights and their position in the society. High incidence of illiteracy and ignorance among deprived and underprivileged children prevents them from having access to information about them and their society.
4.The Right to Nutrition: More than 50% of India’s children are malnourished. While one in every five adolescent boys is malnourished, one in every two girls in India is undernourished. 5.The Right to Health & Care: 58% of India’s children below the age of 2 years are not fully vaccinated. And 24% of these children do not receive any form of vaccination. Over 60% of children in India are anemic. 95 in every 1000 children born in India do not see their fifth birthday. 70 in every 1000 children born in India do not see their first birthday. 6.The Right to protection from Abuse: There are approximately 2 million child commercial sex workers between the age of 5 and 15 years and about 3.3 million between 15 and 18 years. They form 40% of the total population of commercial sex workers in India. 500,000 children are forced into this trade every year. 7.The Right to protection from Exploitation: 17 million children in India work as per official estimates. A study found that children were sent to work by compulsion and not by choice, mostly by parents, but with recruiter playing a crucial role in influencing decision. When working outside the family, children put in an average of 21 hours of labour per week. Poor and bonded families often “sell” their children to contractors who promise lucrative jobs in the cities and the children end up being employed in brothels, hotels and domestic work. Many run away and find a life on the streets. 8.The Right to protection from Neglect: Every child has a right to lead a well protected and secure life away from neglect. However, children working under exploitative and inhuman conditions get neglected badly. 9.The Right to Development: Every child has the right to development that lets the child explore her/his full potential. Unfavorable living conditions of underprivileged children prevent them from growing in a free and uninhibited way. 10.The right to Recreation: Every child has the right to spend some time on recreational pursuits like sports, entertainment and hobbies to explore and develop. Majority of poor children in India do not get time to spend on recreational activities 11.The Right to Name and Nationality: Every child has the right to identify himself with a nation. A vast majority of underprivileged children in India are treated like commodities and exported to other countries as labour or prostitutes. 12.The Right to survival: Of the 12 million girls born in India, 3 million do not see their fifteenth birthday, and a million of them are unable to survive even their first birthday. Even sixth girl child’s death is due to discrimination gender D. Urgent Crucial Issues 1. Child Trafficking: According to UNICEF, Human trafficking is defined as “any person under 18 who is recruited, transported, transferred, harbored or received for the purpose of exploitation, either within or outside the country”. Children are taken from their homes to be bought and sold in the market. In India, there is a large number of human trafficked for various reasons such as labour, begging and sexual exploitation. India is a prime area for child trafficking to occur, as many of those trafficked are from, travel through or destined to go to India. Though most of the trafficking occurs within the country, there is also a significant number of children trafficked from Nepal and Bangladesh. There are many contributing factors to child trafficking, which include economic deprivation, conditions, lack of employment opportunities, social status, and political uprisings. Many of the families in India are unable to afford the basic necessities of life, which forces the parents to sell their children off to gangs, and the gangs to exploit them. As there aren’t even decent employment opportunities available, parents will do anything from sweeping the streets to selling their kids, even if it only makes them a few rupees. The fact is that children, particularly girls, are more vulnerable than adults, making them an easier target and a commodity for gangs. They are looked upon as more expandable than the rest of the population which makes them available as objects to be sold. Another cause of sexual exploitation is that people around the world find pleasure in the outcomes of this abuse, therefore causing a demand for it. Political uprisings lead to a demand for soldiers, and as children are more vulnerable, they are forced to conscript and use their bodies as sacrifices. 3
Traffickers of young girls into prostitution in India are often women who have been trafficked themselves. As adults they use personal relationships and trust in their villages of origin to recruit additional girls. In 1998, between 5,000 and 7,000 Nepalese girls, some barely 9-10 years old were trafficked into the red light districts in Indian cities. According to UNICEF, 12.6 million children are engaged in hazardous occupations. Only 10% of human trafficking in India is international, while almost 90% is interstate. 2. Gender Discrimination: Education: Education is not widely attained by Indian women. Although literacy rates are increasing, female literacy rate lags behind the male literacy rate. Literacy for female stands at 65.46%, compared to 82.14% for males. An underlying factor for such low literacy rates are parent’s perception that education for girls are a waste of resources as their daughters would eventually live with their husband’s families and they will not benefit directly from the education investment. Gender discrimination impedes growth; with lower female-to-male workers ratios significantly reducing total output in both agricultural and non-agricultural sector. It is also estimated that growth in India would increase by 1.01% if its female labor-participation rate were put on par with the USA. 3. Child Abuse : Child abuse in India is often a hidden phenomenon especially when it happens in the home or by family members. Focus with regards to abuse has generally been in the more public domain such as child labour, prostitution, marriage etc, Intra-family abuse or abuse that takes place in institutions such as schools or government homes has received minimal attention. This may be due to the structure of family in India and the role children have in this structure. Children in India are often highly dependent on their parents and elders; they continue to have submissive and obedient roles towards their parents even after they have moved out of their parental home. Societal abuses that are a result of poverty such as malnutrition, lack of education, poor health, neglect etc are recognized in various forms of the Indian legal system. But India does not have a law that protects children against abuse in the home. E. Addressing the Problems 1. Legal Protections The issues surrounding a girl child have been discusses in national child policies and laws and addressed in a few programmes. 1.The National Policy for Children,1974 2.The National Plan of Action for Children,2005 3.The Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques(Regulation and Prevention of Misuse)Act,1994 4.The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1986 5.The Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 6.Indian Penal Code 7.Balika Samriddhi Yojana 8.Kishori Shakti Yojana Campaigns promoting the rights of girl child are found both nationally and internationally. The Government of India has started a ‘’save the girl child’’ campaign with the slogan ‘’A happy girl is the future of the country’’. The UN has many initiatives that aim at the welfare of the girl child. The most significant one is the UN Girls Education Initiative launched in April 2000. 2. Social Issues that need be addressed: -Economic development that raised family incomes and living standards -Widespread, affordable, required and relevant education -Enforcement of anti-child labor laws ( along with compulsory education laws) -Changes in public attitudes toward children that elevated the importance of education -Social services- that help children and families survive crises, such as disease, or loss of home and shelter -Family control of fertility- so that families are not burden for children 4
- By making children to join the vocational training centers are a pragmatic, but powerful, tool to assist children in escaping the poverty trap -Supporting organizations that are raising awareness, and providing direct help to individual children -It is important to educate the parents to know the about the rights of girl child in order to educate their children -It is also important to add the subject of human rights in education institution inorder to aware them about the rights. F. Conclusion: In order to ensure child rights practices and response to Indiaâ€™s commitment to UN declaration to this effect, the government of India set up a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The Commission is a statutory body notified under an Act of the Parliament on December 29, 2006. Besides the chairperson, it will have six members from the fields of child health, education, childcare and development, juvenile justice, children with disabilities, elimination of child labour, child psychology or sociology and laws relating to children. The Commission has the power to inquire into complaints and take suo motu(on its own motion) notice of matters relating to deprivation of childâ€™s rights and non-implementation of laws providing for protection and development of children among other things. Aimed at examining and reviewing the safeguards provided by the law to protect child rights, the Commission will recommend measures for their effective implementation. It will suggest amendments, if needed, and look into complaints and take suo motu notice of cases of violation of the constitutional and legal rights of children. The Commission is to ensure proper enforcement of child rights and effective implementation of laws and programmes relating to children-enquiring into complaints and take suo motu cognizance of matter relating to deprivation of child rights; non-implementation of laws providing for protection and development of children and non-compliance of policy decisions, guidelines or instructions aimed at their welfare and announcing relief for children and issuing remedial measures to the state governments. Accordingly, the Government is taking action to review the national and state legislation and bring it in line with the provisions of the Convention. It has also developed appropriate monitoring procedures to assess progress in implementing the Convention-involving various stake holders in the society. India is also a signatory to the World Declaration on the survival, Protection and Development of Children. In pursuance of the commitment made at the World Summit, the Department of Women and Child Development under the Ministry of Human Resource Development has formulated a National Plan of Action for Children. Most of the recommendations of the World Summit Action Plan are reflected in Indiaâ€™s National Plan of Action-keeping in mind the needs, rights and aspirations of 300 million children in the country. The priority areas in the Plan are health, nutrition, education, water, sanitation and environment. The Plan gives special consideration to children in difficult circumstances and aims at providing a framework, for actualization of the objectives of the Convention in the Indian context
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