Unattended rights of children

Vineet Sharma

What if I tell Indian parents that they need not to raise their children the exact same way as their parents brought them up, because the times are different now? What if I tell them that study, job or providing the basic necessities of life is not their only duty towards their children? What if I tell them that it is not the fault of the child that he is born in your near perfect family or a baby girl born in a male oriented society? What would be their reaction when I will explain them these aspects and ask only one question, how did you come to the conclusion that you know everything about what your children want? I guess I would be termed as a threat to their family and this great society which foresees a brilliant future doctor, engineer and scientist in a child. Many times, I thought maybe it’s just difference in opinion and approach but no, it’s actually a deep sense of ignorance which is imbibed so deep like a tumour in human mind that its removal is taken as threat to the mankind itself.
There have been many debates regarding the statutory rights of children, their right of education, right of good standard of living, prohibition of child labour, protection against sexual offences and many more but little we pay attention to the second aspect of these rights which are equally important. Let’s take some examples of these rights and associate them with their parallel non statutory rights. Right to education under article 21-A of the constitution of India provides free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a fundamental right in such a manner as the state may, by law, determine. But little we pay attention to the responsibility of this society that follows the right, that education is not just teaching a child some abcd and granting him promotion to next grade but to make him understand what real knowledge is and what is the basic essence of education. Similar is the case with POCSO (Protection of Children against Sexual Offences) Act. The act has many sections dealing with protection of children against many sexual offences but do we as a society are making efforts to make children understand what are their rights regarding this topic. By rights I mean right to know what kind of behaviour is violative of privacy of a child so that he or she can know better about preventing things rather the indulging in lengthy judicial procedures.
Do we as parents take steps and talk with our children to make such kind of bond with them so that they can share every problem with their parents. The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986, which prohibits employment of a child below the age of fourteen years in any kind of employment including domestic help (except helping own family in non-hazardous occupations) . The question here is, do we have enough rescue homes to keep the rescued children safe? Or do we have that kind of social setup that no such situation will arise that a child has to work instead living a life which he deserves. The answer is a big no. However, some work has been done by the Govt. but that is absolutely not up to the mark.
Now, moving on to the most important and most neglected rights which are not so related to the statutory laws but carry equal weight. Before discussing them, it is important to understand the age-old family system of this nation. In a typical Indian family system issues related to a child regarding physical, mental and social wellbeing are so deeply imbibed in a permanent and specific form in the subconscious mind of the society that these issues are not even considered as worth attending, no matter how this subconscious settlement of issues is playing negative role for a growing and ever curious child. In a normal Indian societal setup, family plays a significant role in the overall development of a child. With positives of this setup there are some negatives too. As I mentioned earlier, society has a brain of itself having subconscious memory in which different norms are defined and it has to work that way. Any change in that can lead to a complex situation in the society. Health is a primary requirement of a child from the first day of pregnancy and this issue requires a lot of attention since it is the base of the health that a child will have all his life. But increasing trends of surrogacy and intoxication amongst pregnant ladies are coming up with negative results for the babies. Similar is the case with infants. With growing corporate world and ladies being more focused towards their career, lifestyle and physique increasing cases of mothers not breastfeeding their babies have been observed and that too knowing the fact that how important mother’s milk is for the baby. This act can be seen as grave carelessness and violation of child’s right of good health. Similarly, indulging children into junk food just because you don’t feel like cooking sometimes is also a matter of concern. Mental health is equally important when comes to overall development of a child.
With increasing use of smart phones, the average age of children using social media has gradually decreased giving rise to more complex situation in comparison to older times. The advent of social media culture is taking a toll on mental health of children as well as atmosphere of families. Its not only the increased use of social media platform that is worrisome but also the quality of content which is offered by different social media platforms. With almost no age restriction policies, applications like Tiktok and vigo are exposing children to sexually provoking content with absolutely no check. The situation is serious than what we think because the raw nature of the minds of children can be exploited easily. No doubt in present age it is important to know technology but at the same time it is also a duty of the guardians of the children to introduce them to the world of internet in a positive manner. An Instagram group of some teenagers named BOIS locker room came on radar for sharing objectionable content. It is just one case in many thousands and a perfect example how social mindset of the children is being destroyed by wrong introduction of internet. Rising cases of depression amongst teenagers is a warning sign.
All these negative points can be understood by understanding the degradation of the traditional family culture of the society into semi-modern form first and then to a more modern form. With the advent of modern nuclear families, it was first thought that it will make life simpler but turned out to be negative for the children. In a joint family the social mind-set of a child could develop well and the stress we see in modern day child was almost nil compared to present day. Secondly, the mind-set was not so negatively competitive as we see now as everybody is running a horse race for a good future, that’s what they think but with every good comes bad and yes, we are living bad more than good. The devastating effects of modern setup can be seen with increasing cases of depression, deteriorating physical health, lifestyle diseases and many more among the juveniles. All these issues can be sorted out with a progressive an positive social setup.
A particular law cannot do anything alone unless it is contributed by social will resulting in actually implementation of the basic idea of the law. Indian society is still far away from obtaining such kind of wisdom. However different government and non-government organisations are doing quite. good in this field but due to the ignorant attitude of the local administration they too are facing problems. When a society evolves it evolves as a whole, not in phases. Indian society is still in an evolving phase needing a lot of attention to be given by the members individually and the government. Till then the dream of a positive and perfect society for a child will remain a distant dream.
(The author is Law student,
University of Jammu)


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