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Realize children's rights in India

India at a glance

India is a federal republic in South Asia that comprises 29 federal states and the capital of which is New Delhi. Bordering Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, India has a wide variety of customs, traditions and languages, with Hindi being the Union's official language alongside English. India's current population is 1.21 billion people, making it the second most populous and seventh largest country in the world. It is a huge country and one of the leading developing countries in the world. Despite this, India has made remarkable progress in terms of economic growth - averaging 7.3% GDP growth over the past five years - yet the country continues to face similar challenges as other BRICS countries (BRICS = Brazil, Russia, India , China and South Africa): namely with high growth rates on the one hand, which on the other hand are accompanied by persistent poverty and inequality, mostly in rural regions. This inequality is evident in the low level of human development within the most marginalized groups, such as castes, indigenous tribes and ethnic groups, rural populations, women, transgender people with HIV, and migrants. Despite India's significant progress in reducing poverty, access to education, and fighting HIV, results to date have been mixed. This also means that children in India continue to face some of the harshest conditions in the world, such as malnutrition, child labor, begging forced by adults ... Teething diseases such as diarrhea are rampant.


Status of children's rights

India has 472 million children under the age of 18, which is 39% of the country's total population. A large percentage, 29% of them, are children between the ages of 0 and 6. In addition, 73% of children in India live in rural areas and basic needs such as nutrition, health care, education and protection are often only met to a limited extent. The high percentage of children in rural areas often negatively affects their access to fundamental rights. The Indian Commission for the Protection of Children's Rights (Ordinance of 2005, amended in 2006) has strengthened children's rights in India, in particular the elimination of child labor and the protection of children and young people. The mandate of the commission is "to ensure that all laws, strategies, programs and administrative mechanisms are in line with the perspectives on children's rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted in 1989." is clearly a government priority in India, which is also enshrined in the constitution and protected by law. Nevertheless, it is still a challenge in India that children's rights are realized, especially with regard to access to education and the problem of forced labor and child marriages, Humanium focuses on this in India. With 39% of India's 1.21 billion population being children, realizing these fundamental rights is imperative.


Child sensitive social protection

Social protection is needed to reduce child and family poverty, eradicate inequalities and realize children's rights. In addition, it is important that social protection programs reduce vulnerabilities by optimizing the positive effects for children and minimizing negative consequences as far as possible. Child-sensitive social protection offers the opportunity to combat chronic poverty, social exclusion and external shocks, which mostly affect children irreversibly. This is particularly important for the children who live in rural areas and are often exposed to greater risks due to their living conditions. With only 27% of Indian children living in urban areas but 73% in rural areas, it is important to expand access to child social protection programs. That is why child-sensitive social protection (CSSP programs) in India are supported not only by Humanium and Hand in Hand India, our partner, but also by Save the Children, UNICEF, and the Ministry of Social Protection. The aim is to promote and realize children's rights by ensuring that social protection measures lead to meaningful investments in children


Realization of Children's Rights Index


An indicator is a specific, observable and measurable characteristic that shows changes or the progress of a program. Humanium uses key indicators to monitor children's rights around the world. This is shown in the index for realizing children's rights.

Responding to the needs of children


Right to health

Access to health is a key indicator for realizing children's rights. Nearly 1 million children under the age of five die in India, an estimated 39 deaths per 1,000 live births. Women and children are most affected by poor access to health services, such as prenatal care and newborn care. Only every third Indian woman has regular checkups during her pregnancy and in rural areas a maximum of 37% of births are supported by qualified health workers. India has more than 204 million malnourished people and Indian children remain the hardest hit, meaning up to 39% of children are affected by stunted growth. For this reason, the government has initiated an extensive national campaign to educate the population about the importance of a varied and balanced diet. Children are also at high risk of contracting HIV (3700 new infections in children), and there is a lack of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. This is because health services are unevenly distributed, which has a particular impact on women and children in rural areas.


Right to education

Access to education remains a very problematic and important barrier to the realization of children's rights in India. India has the world's largest illiterate population, 287 million adults, which is 37% of the world's illiterate population. Although the literacy rate in India increased by 15% between 1991 and 2006, the total number of illiterate people remained high due to continued population growth. Despite India's efforts to devote 10.5% of total government spending to education, decentralization means that rich states can spend much more on education than poorer states. For example, a rich state like Kerala spent $ 685 per person per year on education, while a poorer state like Bihar only spent $ 100. These unequal educational opportunities marginalize children, especially those who live in rural areas.


In addition, the problem of discrimination related to the caste system and towards women persists, which marginalizes millions of young Indians in the education system. Nevertheless, the Indian government is trying to find solutions to enable all Indians, whether young or old, to have high quality education and thus to combat illiteracy. India can be proud to have made significant strides in its educational system despite the ongoing problems.


Humanium has been working in India with local partners to implement children's rights since 2009. For this purpose, special training centers have been set up for former child workers, which promote both “child-friendly villages” and various aid projects to enable further training. The aim of these projects is to end child labor through education, to improve the life of entire villages in rural areas and to create financial aid projects that enable young people from disadvantaged families to receive further training.


The right to live

The Indian Constitution of 1950 guarantees that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security” and that “no one may be deprived of his or her life or personal freedom ...”. Despite this fundamental right being enshrined in the constitution, the life, survival and development of children in India remains a problem. Thousands of children lose their lives every day, not only because of poverty, but also because female infanticide is carried out with impunity. This persistent cultural practice poses the greatest threat to the lives of Indian children. In fact, every day thousands of Indian girls die before giving birth or lose their lives because they are not wanted or accepted by their families. There are several factors that contribute to the persistence of female infanticide, including the dowry system which makes daughters an "unaffordable economic burden". As a result, many Indian families choose to have the female fetus selectively aborted. More alarming, when child birth is inevitable, families either drown, poison, or suffocate the babies, or willfully neglect them to cause them to die. The reality is frightening: worldwide, 117 million girls are demographically missing through selective sexual abortion, and in India there are 9 female fetal abortions every minute. As a result, India ranks fourth among the countries with the highest gender ratio of 112 men per 100 women.


Right to protection and freedom of expression

In India, a child has the right to be protected from neglect, exploitation and abuse at home and elsewhere. This means, for example, the right to protection against violence, neglect, commercial sexual exploitation, human trafficking, child labor and harmful traditional practices. However, according to a 2007 government study, more than 69% of children ages 5-18 are victims of abuse and many are exposed to humiliation and violence on a daily basis.

More than half of child abuse is committed by a small group of people who have a relationship of trust with the child or are in a position of authority. In Indian families, parents have absolute authority over their children. In addition, this strict discipline can also be found in academic fields; one study found that 65% of school children were subjected to corporal punishment by academic staff. An additional problem is that cultural values ​​in India do not place much value on the words and opinions of children and this right is not specifically mentioned in any Indian legislation; In addition, upbringing emphasizes that children must show respect to adults.

In order to fully realize the children's right to protection, it is important to achieve a different attitude towards children and their needs. It is also necessary to invest in the education and training of caregivers and to prosecute violations of rights and child protection. Despite the fact that the second article of the UN Convention guarantees the child's right to sexual orientation, in India the LGBTQ + community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) has always been a target of discrimination. This is mainly the result of a 157-year-old colonial law (Article 377), under which certain sexual acts can be punished with up to 10 years in prison. This law not only deprives LGBTQ + children of their basic rights, but exposes them to bullying, harassment, isolation and violence. In a historic ruling, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that same-sex sex is no longer a criminal offense, overturning a 2013 ruling that upheld the law known as Article 377. The court thus recognized discrimination based on sexual orientation as a violation of fundamental rights. The court also stated: "The state had no right to control the private lives of members of the LGBT community and the right to sexual orientation is on an equal footing with the right to privacy." In India, this ruling marks a great victory for the LGBTQ + community and gives hope worldwide that change is possible in countries where homosexuality is still a criminal offense.


Right to registration and identity

Another important factor is realizing a child's right to identity and registration. India suffers from one of the highest non-registration rates in the world and only 41% of births are registered. There is a big difference between urban and rural areas: 59% of children under five are registered in the city, while in rural areas it is only 35%. This has serious consequences for these children as they cannot benefit from child sensitive social protection services and programs and are not visible in the eyes of society.


Risk factors → Country-specific challenges


Poverty and access to water

India has experienced strong economic growth since 1991. This spectacular development gives hope in terms of human rights and social development. However, the fact is that due to the large population, many people in India continue to live in great poverty. The country suffers from great inequalities between different regions and population groups, and children are hardest hit by poverty and social inequality. A major contributor to poverty is the lack of clean water. This is necessary for everyday use and agriculture; also to fight diseases caused by inadequate sanitation, which can be fatal for children. Although 96% of the urban population have access to clean water, 73% of Indian children live in rural areas where access to drinking water remains a significant problem and 20% of the population have limited access to drinking water. As a result, children in rural areas are most exposed to health problems. In addition, the lack of access to clean water means that children grow up in unhealthy circumstances, as there are no basic sanitary facilities in homes or schools. The fight against poverty, the unequal distribution of water and other social inequalities is essential to realizing children's rights.


Child labor

In recent years India has made efforts to combat child labor. Essential factors contributing to this problem are lack of food, high levels of poverty, and social and economic circumstances. Other factors include a lack of understanding of the harmful effects of child labor and a lack of access to basic, meaningful, high-quality education and general training and development practices.

A recent analysis of the census data in India shows that child labor has fallen by only 2.2 percent per year overall over the past decade. In addition, child labor in urban areas has increased by more than 50 percent. Children under the age of 14 often chop paving stones all day, sew shoes and footballs, roll cigarettes and incense sticks, embroider clothes, pack, stick on labels, or do crafts. These are just a few examples, and child labor is often due to unemployment or low parental earnings, which means that children have to contribute to household incomes. Children who are forced to work instead of enjoying an education do not have the opportunity to develop physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically. India has one of the youngest populations in the world, but more than 42.7 million children are out of school.

Child abuse

Child sexual abuse is a very common dark reality in India that severely affects child welfare. Statistics show that one child is sexually abused every 15 minutes. Research results make it clear that offenders can be divided into two groups: the first group consists of around 60% officially known offenders without sexual preferences who sexually abuse children for various reasons. The other group shows a clear sexual preference disorder, namely pedophilia.

The path to commercial sex work is based on individual factors such as poor socio-economic status, the death of a parent or husband, and being born the child of a commercial sex worker. Other risk factors include early childhood experiences of sexual abuse and family contact with pornographic representations, lack of adequate family support, and a family and personal history of mental illness.In addition, inadequate sanitation and safety of women were also cited as additional risk factors for sexual abuse at Community level. The consequences of child sexual abuse can be broken down into mental health, physical health, behavioral and social effects. Children exposed to sexual abuse are at high risk for psychiatric disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, suicidal behavior, and depression.


Children's wedding

The percentage of girls in India who married under the age of 16 as well as under 18 fell over the 20 year period (1992-2012), and the median age at marriage is 16.6 years. There is some evidence that child labor can increase the risk of child marriage. Child marriage also has an impact on school education: by the age of 15, only 40 percent of married girls were enrolled in school, compared with 86 percent of girls who were unmarried by the age of 18.