It is a fact that the standards of a nation directly depend on how the children progress in that nation. Certainly, special rights are needed for the protection of children. Internationally, importance is given to child care as it is evident from United Nations Conventions on Rights of the Child, 1989. Even special rights are given to children under various provisions of the Indian Legislature.
United Nations Convention on Rights of the child was adopted in 1989 and is binding on all the signatory nations. India is also a part of it. It is a wide-ranging treaty and covers most aspects related to children’s rights.
According to Article 1 “child is every human being below the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable to the child, the majority is attained earlier.”
Some of its main provisions are as follows:
- Right to be heard
- The right to life, survival, and development
- Devotion to the best interests of the child
Child Laws in India:
There are several Indian laws and policies about child rights under Indian Penal Code, 1860 that deals with child protection:
- Section 82 clearly states that any act committed by a child below the age of 7 years of age is not an offense.
- Section 83 states that nothing is an offense that is committed by a child above the age of 7 years and below the age of 12 years if he has not reached a level of mental sense of understanding his actions and effects of his action. The burden of proof here lies on the child to prove mental incapacity.
- Section 293 states that if any person is selling, distributing, exhibiting, or circulating any offensive or explicit material (e.g. Book, magazine, drawing, painting, etc.) as referred in section 292 to a child below the age of 20 years, or is attempting to do so is punished severely. For the first time offenders, the punishment is imprisonment for up to 3 years and a fine extending up to 2,000 rupees. For subsequent offenders, the imprisonment can be up to 7 years and a fine extending up to 5,000 rupees.
- Section 305 states that any person abetting a child below the age of 18 years to commit suicide, is punishable with death or imprisonment for life or imprisonment for up to 10 years and shall be liable to fine.
- Section 361 deals with punishment for kidnaping a child ((male if below 16 years of age and female if below 18 years of age)
- Section 363A deals with punishing a person who kidnaps or maims children to beg.
- Section 366A deals with punishment for inducing a girl below the age of 18 years to do an act that forces her or seduces her to illicit intercourse with some person.
- Section 366B deals with punishing a person who imports a girl below 21 years of age into India for forcing or seducing her to illicit intercourse with some person.
- Section 375 deals with intercourse with a girl below 16 years (with or without consent) is regarded as rape.
Indian Laws and Policies about Child Rights
- Guardians and Wards Act, 1890- This act replaces all previous regulations concerning the guardianship of a child. It was specially enacted for Muslims, Parsis, Christians, and Jews as their laws do not allow full adoption but only guardianship.
- Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 (Amended in 1979) – the act restraints child marriage (below the age of 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys). It applies to people from all religions.
- Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (Amended in 1986), 1956- the act punishes any person who procures children for prostitution. It also has provisions for taking care of children, rescued from brothels.
- Probation of Offenders Act, 1958- The act alongside The Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 ensures that no person under the age of 21 years is imprisoned.
- Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986-The act regulates the working conditions for children in employment and prohibits the working of children in certain kinds of employments.
- National Policy for Children, 1974- the main purpose of the policy is to provide better enforcement of constitutional rights of the children and the rights granted by the CRC. Some of the provisions include free education, comprehensive health, and nutritious plans, etc.