CONTEXT: Ministry of Women and Child development has come up with Draft Child Protection policy in the wake of Muzaffarpur Shelter abuse case on Supreme Court prodding.
REQUIREMENT OF POLICY:
As on date there is no policy dedicated to the protection of the children as it is part of the broader National Child Policy, 2013. With India having 472 million child population, amounting to 40% of young population, such policy is required to protect their human rights and also to build a robust nation.
India is also signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and accordingly has a strong legal framework to protect children which include the
Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015;
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012;
Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act 1994;
The Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act 2005;
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009;
Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006;and
Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016.
AIM OF THE POLICY: It aims at providing a safe and conducive environment for all children through the prevention and response to child abuse, exploitation and neglect. It provides a framework for all institution, and organization (including corporate and media houses), government or private sector to understand their responsibilities in relation to safeguarding/ protecting children and promoting the welfare of children; individually and collectively.
It is applicable to all institutes and organisations.
All institutes and organisations need to develop a child protection policy and code of conduct for employees in line with the national guidelines and legislations and display it appropriately.
All employees and contractual workers must sign the declaration for child protection and abide by it.
All policies should be based on Zero tolerance of child abuse.
Everyone need to listen to children and respect their views.
The CHILDLINE 1098 and contact details of designated officer for child protection must be displayed appropriately.
All organization and institution should designate responsibility to a specific member/members of staff for ensuring that procedures and arrangements are in place within the organisation to protect children and report any abuse, exploitation or neglect; in line with the guidelines and existing laws.
Organize orientation programmes on child protection and various legislations related to it and make it mandatory for all employees at all levels (including contractual workers).
Any person who suspects abuse of any child in any form should report it to Childline or Child Welfare committee. Identity of the informant will be protected.
Professionals who provide services to children (teachers, counsellors, doctors/ other health workers and others) must follow child protection policy for reporting and taking action if they become concerned about a child’s safety and welfare.
Institutions and organizations working directly with children must develop age-appropriate modules and materials for orientating children on child abuse, online safety and services available for them.
Crèches/ mobile crèches for employee’s children including those on daily wages/contractual basis if the number of employees is fifty or above; otherwise appropriate space and facility for baby care to be provided for mothers with infants.
Child friendly zones must be developed in all places for public dealing.
Safe spaces for mothers to keep their infants.
The Code of Conduct should lay down that staff members must never:
Use language or behavior towards children that is inappropriate, harassing, abusive, sexually provocative, demeaning or culturally inappropriate.
Develop or induce or support in any way physical/sexual relationship with children.
Develop any form of relationship or arrangement with children which could in any way be deemed to be exploitative or abusive.
Place a child at risk of abuse or exploitation, or be aware of these and not report it or not do anything about it.
Medical establishments (hospital and clinics),doctors and health workers cannot refuse treatment or discriminate on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, disability, caste, religion, tribe, language, marital status, occupation, political belief, or other status. Refusal of medical care to survivors/victims of sexual violence and acid attack amounts to an offence under Section 166B of the Indian Penal Code read with Section 357C of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
COMPONENTS OF AN IDEAL CHILD PROTECTION FRAMEWORK:
CHALLENGES WITH THE POLICY:
Unlike the National Child Policy, 2013, it doesn't talk about children who may need special protection : including those affected by migration, communal or sectarian violence, children forced into begging, or in conflict with the law, and those affected by HIV/AIDS.
It doesn't talk about the role of the state for ensuring the protection of child rights or addressing local grievances.
There is no clear definition of Child Protection and what it means for institutions or organisations.
The policy although talks about organisations laying down a code of conduct, but it fails to explain what is acceptable behavior such as conduct of teachers in schools.
The policy is limited to the role of institutions but fail to look at the role of individuals.
CHILD PROTECTION IN USA:
US government legislated Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, 1974 (CAPTA) which authorized federal funds to improve the state response to physical abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse. It has made Child Protection Services available in small towns, rural areas, and cities. It defines Child abuse as any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm. A "child" under this definition generally means a person who is younger than age 18 or who is not an emancipated minor.
A policy need to address the four aspects of – Creating awareness, Prevention, Reporting and Responding. This document needs to go into all these aspects, especially a reporting structure involving various nodal bodies and a monitoring mechanism for implementation of the guidelines.
The policy need to have special measures for giving assistance to children with special need. Also, a robust method of reporting of abuse on multiple platform need to be created.
Child protection need to be defined to include physical abuse, neglect and sexual abuse.
A multitiered network belonging to cities, towns, rural areas similar to USA need to be created for successful implementation of the policy.
The policy need to move ahead from the institution centrism to the role of individuals in child abuse and child protection.
A threshold need to be clearly defined by the government for all institutions in dealing with government, but also need to provide lee way for institutions to develop their own guidelines depending on their area of functioning.
New forms of abuse such as cyber abuse and minor pornography need to be addressed in the policy. It needs to look into collaboration with technological giants such as Google, Facebook, Tumblr etc. to prevent these forms of child abuse.
The draft policy on child protection is a much awaited policy for protecting the 472 million children that hold the future of India. The policy need to protect these children from all forms of abuses and help with the rehabilitation and mainstreaming of children who have suffered any form of abuse at any point of their life. The policy need to protect children from all means of socialization so that these points of socialization don’t turn into exploiters of these children. Even, neglect by parents or guardians should be considered a form of abuse so that the safety of child is kept as an utmost priority of every person.