Defining what age a person is or ceases to be a child is a constant debate in the India. left0The Census of India considers children to be any person below the age of 14, as do most government programmes. Biologically childhood is the stage between infancy and adulthood. According to the UNCRC ‘a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier’. This definition of child allows for individual countries to determine according to the own discretion the age limits of a child in their own laws. But in India various laws related to children define children in different age limits.
The Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860 finds that no child below the age of seven may be held criminally responsible for an action (Sec 82 IPC). In case of mental disability or inability to understand the consequences of one’s actions the criminal responsibility age is raised to twelve years (Sec 83 IPC). A girl must be of at least sixteen years in order to give sexual consent, unless she is married, in which case the prescribed age is no less that fifteen. With regard to protection against kidnapping, abduction and related offenses the given age is sixteen for boys and eighteen for girls.
According to Article 21 (a) of the Indian Constitution all children between the ages of six to fourteen should be provided with free and compulsory education. Article 45 states that the state should provide early childhood care and education to all children below the age of six. Lastly Article 51(k) states the parents/guardians of the children between the ages of six and fourteen should provide them with opportunities for education.
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 defines a child as a person who has not completed fourteen years of age. The Factories Act, 1948 and Plantation Labour Act 1951 states that a child is one that has not completed fifteen years of age and an adolescent is one who has completed fifteen years of age but has not completed eighteen years of age. According to the Factories Act adolescents are allowed to work in factories as long as they are deemed medically fit but may not for more than four and half hours a day. The Motor Transport Workers Act 1961, and The Beedi And Cigar Workers (Conditions Of Employment) Act 1966, both define a child as a person who has not completed fourteen years of age. The Merchant Shipping Act 1958 and Apprentices Act 1961 don’t define a child, but in provisions of the act state that a child below fourteen is not permitted to work in occupations of the act. The Mines Act, 1952 is the only labour related act that defines adult as person who has completed eighteen years of age (hence a child is a person who has not completed eighteen years of age).
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 states that a male has not reached majority until he is twenty-one years of age and a female has not reached majority until she is eighteen years of age. The Indian Majority Act, 1875 was enacted to create a blanket definition of a minor for such acts as the Guardians and Wards Act of 1890. Under the Indian Majority Act, 1875 a person has not attainted majority until he or she is of eighteen years of age. This definition of a minor also stands for both the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 and the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. Muslim, Christian and Zoroastrian personal law also upholds eighteen as the age of majority. The first Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 defined a boy child as below sixteen years of age and a girl child as below eighteen years of age. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 has changed the definition of child to any person who has not completed eighteen years of age.
Because of its umbrella clauses and because it is the latest law to be enacted regarding child rights and protection, many are of the opinion that the definition of child found in the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 should be considered the legal definition for a child in all matters.
India with 1.21 billion people constitutes as the second most populous country in the world, while children represents 39% of total population of the country. (2011)
Age group of India’s Children *
The figures show that the larger number of about 29 percent constitutes Children in the age between 0-5 years. The share of Children (0-6 years) in the total population has showed a decline of 2.8 points in 2011, compared to Census 2001. The children’s population (0-18) is 472 million.
Age group VS Gender of India’s Children *
While an absolute increase of 181 million in the country’s population has been recorded during the decade 2001-2011, there is a reduction of 5.05 millions in the population of children aged 0-6 years during 2010-11. The decline in male children is 2.06 million and in female children is 2.99 millions. The share of Children (0-6 years) in the total population has showed a decline of 2.8 points in 2011, compared to Census 2001 and the decline was sharper for female children than male children in the age group 0-6 years.
Gender of India’s Children *
The number of boys has dropped 2.42 per cent and that of girls 3.80 per cent. Population (0-6 years) 2001-2011 registered minus (-) 3.08 percent growth with minus (-)2.42 for males and -3.80 for females. The proportion of Child Population in the age group of 0-6 years to total population is 13.1 percent while the corresponding figure in 2001 was 15.9 percent. The decline has been to the extent of 2.8 points.
Rural – Urban Distribution
State wise distribution of Children’s population *
Uttar Pradesh (19.27%) is the state with highest children’s population in the country followed by Bihar (10.55 %), Maharashtra (8.15 %), West Bengal (6.81 %) and Madhya Pradesh (6.46%) constitutes 52% of Children’s population in the country.
State wise and Gender wise distribution of Children’s population *
Male – Female Children’s Ratio *
The Child gender Ratio in the country has declined.
Gender wise Adult V/S Children *
Gender wise distribution of Rural – Urban Children Population *
Age distribution of Rural & Urban population *
Comparison of Adult and Children population in Rural and Urban India *
Vulnerable Children » Children’s Issues
Vulnerability of children leads to and is further created by the socio-cultural, socio political and socio-religious situations they are in. A child who is forced or born into a situation or discriminated group is at risk for abuse, neglect and exploitation. The lack of a protection system either due to mis-implementation of national laws and programmes or the absence of protection policies and legislation also renders children vulnerable. Following is a discussion of various protection issues concerning children.
Abuse and ViolenceChild Sexual AbuseStreet ChildrenChildren Living with AIDSChild in Armed ConflictGirl ChildChild MarriageChildren with Disabilities
Children affected by Substance AbuseBirth RegistrationMissing ChildrenChildren in Conflict with LawChild LabourChild TraffickingChildren without Parental careChild Health and NutritionEarly Childhood (Children below six)Children of Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe FamiliesChildren in PovertyChild Protection
UNICEF considers child protection as the prevention of or responding to the incidence of abuse, exploitation, violence and neglect of children. This includes commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking, child labour and harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation/cutting and child marriage. Protection also allows children to have access to their other rights of survival, development, growth and participation. UNICEF maintains that when child protection fails or is absent children have a higher risk of death, poor physical and mental health, HIV/AIDS infection, educational problems, displacement, homelessness, vagrancy and poor parenting skills later in life.
According to the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) Child Protection is about keeping children safe from a risk or perceived risk to their lives or childhood. It is about recognizing that children are vulnerable and hence reducing their vulnerability by protecting them from harm and harmful situations. Child protection is about ensuring that children have a security net to depend on, and if they happen to fall through the holes in the system, the system has the responsibility to provide the child with the necessary care and rehabilitation to bring them back into the safety net.
Prevention Intervention Rehabilitation
Law and Policies
Processes and Protocols
Mechanisms and Systems
Sensitization and Awareness Building Laws and Policies
Access and Assistance
Immediate Relief (SOS attention)
Restoration of rights/Status Quo
Punish violators Laws and Policies
Long term care until age 18
Skills and Training
Understanding the Difference
It is important to understand the difference between these two concepts. Child rights are a set of principles or ideals. They are entitlements and some of them are justifiable in a court of law, but they are not tangible. Protection is one of these rights. But Child Protection is more than a right. It is a framework or system by which the rights of a child can come to be. The framework consists of various duty bearers such as the departments of the government, police, school, civil society, who all have roles to play to ensure that a child’s rights are met, and in the case that a child’s rights are violated that the violator be brought to justice and care be provided to the child. Child protection is not only treatment, but should also be preventive. Risk management needs to take place to reduce the risk of violation of child rights in any given circumstance or space.
Child protection is hence the means through which all other rights of a child can be upheld. For example a child has a right to live a normal childhood in a family environment. The child protection framework need to first take steps to ensure families are able to survive by providing them when health, education, and food for free or at minimal cost. The next step is to address the needs of children who have fallen through the cracks such as destitute, abandoned, and orphan children. The framework includes the mechanisms to relocate these children into caring families either through adoption or foster care and provide these children with access to health and education services. Hence the framework is not a single ministry or single government body it is the interlinking functions of all ministries and sectors.
A right is as an agreement or contract established between the persons who hold a right (often referred to as the “rights-holders”) and the persons or institutions which then have obligations and responsibilities in relation to the realization of that right (often referred to as the “duty-bearers”.) right0Child rights are specialized human rights that apply to all human beings below the age of 18.
Universally child rights are defined by the United Nations and United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). According to the UNCRC Child Rights are minimum entitlements and freedoms that should be afforded to all persons below the age of 18 regardless of race, colour, gender, language, religion, opinions, origins, wealth, birth status or ability and therefore apply to all people everywhere. The UN finds these rights interdependent and indivisible, meaning that a right can not be fulfilled at the expense of another right.
The purpose of the UNCRC is to outline the basic human rights that should be afforded to children. There are four broad classifications of these rights. These four categories cover all civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of every child.
Right to Survival: A child’s right to survival begins before a child is born. According to Government of India, a child life begins after twenty weeks of conception. Hence the right to survival is inclusive of the child rights to be born, right to minimum standards of food, shelter and clothing, and the right to live with dignity.
Right to Protection: A child has the right to be protected from neglect, exploitation and abuse at home, and elsewhere.
Right to Participation: A child has a right to participate in any decision making that involves him/her directly or indirectly. There are varying degrees of participation as per the age and maturity of the child.
Right to Development: Children have the right to all forms of development: Emotional, Mental and Physical. Emotional development is fulfilled by proper care and love of a support system, mental development through education and learning and physical development through recreation, play and nutrition.
The first step to fulfil the rights of children can be found in the Constitution of India. There are a number of articles that address various needs of children as outlined below. The articles are divided into two categories: Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy.right0 Fundamental Rights are justifiable in a court of law and are negatives that prohibit the states from doing thing. The courts are bound to declare a law as invalid if it violates a fundamental right. Directive principles are positive suggestions for states, and are not justifiable in a court of law.
Article 14- The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of laws with in the territory of India.
Article 15- The State shall not discriminate against any citizen..Nothing in this Article shall prevent the State from making any special provisions for women and children.
Article 21-No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
Article 21 A-The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6-14 years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.
Article 23-Traffic in human beings and beggary and other forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with the law.
Article 24-No child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.
The Constitution (86th Amendment) Act was notified on 13th December 2002, making free and compulsory education a Fundamental Right for all children in the age group of 6-14 years.
Article 39(e) and (f) provides that the State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing to “ensure that the health and strength of workers, men and women and the tender age of children are not abused” and “that the citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength” and that “the children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity” and that the childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.
Article 45- The State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.
Article 47- The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties
Article 243G read with Schedule 11 – provide for institutionalization of child care by seeking to entrust programmes of Women and Child Development to Panchayat (Item 25 of Schedule 11), apart from education (item 17), family welfare (item 25), health and sanitation (item 23) and other items with a bearing on the welfare of children.
Child Related Policies
The National Policy for Children, 2013National Policy for Children, 1974National Policy on Education, 1986National Policy on Child Labour, 1987National Nutrition Policy, 1993National Health Policy, 2002National Charter for Children, 2003 National Plan of Action, 2005Child Rights in the Five Year PlansNeed for the study
There are 472 million children in India under the age of 18 years. This constitutes 39% of the total population in the country (Census 2011).
There are 10.13 million child labourers between 5-14 years in India (Census 2011)
India has 33 million working children between the ages of 5-18 years. In parts of the country, more than half the child population is engaged in labour (Census 2011)
Every day, around 150 children go missing in India – kidnapping and abduction is the largest crime against children in our country (National Crime Record Bureau 2016)
Over the last 10 years, crimes against children have increased 5 times over (National Crime Record Bureau Data Series).
Fear of failure in examinations in the second highest cause of suicides in children (Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India ADSI 2014).
Because of this increasing child issues in society as the scholar has an interest to take this topic for her areas of research.