— Need for a Mass Movement —
By Seram Neken
It is the ardent responsibility of the related government and non-government agencies to spread mass awareness on child rights to the people through continued mass media campaigns across the state.
Although described as the most reasoned and thoughtful among living creatures, human beings are also the worst among animals as far as the quantum of crimes against its own race is concerned. It’s not amazing that humans commit crimes against humans to the extent that even irrational animals never do on their own genre. Considering the criminal mindsets among the two-leg man who are considered most civilized nowadays, we may efficiently presume human beings as quite fit to be termed as inhuman beings. In this so called neo-liberal world, mankind harasses, murders and rapes his own race while even animals do not bother their young ones and their opposite sex. Hence, need for stringent laws to deal with irrationality among the humans arises.
On the one side, we hear of mothers sacrificing their lives for the safety and welfare of their young ones. On the other, there are numerous scenes in real life where the same women torture small children for petty gains. Is she really a mother ? Definitely, she is bereft of motherhood. Will a woman sans motherliness be called a woman ? These are pertinent queries confronting the present society where news of women harassing women, and women assaulting children occur frequently. Statutes such as Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act 2015 are a weapon to diagnose the system and protect the children from all kinds of harassment, torture and neglect. Under the said law, every citizen of the country is responsible for ensuring that children around him/her are safe and protected.
In spite of numerous statutes, conventions and Acts to safeguard the child rights in the country, cases of frequent child trafficking, kidnapping, physical assaults, sexual abuses, deprivations, hunger, illiteracy and after-all emotional insecurity occur unabated due to lack of awareness and commitment on protection of child rights. Besides innumerable cases of abuse of children in various undesirable acts, we are seeing hundreds and hundreds of children without proper food, proper health care, basic education, enough clothing and emotional security in the state. In reality, children in Manipur do not get their due. Children are still openly utilized in hotels, restaurants, automobile workshops and domestic households. Generation of public awareness followed by active involvement of the citizenry in protection of child rights is the need of the hour.
Universally, a child is a human being below the age of 18 years. India always recognizes persons below 18 years of age with distinct legal entity. People below 18 years cannot vote, cannot get a driving license, cannot enter into legal contracts. Marriage of a girl below the age of 18 years and a boy below 21 years is restrained under the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929. India entitles the benefits of juvenile justice to persons below the age of 18 years, except for heinous crimes committed by children aged 17-18 as laid in the recently passed Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act 2015.
Article 23 of the Indian Constitution Guarantees right against exploitation, prohibits traffic in human beings and forced labour and makes their practice punishable under law. Article 24 prohibits employment of children below 14 years of age in factories, mines or other hazardous employment. Article 21 (A) of Indian Constitution guarantees the Right to free and compulsory elementary education for all children in the 6-14 year age group. Article 39 (e) guarantees the right to be protected from being abused and forced by economic necessity to enter occupations unsuited to their age or strength. Right to equality (Article 14), Right against discrimination (Article 15), Right to personal liberty (Article 21), Right to being protected from being trafficked and forced into bonded labour (Article 23), Right of weaker sections of the people to be protected from social injustice and all forms of exploitation (Article 46) etc. are all concerned with protection of child rights.
Indian Penal Code under section 366(A) states that procuring of a minor girl from one part of the country to another is punishable. Section 366 (B) prohibits importation of a girl below 21 years of age. Section 374 provides punishment for compelling any person to labour against his will. Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, (ITPA) 1956 deals exclusively with trafficking of girl child in order to inhibit / abolish traffic in women and girls for the purpose of prostitution as an organized means of living. Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 prohibits employment of children in certain specified occupations and also lays down conditions of work of children. Information Technology Act, 2000 penalizes publication or transmission in electronic form of any material which is lascivious. The law has relevance to addressing the problem of pornography. India has also adopted a code of conduct for Internet Service Providers with the objective to enunciate and maintain high standard of ethical and professional practices in the field of Internet and related services.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography 2000, the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) 1979, the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons especially Women and Children etc. are some important international laws related to children’s rights. SAARC Convention on Regional Arrangement for the Promotion of Child Welfare, 2002 also aims at protection of children’s rights.
India has set up a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in March 2007 under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005 for ensuring that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Most of the states in the country including Manipur have their own state commissions to deal with child rights protection.
The provisos available on statute books are not enough to control and minimize the crimes against the young human creatures, unless the people are well aware of such protective shields. Hence, it is the ardent responsibility of the agencies both government and non-government to spread mass awareness to the general people through continued mass media campaigns across the state. This write-up is one of the smallest attempts to awake the readers on various prevailing statutes and conventions concerning protection of child rights.
(The writer is Member, Child Welfare Committee, Imphal East. He can be reached at [email protected])