This topic provides information about the child protection myths and facts, Role of panchayat members and child protection committees.
Child Protection - Myths and Facts
There are several misconceptions about child rights. Many people do not understand why children need protection and who they need it from. But it is important for panchayat members to be aware of this so that they can contribute to child protection in their village. Let us take a look at the myths surrounding this topic:
- Children cannot be exploited because society loves all its children.
- Home is the safest place for children.
- We should not worry about boys. They are capable of protecting themselves.
- Children don’t have any rights and therefore there is no need for their protection. They are their parents’ property.
- It is better to get girls married off while they are minors.
- Children are a gift from God and God will look after their health.
While we do love our children, it is a fact that India has the maximum number of child labourers and maximum cases of child sexual abuse. The condition of girls is worse. Compared to boys, the number of girls in the age group 0-6 years, is lesser. The incidence of female infanticide is high. According to statistics, crime against children has increased by 11.1% between 2002 and 2003. This is why it is important to increase awareness about child exploitation and ensure that laws on child rights are followed.
This is not true. You would have often read in the newspapers about young Girls being sexually exploited by close relatives. Many parents sell their children off for money. We also often hear of instances of female infanticide and newborn girls being killed. It is common in many families to physically assault children. Many families get their children married off at a young age so that they are not responsible for them anymore. In these cases, it is the responsibility of the government, community and panchayat members to create awareness amongst these families and if the need arises, to make an effort to put the culprits behind bars.
This is untrue. Like girls, boys too are vulnerable to sexual and emotional Exploitation. In some cases, boys are forced into child labour and Bonded labour. Often they are subjected to sexual assault at their workplaces. Assistance should be taken from government aided legal organisations to prevent these situations.
There is a misconception that children are small therefore do not have any rights like adults. Children do belong to their parents who know what is good for them and what is not. But the truth is that there is little awareness about child protection amongst the adults in villages. They are not aware that there are international laws and provisions in the Indian constitution to prevent children from exploitation. Panchayat members can contribute in creating awareness on this topic amongst families and the community.
It is a criminal offence to get girls under 18 years and boys under 21 years married. Due to early marriage, girls become mothers at a very young age and cannot fulfill maternal responsibilities. Awareness centres need to be established at the village level to spread awareness about this malpractice. If the need arises, legal steps can also be taken to prevent this crime.
This is a widespread misconception in our society. In many instances, when a child falls ill, parents resort to black magic for cure, but the truth is that from the time the child is in the mother’s womb to the time he grows up, the child’s health is the responsibility of the family and the government. That is why immunisation of the pregnant mother, ensuring safe and healthy delivery, immunisation of the infant, providing complete nutrition through ICDS, ensuring the child is taken to a health facility when ill and providing complete nutrition to children is important. This is one such right that we should not deny the children.
Panchayat members need to pay special attention to the following children to ensure protection for them:
- Homeless children.
- Migrant children.
- Street children and orphans.
- Differently abled children.
- Children denied health services.
- Children involved in child labour.
- Children affected by hostilities and natural disasters.
- Children trapped in prostitution and human trafficking.
- Children affected by HIV/AIDS (those who suffer from HIV/AIDS or whose parents suffer from HIV/AIDS).
- Children belonging to weaker sections (Scheduled Castes and Schedule Tribes)
Role of Panchayat Members in Child Protection
We have read about the misconceptions among families and the community surrounding child rights. Many families put their child’s future at stake because of their traditional views and sometimes because of their own selfish reasons. This is a hard reality especially in rural India which any responsible panchayat member cannot dismiss. Let us see what role a panchayat member can play in ensuring child protection.
Violation of child rights and role of panchayat members
Violation of child rights in our society is visible in various forms. In many instances, families and community themselves are responsible for this and in other cases, social malpractices and discriminatory approaches give way to violation of the rights of children. Members of the panchayat should be well informed of the exploitation of child rights and the laws pertaining to it. That is when they can successfully prevent child exploitation.
There are several form of exploitation of child rights:
- Child labour.
- Child marriage.
- Sexual exploitation of children.
- Trafficking of children.
- Corporal punishment.
- Caste discrimination.
- Female foeticide and female infanticide.
- Street and runaway children.
Panchayat members and their representatives can do the following to protect these children:
- Disseminate information amongst people about child protection.
- Hold discussions in Gram Sabhas on child rights.
- Establish child protection monitoring units.
- Collect information on government schemes and ensure usage of the schemes.
- Understanding human rights of children and spreading awareness of the same amongst families and the community.
- Maintain regular contact with departments/officials for child protection.
- Create an awareness campaign against social evils like marriage,gender discrimination, child labour and female infanticide that threaten child protection.
- Pay special attention to children's health.
If people are aware of the laws pertaining to child protection – law against child labour, law to prevent child marriage etc. – they will be able to use these laws at the appropriate time of action.
Every adult in the village is a part of the gram sabha. If discussions on children and their rights are discussed in these sabhas, then everyone present will learn about child rights and will take on the responsibility to protect the children in their village.
Panchayats can establish child protection monitoring units in the village whose aim will be to keep a check on violation of child rights. These units can keep a record of missing children or children in need of social, economic or psychological support.
Panchayat members should be aware of government schemes on child protection and how these schemes can be used to support children. Besides this, the panchayat members should identify children and families in need of assistance.
This is important because rural India lacks awareness on this issue.
It is the responsibility of the panchayat members to prevent instances of violation of child rights by maintaining regular contact with the local police, educators, anganwadi workers, ANMs, district panchayat members, BDOs, community development officers and District Magistrate. These sources can help the panchayat members to get information about children in need of protection and can also help in protection when the need arises.
All these social evils violate child protection. Panchayat members need to create awareness around these evils and organise public campaigns on these topics at regular intervals. Families, leading influencers of the community, elderly and religious leaders should be involved in these campaigns for maximum efficacy.
Special attention needs to be given to children’s health as often family members and community tend to neglect their health. Panchayat members need to make an effort to strengthen health services at the village level – from Anganwadi to Primary Health Centres – to ensure child health. With support garnered from Anganwadi workers, ANMs and ASHAs, panchayat members need to generate awareness amongst the village community about availing mother and child facilities and immunisation, as well as why it is important to protect children from malnutrition, diarrhoea and anaemia.
Child Protection Committees (CPCs)
- These can be established based on the consolidated Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) at the village/ward level and panchayat members can play a crucial role in these committees. The scheme was introduced in 2009 by the Department of Women & Child Development where village Child Protection Committees (CPCs) were combined with block and district level CPCs. This is the first time a community based step towards child protection has been taken where different members of the community identify and look out for children at risk and provide assistance to unprotected children and their families.
- CPCs include members of the local community, children, government officials and members of the panchayat. Responsibilities of the members include prevention of exploitation of child rights, informing the officials if such exploitation is taking place, keeping a close watch on such incidents etc. According to ICPS, it is mandatory for these committees to be established in all districts and villages in India.
- If a CPC has not been established in the village it is the responsibility of the panchayat members to initiate establishment of the committee and play an important role in activating it. Panchayat members also need to inspire the children, their parents and community members to participate and contact concerned officials for effective running of the CPCs.