Children of India
Realizing Children’s Rights in India
Because of the extent and gravity of the situation of children in the second most populous country in the world, only concrete, profound, and long term programs will really be effective.
Realization of Children’s Rights Index :
Red level : Difficult situation
Population: 1.2 billion
Life expectancy: 66,4 years
Main problems faced by children in India :
Since 1991, India has experienced strong economic growth. This often spectacular development offers hints of new hopes relating to human rights and social development. However, a large part of the population still lives in great poverty.
India is strongly characterized by inequalities between different regions and groups of populations. Children are most affected by this poverty and social inequality.
In India, life, survival, and child development remain areas of concern. Thousands of children lose their lives each day, not only because of poverty, but also because female infanticides are practiced with impunity.
The main threat to Indian children’s right to life stems from these female infanticides, a cultural practice that persists. In fact, each day, thousands of small Indian girls either die before being born or lose their lives because they are not desired or accepted by their family.
To deal with this problem, many Indian families turn to selective abortion of the female fetus (feticide). Even more alarming, when the birth of the child is unavoidable, families kill the babies by drowning, poison, suffocation, or deliberate negligence leading to the death of the child.
The reality is even more frightening : millions of cases of selective abortion will not be counted by the Indian government. Every minute, 9 abortions of female fetuses take place in India…
In India, more than 2 million children die each year. It is estimated that more than 20% of child deaths less than five years old take place in this country.
Women and children are mostly on the fringe of the Indian health system. Disadvantaged children suffer from sicknesses and handicaps linked to polluted drinking water, the absence of adequate sanitation, and from malnutrition which is responsible for 50% of infant death in India.
Furthermore, maternal health is not sufficiently covered. Only 1 in 3 Indian women benefit from regular monitoring of their pregnancy. In rural areas, barely 37% of births are assisted by qualified health personnel.
India must deal with two problems : it must respond to the needs of the population for clean water, necessary for consumption and agriculture; and it must struggle against the spread of diseases caused by the absence of sufficient sanitation.
Even though 96% of the population living in cities has access to clean water, this access remains limited by chronic rationing.
In rural areas, access to potable water remains a considerable problem : 20% of the rural population does not always have access to potable water. Because of this, it is the children living in these areas who are most exposed to various health problems linked to water.
Children suffering from a lack of water miss the possibility to grow up in a healthy environment because neither homes nor schools allow them to benefit from the minimum required hygiene standards.
In India, the question of access to education remains very problematic. In a country with the largest number of illiterate people in the world at 270 million individuals, the Indian government is trying to find solutions to allow all Indians, young or old, to benefit from high quality education in order to fight against illiteracy.
In spite of the continuing problems, India can be very proud of itself for having made considerable progress in its educational system.
The large regional disparities make access to education difficult for thousands of children. Disadvantaged children living in rural areas have less of a chance to attend school.
In India, according to a study conducted by the government in 2007, more than 69% of children aged 5 to 18 years old are victims of abuse. There are many who must face humiliation and violence every day.
More than half of the abuses inflicted upon children are committed by a close group of people who have a relationship of confidence and authority with the child. In Indian families, parents have an absolute authority over their children. Furthermore, this strict discipline is also found in academic areas, where 62% of children are victims of abuse from teachers.
India, a major food exporter for many years, does not experience much difficulty regarding access to food. Indian food, varied and mainly vegetarian, is nutritionally balanced. However, the Indian population faces a large malnutrition problem.
In this country, two types of malnutrition have been noted : while the wealthy population faces overeating problems, the major part of the population suffers from malnourishment.
Also, India has more than 204 million undernourished people and Indian children remain the most affected. In response, the government started a large awareness campaign in order to educate the population about the importance of a varied and balanced diet.
India is a country which gives a fundamental place to freedoms of opinion and expression, freedoms which are deeply anchored in Indian culture. However, the opinion of children is rarely taken into account.
Because of cultural and ethical values, the words and opinions of children have only a very minor standing. No Indian legislation specifically mentions this children’s right, and education focuses on the respect children must show to adults.
Today, more than 60 million children are forced to work in India, more than 12 million of whom work in a state of servitude. These children grow up and live in inhumane conditions.
Compounding this misery, these children must deal with the risk of abuse, most particularly children working as domestic servants. They work 24 hours a day at their employers and must always be available to respond to the smallest caprice of their “master” Also, they receive little respect or thanks from their employers. In India, more than 70% of children working as domestic servants are physically assaulted by their employer.
Because of the extent of this problem, the government must demonstrate perseverance and work in collaboration with local communities if it hopes to one day create a safe environment for all Indian children.
In India, despite the changing morals and the adoption of a prohibition in 2006, the tradition of child marriage continues to be practiced. Today, more than 47% of Indian women are married before the age of 18.
Child marriages are very common in the poorest areas, in particular in the countryside and in the slums. Pushed by poverty, families marry their children as early as 10 so that they are no longer a financial burden for them.
India suffers from one of the highest non-registration rates for children in the world. Only 41% of births are registered. The registration rate for births varies considerably between urban and rural areas.
This leads to serious difficulties for these people because they cannot benefit from their rights as they are considered invisible in the eyes of society.