Traditional mindsets and culturally sanctioned practices continue to affect the degree of fulfilment of obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Conventions on the Rights of the Child, the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, 2011, India has told the United Nations. It has admitted to lack of awareness and the inadequacy of shelter homes and rehabilitation.

India has said this in its initial report on the status of implementation of the Optional Protocol for consideration by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Pointing out that India has spearheaded many of the organisation's initiatives, with enthusiastic support from the respective Ministries, State governments, international organisations and the civil society organisations, the report says that various factors and difficulties continue to affect the degree of fulfilment of these obligations.

The recently-launched Integrated Child Protection Scheme will contribute to the improvement of the well-being of children in difficult circumstances and reduction of vulnerabilities, but traditional mindsets and culturally sanctioned practices, such as devadasi,continues to exploit young girls.

Displacement and unsafe migration, which leaves a large number of children in urban poverty, majority of them living in informal and illegal settlements such as railway lines and on the street, makes them vulnerable to exploitation, the report says.

Some other issues flagged in the report include lack of awareness on legal provisions amongst caregivers, including right attitude towards the victim, which results in re-abuse of victims; lack of reporting of cases of children in need of care and protection; and an inadequate systematic national and State-wise data.

Inadequate standards of care in homes, which prevents children from being rehabilitated coupled with limited rehabilitation infrastructure and re-integration assistance for the victims once they leave the institution, too figure in the report.

Prosecution depending too heavily on witness testimony and too little on forensic and other evidence and difficulties in providing adequate evidence leading to prosecution also results in poor conviction rates.

Sometimes, victims are the only witnesses of the crime, which poses difficulties for prosecution.

Admitting that limited follow-up and monitoring was a major drawback in the system, the report says that although a progressive system has been developed with the amended juvenile justice system, its implementation in full spirit has remained a challenge.

“Some of the factors in this challenge include, lack of adequate infrastructure and institutional care systems with minimum standards; supervision and commitment; lack of single window mechanism; method of accreditation for registration of institutions/homes; an acute dearth of trained and sensitised manpower at every level of implementation; absence of designated police; and an overburdened judicial system.”

Inadequate facilities, especially counselling services and vocational skills training, creation of new options, and strengthening the existing initiatives for the rehabilitation of children in institutions too are far from satisfactory.

The Protocol was ratified by India on September 16, 2005.

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