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Child protection never a concern for India, say activists

Mar 25, 2013

It is crucial for the post-2015 development framework to include a goal on child protection, said experts at a meeting convened by Butterflies, an Indian NGO, and Family for Every Child, a global network of child rights groups, in New Delhi.

New Delhi: As the debates over the content of the post-2015 development framework have centred around 11 thematic areas, child rights groups have outlined that child protection is highly relevant to many of these thematic areas and must be placed at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda. As child protection does not figure into the agenda, many feel that the agenda is inadequate as a result.

A high level dialogue ‘Protect My Future: Priorities of the Most Vulnerable Children in the Post-2015 Agenda’ was held in New Delhi where stakeholders wanted global child protection targets to be included into the framework.

India has many laws related to protection of children such as the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2006; Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006; and Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986. Last week, the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 2013, that prohibits trafficking for all forms of exploitation including physical exploitation, was also passed in the parliament and now waits for the President’s assent. Despite various laws, implementation remains a challenge.

“Many laws exist but there is no investment on implementation of these laws. Lawmakers assume that laws will be implemented on their own. There is a huge gap between what we plan and how we implement it,” said Bharati Ali, Director of HAQ Center for Child Rights.

Representing India’s Planning Commission, Dr Shantha Sinha, Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said, “When we talk about MDGs, we should not talk about a fraction of children. We should strive for universal coverage that means no child should be left behind. No child should remain uneducated, illiterate, unprotected”.

However, Dr Sinha doesn’t seem to agree with the idea of setting targets as mentioned in the MDGs. “When we are making benchmarks, we actually mean we cannot do it. Let’s not have targets. Let’s not make a political statement. Let’s work, today and now, for rights of every child,” she said.

Presenting an analysis of Union Budget 2013-14, Ali said that only 4.64 per cent of the total Union Budget 2013-14 goes to children. Maximum decline is seen in the sector that relates to the protection of the child, which sees a decline to the tune of 7.67 per cent.

In 2011, the crimes against children reported a 24 per cent increase from the previous year with a total of 33,098 cases reported in India during 2011 as compared to 26,694 cases during 2010. A 7.67 per cent decline in budget for child protection is only going to worsen the situation. Clearly, as she puts it, child protection was never a real concern for the government.

“India is overlooking a lot of its international obligations, especially related to the protection of children,” said Ali. Allocation for the much needed Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) has been reduced by 25 per cent from Rs 400 crore to Rs 300 crore.

Rita Panicker, founder, Butterflies, said, “Concerted global action is now needed to raise children’s protection at the international level and to monitor the impact of efforts by governments to ensure that every child is protected.”

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