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 can not vote, can not get a driving license, can not 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.
Article 23 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the right against exploitation, prohibits human trafficking and forced labour, and makes the practice punishable under law. Article 24 prohibits employment of children below 14 years of age in factories, mines or other hazardous employments. 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 not suitable as per 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. all deal with the 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.
Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 enacted in consonance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) consolidates and amends the law relating to juveniles in conflict with law and to children in need of care and protection.
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 aimed 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. States such as Assam, Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Goa, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharastra, Orissa, Punjab, Rahjasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu and Uttarkhand have their own state commissions to deal with child rights protection.
Children becoming victims of insurgency and terrorism are common in Manipur as some underground outfits resorted to forced recruitment of the minors against established legal frameworks. Kidnapping of kids for demanding ransom has been witnessed many a time in Manipur. Deportation and trafficking of children outside the state and country for various illegal purposes have also been seen on a wide scale in the state. Small children are serving as waiters in Manipur hotels and restaurants, working in automobile workshops and even as domestic helpers in many households. The ugly reality meted out to the minor humans can hardly be dealt with sufficiently by the short hands of the state social welfare department, NGOs and police department. Manipur strongly needs a State Commission for protecting the children’s rights.
In January 2010, 93 kids from Manipur were rescued from a house in Tamil Nadu. Again in the same month, 53 children from the state were rescued from an unregistered orphanage in Tamil Nadu. In February 2010, three kids from Churachandpur district were rescued from Tamil Nadu. In March 2010, police in Imphal intercepted an inter-state bus where ten kids including three girls from Churachandpur were being carried for trafficking. Twenty seven children including nine girls (twenty one from Chandel, four from Churachandpur, two from Senapati districts) were rescued from unregistered children homes based in Chennai and Kanyakumari in April 2010. In September 2010, police rescued one child from a hotel in Paona Bazar and three others from Imphal airport. These are a few recent events where rights of children were violated.
In a lighter vein, many children are reportedly made to work under the NREGS as job card holders. In spite of huge pouring-in of funds for various schemes and projects related to children, most of the creches and anganwadi centres in the state are not functioning properly due to various reasons. In such a situation, where children face all forms of deprivation and victimization, adoption of holistic children’s policy and institution of a commission to deal with protection of child rights is a must.
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