The need for child rights and its awareness was emphasised at a seminar organised by the Kerala Mahila Samakhya Society.

They may be young, innocent and naïve, but children are no less than adults. Protecting the rights of children is just as important, or perhaps more, as protecting the rights of adults. That was the message that went out from National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson Shantha Sinha, who was on a two-day visit to the city recently.

Safeguarding the rights

Participating in the seminar ‘Overall picture of children in Kerala: emerging issues and challenges' organised by Kerala Mahila Samakhya Society, Ms. Sinha said that it was important to take an uncompromising stand for the protection of children's rights.

She emphasised on providing more space for children to speak out and creating an atmosphere where they can fearlessly talk against abuse and exploitation.

“We have to create an atmosphere where children feel that their voices will be heard and where children subjected to abuse or exploitation understand that they are not the ones who are wrong but who have been wronged,” she said.

She also pointed out that all forms of labour that prevents children from going to school must be brought under the purview of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act. As of now the Act only prohibits employment of children in certain hazardous occupations.

“The Right to Education Act education has become a fundamental right for all children. So any occupation or activity that prevents children from going to school needs to be considered as child labour. The Commission has been arguing for a total ban on child labour,” Ms. Sinha said. Corporal punishment and exploitation of children in the name of culture and tradition also cannot be tolerated, she voiced her opinion.

The NCPCR chairperson said that the Commission is currently working on a bill to check offences against children. The ‘Prevention of Offences Against the Child Bill' will focus on providing stringent penalties to child offenders and also ensure speedy disposal of cases involving child victims.

State's efforts

She congratulated Kerala for its achievements in the field of infant care and maternal care. “Kerala has also made commendable interventions for the welfare of children with disabilities through community action,” she added.

Ms. Sinha said that she hoped Kerala will soon set up a State Commission for Protection of Child Rights as per the NCPCR Act for taking up child rights issues and cases in the State.

Kerala Mahila Samakhya Society state project director Seema Bhaskar, child rights activist Narayanan and NCPCR registrar B.K. Sahu and representatives of NGOs working in the field of children's rights also participated in the seminar.