If you have your own child you would know how much goes into bringing up a child and how your life changes since you want to give only the best of everything to your kid. Now imagine a child deprived of basic necessities of life, being pushed into child labor, subject to child trafficking, violence, and many other cases of abuse. It sounds gut-wrenching and it's for sure that most of us would cringe at the thought of an innocent life withering away.
To protect the rights of a child and to make sure he or she gets the care needed for their right development, the child protection act came into existence. In this article, we will unfold many aspects of child protection, what is child abuse, how to identify if a child is being abused, and what is being done to bring back natural childhood to children. We will also look into the child protection act India and what it entails.
What is Child Abuse?
The failure to protect children is a global crisis where reportedly 0.5 to 1.5 billion children experience violence every year, around 150 million girls and 73 million boys are raped or subject to sexual violence, and 115 million children are forced to work in extremely harmful forms of labor.
- Child abuse can be defined as any harmful activity (emotionally, physically, or sexually), neglect, abuse, ill-treatment, or any kind of deprivation a child goes through.
- Some forms of child abuse are evident like children begging on the streets, substance abuse, physical abuse at home, or child labor. In such cases even if the child may or may not speak to you about it, you can see it since it is obvious. You can then take steps to help the child.
- There are some forms of abuse happening at home which are not very evident. A child could be molested physically, or emotionally abused but the child can not speak about it since the child is dependent on the abuser. As an adult, it is our responsibility to observe if the child is going through any trauma and take protective measures.
- Some of the indicators or symptoms of child abuse can occur alone or in combinations as outlined below:
- Emotional abuse - Emotional abuse is when a child's sense of worth is continually being battered. It could be rejections, criticism, disregard, discrimination, corruption, isolation, terrorizing a child, or exploitation. The indicators of emotional abuse are bed wetting, frequent psychosomatic issues like headache, abdominal pains, nausea, etc, missing developmental milestones. Apart from these physical symptoms, emotional abuse may also show up as self-destructing behavior, attention-seeking behaviors, usage of bad language, depression, withdrawal, anxiety, or aggression.
- Neglect - A child is neglected when he is not provided with basic needs. It could be physical neglect like not providing shelter, food, clothing, etc. or medical neglect like lack of medical care when the child is ill, or abandonment where one leaves a child alone without arranging adequate care for them. If a child is neglected it shows up in his/her behavior in various forms like developmental delays, a child is tired most of the time, malnourished and underweight, shows severe lack of attachment with adults, poor social skills, demands extreme attention and care, lacks basic hygiene, etc.
- Physical - Physical abuse occurs when a child is beaten, punched, kicked, a bit shook, burnt, or thrown. Physical abuse shows up as unexplained bruises, abrasions, cuts, welts, burns, or fractures. A child who has been physically abused could be scared of adults, violent to other children and animals, give an inconsistent explanation for the cuts and bruises, or maybe extremely withdrawn.
Child Protection India
The alarming effects of failure to protect children are likely to grow significantly unless something is done urgently. Global trends like migration, urbanization, climate change, etc. are all making children more vulnerable. Therefore it is essential for the government, and other agencies to design a framework for the well-being of children.
In India, child protection is now being seen as a core component of a developed society and a wide range of laws are put in place to protect children. India has an extensive policy and legal framework that addresses child protection issues ensuring every child has equal access to quality child protection services.
The primary and core child protection act is enshrined in four laws:
- The Juvenile Justice Act and Protection - This came into existence in 2000 and was amended in 2015. This law replaced the Juvenile delinquency Law and it allows children in the age group of 16 to 18 who have committed heinous crimes, to be tried in court as adults. The term “juvenile” describes a person who is less than 18 years of age. As per this act, children who are in conflict with the law are assessed to know if they are in need of special care and protection through treatment, nourishment, training, and social integration.
- Child Marriage Prohibition Act - This came into existence in 2006. India strives to eliminate child marriage (girls below 18 years and boys below 21 years) through various policies and programs. Amongst South Asian countries, India's progress in child marriage eradication has been the strongest. But still, three of the child brides in the world are from India, and child marriage continues to be a deterrent in India achieving Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 5) by 2030.
- Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act - This came into existence in 2012. The POCSO act aims at protecting children from a slew of sexual offenses. The law is gender-neutral and any sexually wronged child has access to all the remedies available under this act. The POCSO act also prohibits revealing the victim's identity in any way to the media unless special courts have given permission for it.
- Child Labor Prohibition and Regulation Act - This came into existence in 1986 and was amended in 2016. Child labor remains a complex problem in India as, despite many legislations and policies, the decline in working children has been less effective than expected. Children are commonly seen working in households and agriculture.
What Do We Need to Promote Child Protection?
While the judicial framework and constitution do provide legal and political rights to ensure the protection of children, there is much more needed to ensure that vulnerable communities can exercise their social and economic rights. It is not just legal reforms that can assure that children are safe. In this endeavor, the Satyarthi organization has many campaigns running where they have touched 640 villages in 14 years of existence and changed as many as 22998 lives through their "Bal Mitra Gram" program. Their programs also touch urban slums through their "Bal Mitra Mandal '' program and have empowered 15,000 children living in urban slum communities.
Published by neha naayar