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“Childhood should be carefree playing in the sun; not living a nightmare of the darkness”
In a country like India, protection of children from abuse and exploitation is a mere exigency owing to the poor socio-economic conditions in a large population base. The provision of child rights has been made to shield safe, protective and caring environment that every child deserves. Child abuse and neglect occur in all types of families, no matter the education ,income,race, family size, religion, or any other trait. All states have statutory provisions outlining programs of protective services for children who are neglected and abused. These laws have been made in very important ways by two federal initiatives: The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974 and The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980.
In India, the number of children needing care and protection is huge and increasing. Uncontrolled families, extreme poverty, illiteracy result in provision of very little care to the child during the early formative years. Even services that are freely available are poorly utilized. The urban underprivileged, migrating population (a very sizable number) and rural communities are particularly affected. In large cities, there are serious problems of street children (abandoned and often homeless) and child labourers, employed in menial work. For example in India, there are about 440 million children; about 40% of them are vulnerable or experiencing difficult circumstances. Twenty seven million babies are born each year. A large majority these births are among the underprivileged section of the population, mostly unplanned and where the parents cannot provide proper care to their children Maternal under nutrition, unsafe deliveries, low birth weight babies and poor newborn care, lack of adequate immunizations, poor nutrition, neglect of early development and education are major issues that need to be appropriately addressed.. As per Government of India survey, the prevalence of all forms of child abuse are extremely high (physical abuse (66%), sexual abuse (50%) & emotional abuse (50%). In these contexts, India must also seek its own insights and way forward plans to protect their children.
The term “protection” readily relates to protection from all forms of violence, abuse, and exploitation. However, from India’s perspective, the Indian Child Abuse Neglect & Child Labour group has strongly propagated the view that “protection” must also include protection from disease, poor nutrition, and illiteracy, in addition to abuse and exploitation.
Whose responsibility is it to ensure the safe, caring and protective environment that every child deserves? The UN CRC does not make either family or community or society responsible at large. But it firmly puts the burden on the State. Governments are the ultimate duty bearer. In India, the State should ensure that all vulnerable children have access to school, basic health care, nutrition, besides social welfare and juvenile justice systems. These child protection systems can contribute to break down cycle of inter-generational poverty & exploitation.
Generally, the parents are held responsible for proper care and protection of their child.The birth of Every child should be planned and all births registered. However, the child must not suffer in case the parents can’t provide care and protection. It is the obligation of the proximate community and the Government at to address the issues of care and protection.
The magnitude and seriousness of the problems of underprivileged children are too great to be tackled through “external” measures. The child must be the responsibility of the parents, the family and the proximate community. The families and the community must be educated and empowered so that they can take the proper care and protection of their children. Parenting skills, alternative forms of discipline and basic support to vulnerable families must be expanded. In India, the Government cannot afford to separate children from their vulnerable families and place them in institutions.
Wherever the parents are unable to take care and protect the child, the proximate community and their elected representatives must take up that responsibility. Thus, in the village, panchayat officials (local self government) and in the urban areas, the elected members must ensure that every child is in school, receives basic health care and protection from child abuse & neglect.
A large number of NGOs are involved in the field of child welfare and child protection. However, owing to the huge numbers of children requiring protection, their efforts can make only a marginal impact. However, they should coordinate their child welfare activities and need to work together.
The professionals, all educated persons, corporate sector and religious institutions must help in child protection and child welfare. There is a need of major attitudinal change in the civil society. The policymakers must heard the child’s voice. Attitudes, Traditions, customs, behavior & Practices refers to social norms and traditions that condemn harmful practices and support those that are protective. There are many protective traditions and practices , such as strong family values that exists in the socciety. However, certain stereotypes, attitudes and social norms that violate the rights of the child also persist, such as the use of corporal punishment as a way to discipline children or the social acceptance of child labour.
In India, child rights, protection and exploitation (street children, child labour, trafficking etc.) are intimately linked to poor socioeconomic conditions in a large population base. Early child health care, education,survival,nutrition, development and child protection are most important child rights. Illiterate parents are ignorant of their children rights. They must be made aware of child rights, must demand and fight to obtain them. Multidisciplinary child professionals should work together and monitor the government efforts in protection of child rights. They should be able to collate available national child health indicators, address key issues and concerns in their region, involve children in research and facilitate their participation in projects and policy development. There is an urgent need to assign responsibility and accountability to Government, elected representatives, policy makers, proximate community and education and empowerment of families. In any case, a child must not suffer, if the parents can’t provide care and protect.
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