A three-day regional consultation toward preparation of India's country report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child was recently held at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. This was the second such meeting by the Ministry of Women and Child Development - Government of India, wherein earlier one was held at Chandigarh.
More than 50 civil society and state partners from states like Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh participated in the consultation. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is an international treaty signed by the government of India in 1992. It is also a legal binding international instrument, incorporating the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.
The Convention sets out these rights in 54 articles and two Optional Protocols to which India is a signatory for the benefit of children. 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.
Dr Hamid El Bashir, State Representative, UNICEF office for Madhya Pradesh, participating in the meet said that society needs to lead the change process and could lead the thinking of the government as well. Children have unmet rights in Madhya Pradesh and we need a holistic approach when we talk of child's rights. We need to create a mass movement around children for making that happen. Madhya Pradesh state needs to strengthen the child rights monitoring and take into account child views when we decide for childrens' views. When we decide not to include children in fact we are missing important members of the society.
Karuna Bishnoi, the communication officer of UNICEF Delhi, who was participating in the meet spoke on the need to take views of children into account and also increase our understanding of many issues which have been reflected at the consultation so that suitable recommendations can be provided. She said that because India will be reporting for the first time on the Optional Protocols on Children affected by Armed Conflict and Sale of Children, maybe we need to understand the context better and provide suitable suggestions.
Razia Ismail Abbasi, co-convenor of India Alliance for Child Rights, a national network of non-governmental organizations working for child rights was participating in the workshop. She said that we need to invest more in children and young people and it is an investment not just the welfare. The issue of 'defining the age of a child' in India came up in the meeting. As per 'convention on the rights of the child,' Article 1, a child is anyone below 18 years of age whereas Indian laws, such as juvenile justice, child labour, etc. differ on the age parameters. Participants suggested that we should work toward making a common age of 18 years under all the laws in India. They also proposed that there is need to strengthen implementation of the various laws and policies and a need to engage communities in implementation.
"There is need of increasing awareness not only amongst communities but also among implementers," added a participant from Maharashtra. Representatives of World Vision, Plan International, and Child Line Foundation, along with others, contributed various suggestions for the report. Non-governmental organizations from Madhya Pradesh, namely Aarambh, Oasis, Madhya Pradesh Samaj Sewa Sanstha, Madhya Pradesh Voluntary Health Association, Vikas Samvad, Janshas, National Institute of Women Youth and Child Development, contributed from the state perspective. C K Reejonia, Under Secretary of the Women and Child Development Department -government of India, representatives from Women and Child Development, Education and Social Justice from the state, and Women and Child Development Maharashtra participated.