NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK – A Shakti Vahini Research Initiative
Minister of State (Independent Charge), Ministry of Women & Child Development held a meeting with senior officers from the Ministries of Home Affairs, Health & Family Welfare, Labour & Employment and Human Resource Development as well as Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), Member, National Commission for Women (NCW) and representatives from voluntary organisations working for children in difficult circumstances to discuss the measures being taken to prevent abuse of children in various situations. Expressing her deep anguish and concern regarding the various incidents of abuse and exploitation of children that have been reported by the Media in the recent past, she urged upon all concerned to devise and put in place effective measures and establish stringent systems to ensure that children remain protected in their environment – i.e. living with their own families, in schools or in child care institutions.
The Minister emphasised the need for stepping up coordination among Departments/Ministries as well as State Governments and the civil society in order to avoid occurrence of such incidents.
While mentioning some of the steps taken by her Ministry in this regard, she informed that the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill has been passed by the Cabinet and will be re-introduced shortly in the Rajya Sabha. Further, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children), Act, 2000, which is the primary legislation for children in difficult circumstances, is also under amendment and the Ministry proposes to introduce a penal provision for non-registration of Children‘s Home under the Act. It is felt that bringing all the Children’s Homes under this Act would subject them to stringent scrutiny and monitoring as prescribed and, thus, quality of care in the institutions would improve.
It was also informed that the implementation of Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), which is a comprehensive Centrally Sponsored Scheme introduced by the Ministry in 2009-10, is also well underway and good progress has been made by the State Governments/UT Administrations in setting up Child Welfare Committees (CWCs), Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) and dedicated structures at State and district levels with staff exclusively working on child protection. The Childline Service, a 24 hour telephone helpline service for children in distress, has also been expanded from 83 locations initially to more than 200 locations now.
In the meeting, the issue of abuse of children in Child Care Institutions, such as the recent allegation of sexual abuse of children in Arya Anathalaya, Delhi, which is a Home un-registered under the JJ Act, was discussed. Concern was also expressed regarding the abuse of children by their own parents/guardians and it was felt that there is a need to build awareness regarding safe abandonment of children in cradles set up in Adoption Agencies and hospitals, from where they can be given an opportunity to be adopted by a loving and caring family.
In view of reported cases of trafficking of abandoned children from hospitals, the representative from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare was requested to set up cradles for safe abandonment, and provision of appropriate facilities for trauma care for children. Special facilities for health care of adolescents and mental health for children were also identified as issues for action.
The Minister , also expressed concern regarding the rising number of cases of abuse of children employed as domestic workers and suggested streamlining of procedures to counter-act trafficking of children for gainful employment, rescue of children engaged hazardous work as well as regulation and monitoring of placement agencies which are mostly responsible for placing children as domestic workers. The State Governments should be urged by the Ministry of Labour and Employment to build awareness at the field level regarding the child labour protocol for rescue and rehabilitation.
The need to align all existing laws dealing with trafficking and their effective implementation by Ministry of Home Affairs was emphasised.
On the issue of convergence it was suggested that the role of civil society is important for pursuing with the State Governments to activate district and village level structures dealing with children, like teachers, ASHA workers, gram sabhas etc., for ensuring that children do not drop out from schools, keeping a look-out of for abuse of children in their homes and mapping of vulnerable children.
It was agreed that focus should be shifted from institutionalisation of vulnerable children to strengthening the families by linking them with schemes like MNREGA and fostercare/ sponsorship support.