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- Child protection is a human rights issue, and it comes under the purview of the legislative framework.
- In 1989, an international agreement, ‘The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’ (UNCRC) was adopted.
- It legally binds the governments to set out the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of every child.
On 11 December 1992, India ratified UNCRC, making it a landmark encouragement for the Indian Government to develop progressive legislation to safeguard child rights.
Covid-19 and Girls
Socio-economic impacts of Covid-19 are gendered, evident in the form of educational inequality, sexual violence, and increased household burden.
- Increased domestic violence: In India, the National Commission for Women reported 2.5 times increase in domestic violence during the initial months of nationwide lockdown.
- Abuse & Trafficking: Closure of schools and pandemic induced poverty has increased the vulnerability of children especially the girl child to abuse and trafficking
- School dropout: UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report (2021) throws light on increased educational inequalities for adolescent girls during the Covid-19 crisis. UNESCO estimates that around 11 million girls may not return to school.
- School Closures pushed Children into Labour: In 2021, says UNESCO, 24 million children may not find their way back to schools after the pandemic. Any child who is not in school is a potential child labourer.
- Child Marriages: India witnessed an increase in the number of child marriages since 2020. Girls are further at risk – married off early, these child brides are also often child labourers.
- Reduced Education Budget: Despite knowing the impact of Pandemic on education system & thus on Children’s future, the Union budget has Rs 5,000 crore less to spend on education for children this year.
- Digital gender gap: The digital gender gap deters girls’ remote education and access to information.
Various policy initiaitives
- Improving sex ratio: Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao Scheme, Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act are meant to prevent sex selective abortions and improve sex ratio in the country.
- Literacy: Sukanya Samridhi Yojana creates a fund for the future education of the girl child and Udan for higher education of girl child.
- Child Marriage: Prohibition of Child marriage Act 2006 has been enacted to prevent marriage of girls below 18 years of age.
- Health and nutrition: Supplying iron and folic acid tablets, Kishori Shakti Yojana, POSHAN abhiyan, Mid-day meal scheme have been undertaken to provide sufficient nutrition to girl child.
- Hygiene: Ujjwala sanitary napkin at minimal cost under Suvidha scheme will support menstrual hygienic among girls.
- Child labour protection: The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 has been enacted to make sure girls are not indulged in child labour and instead get education.
- Sexual abuse: Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 provides strict punitive action in case of sexual abuse against the child.
- Protection against offences: Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 seeks to safeguard the rights of children in conflict with the law, and those in need of care and protection. Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) was launched in 2009 to build a protective environment for children in difficult circumstances.
- In 2020, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights launched Standard Operating Procedure for Care and Protection of Children in Street Situations.
Ensuring a gender-responsive child protection system amid crisis is paramount.
- Educate families about the detrimental impacts of the household burden on young girls. Enable families to empower their daughters through education and household decision-making.
- Overcome gender bias in education – gender-neutral school curriculum, pedagogy, and environment. Challenge the gender discriminatory attitudes of students and present role models. Ensure safe and gender-responsive reopening of schools.
- Engage children to voice and act against child marriage in the community. Ensure that girl safety is a collective responsibility.
- Lead advocacy, campaigns, and activism to echo girl child protection with zero tolerance for heinous crimes against minor girl child. Prevention is to be prioritized in legal frameworks and not merely relief and compensation.
- Strong protection net for most vulnerable- safety of orphaned. abandoned girl child, girls living in street situations, those in institutions with girl child of prisoners, and commercial sex workers to be prioritized.
- Gender-responsive training of police and other duty bearers. Focus on prohibition. prevention, regulation, rehabilitation, and restoration services.
- Educate girls about cyber safety particularly adolescent girls. Spread awareness on measures to stay safe on social media platforms and prompt reporting of potential threats.
- A gendered approach to disaster risk mitigation. Identify gendered vulnerabilities and gender-responsive mitigation strategies in events of disasters, emergencies, and humanitarian crises. Empower young girls to act on climate change.
- Encourage young girls to take environmental issues to Bal Panchayats and other platforms. Prioritise climate change in school curriculum and pedagogy to encourage girls to be the leaders of tomorrow.