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Child Rights: An Overview

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. - Nelson Mandela

Everybody wants to bandwagon on human rights, very few are aware that child rights are the subset of human rights. India has the highest number of children in the world. A country’s progress is seen by its folk and proper conditioning throughout the childhood is paramount importance. Children are the national asset of a country and a determinant of its prosperity.

Who is a child?
As per International Laws, a child is a human being below the age of 18 years. This is a universally accepted norm given by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child (UNCRC).

Although in India, a child is referred to as a human being below the age of 14 years and from the age of 14 to 18, they are considered as an adolescent.

What are child rights?
All people under the age of 18 are entitled to the standards and rights guaranteed by the laws that govern a country and the international legal instruments and we have accepted by ratifying them.

The Constitution of India guarantees the following right to children:
  • Article 21(a):
    Right to free and compulsory education of all children from the age of 6-14. Added by 87th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2010.
  • Article 24:
    Right to be protected from working in a hazardous environment until the age of 14.
  • Article 39(e):
    Right to be protected from being abused and forced by economic necessity to enter occupations unsuited to their age or strength.
  • Article 39(f):
    Right to equal opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and guaranteed protection of childhood and youth against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.

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Other than the above, other fundamental rights are guarantee to children too. Also, there are certain statutory bodies formulated by the government for the same purpose. For instance, the Child Labour- Prohibition and Regulations Act, 1986, Juvenile Justice (care and protection) Act, 2015, etc.

The UNCRC applies equally to both girls and boys up to the age of 18, even if they are married or already have children of their own. The convention is guided by the principles of Best Interest of the Child and ‘Non-discrimination’ and Respect for views of the child.

 It emphasizes the importance of the family and the need to create an environment that is conducive to the healthy growth and development of children. It obligates the state to respect and ensure that children get a fair and equitable deal in society. It draws attention to four sets of civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights: Survival, Protection, Development, and Participation.

Children are more vulnerable than adults to the conditions under which they live. Hence, they are more affected than any other age group by the actions and inaction of governments and society. In most societies, including ours, views persist that children are their parents’ property, or are adults in the making, or are not yet ready to contribute to society.

Children are not seen as people who have a mind of their own, a view to express, the capacity to make a choice, and an ability to decide. Instead of being guided by adults, their life is decided by adults. Children have no votes or political influence and little economic power. Too often, their voices are not heard. Children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Hence, it must be made sure not only by the government but by the people of the world to try to do their part by trying to protect these fragile minds.

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