Innocence trampled

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violence like that experienced by stepchildren have turned Manzoor into heavy smoker.

Seeing the increasing number of orphans, government and some non-governmental organisations have set up orphanages to take care of these children. But experts believe that keeping children in a controlled atmosphere like orphanage also amounts to child abuse.

“Orphanage is a new phenomenon in Kashmir and there is no designed abuse in them. However, to keep child in them rather than in family is in itself abuse. Family is the most important institution for overall development of the child and it can in no way be substituted by orphanages. If there is no family left, then it is the only choice,” says Dr Arshad.
In about 40 orphanages currently in operation in Kashmir accommodating around 2500 orphans, child psychologists say that children face psychological development issues, have difficulty in forming relationships, and experience boredom and loneliness which can translate into major mood disorders. Sometimes the ideology of the patron of the orphanage also influences the child.

“Orphanages are run by people with specific ideology so children see the world through that prism only and he is not let to develop his own view. It results many a times in forming of aberrant personality,” says Dr Arshad. “In such a situation, what kind of adults we are making by keeping them in orphanages,” he questions.

It is ironical that even in presence of such a huge number of orphans, government has not devised a policy to tackle the situation head on. “We are going to launch centrally sponsored Integrated Child Protection Scheme next month which will take care of abandoned children, orphans and other child victims of militancy,” informs Parray.

But social workers are sceptical. According to Dr Rouf, “The laws related to curb child abuse never get implemented because of less or no outflow of information from orphanages or care homes. There is complete lawlessness as nobody visits these homes.”

At international level, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) advocates for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. UNICEF is guided in doing this by the provisions and principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Built on varied legal systems and cultural traditions, the Convention is a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights — civil, cultural, economic, political and social. The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child on November 20, 1989. Government of India ratified the Convention on December 11, 1992.

It spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child. Every right spelled out in the Convention is inherent to the human dignity and harmonious development of every child.

Article 15 of Indian constitution affirms the right of the state to make special provision for women and children. Article 23 provides that no child below the age of 14 must be employed in a factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.

Article 39 (e) of the Directive Principles of the State Policy (DPSP) provides that children of tender age should not be abused and/or forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength. Article 39 (f) requires children to be given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth be protected against exploitation and moral and material abandonment. Article 45 of DPSP provides for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14.

But school dropouts joining different petty jobs in workshops, garages, as bus conductors, and weavers are not rare. According to data collected by Save the Children, a UK based NGO, there were 1000 workshops/garages in Srinagar district in 2002 with two to three children in each workshop estimating to a number of 2000 to 3000 working children. There were 4004 children working as carpet weavers in Srinagar and 18749 in Budgam in 2002.

Even many children are working as Child Domestic Workers (CWD). The CDW refers to those children employed in a home for wage in cash or kind and not for commercial purposes. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention 182 considers CDW the worst form of slavery.

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About Author

A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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