'All police stations in the district have Child Welfare Officers as per the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, who focus on sensitive handling of crimes involving children'

A day-long workshop titled ‘National Initiative for Child Protection’ was held in Tiruchi on Tuesday to sensitise Child Welfare Officers (CWO) from the district towards handling children who have committed punishable offences.

The workshop that targeted the police force was organised by the National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development, along with Childline India Foundation and the Postgraduate and Research Department of Social Work, Bishop Heber College. It also focussed on the prevention of child marriages.

Addressing the group of 35 Child Welfare Officers (CWO) during the inaugural ceremony, K.Selvaraj, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Tiruchi, said, “The police department is probably the first to become aware of any untoward incident, involving a child as either the victim or the perpetrator and it is important that we learn how to treat them.”

Be well-versed with laws

Mr.Selvaraj also pointed out that as CWOs they must be well-versed with the various laws that spell out the rights a child is entitled to, so that they can handle the situation in a better fashion.

“Though it is 20 years since India became a signatory of the UN convention on child rights, we are far from guaranteeing those rights to our children,” said L.John Bosc, State Coordinator, Childline India Foundation.

As CWOs, he felt the participants must understand that ensuring a child’s rights are not violated is not an act of charity.

With regards to the prevention of child marriages, Mr.Bosc pointed out that while 284 child marriages were prevented in Tamil Nadu between April to September in 2011, many more have gone unreported. “This is despite the government’s pledge to abolish child marriages entirely by the year 2010.”

“It is poverty and ignorance that deprives most children of their right to life, protection, growth and participation and as CWOs you must ensure your handling of juvenile delinquents does not deny them their rights,” said D.Paul Dayabaran, principal, Bishop Heber College.

Adding to his views was J.Godwin Prem Singh, director, Childline Nodal Agency, PG and Research Department of Social Work, Bishop Heber College: “Today, all police stations in the district have CWOs in compliance with the Juvenile Justice Act (2000) and besides punishment their efforts must also be towards reformation and rehabilitation of such children.”

The workshop was split into various sessions: T. Jayanthi Rani, advocate and former child welfare committee member, addressed the officers about the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, (2006); and S. Martin, advocate and member of Childline India Foundation’s advisory committee, spoke about child rights and the role of the police department in protecting children.

Also present at the event were Rev. Sr. Maria Kamalam, Director, SOCCEAD and P.Asim, Inspector, All-Women’s Police Station, Lalgudi.