ORPHANS & VULNERABLE CHILDREN STATUS IN INDIA
• India is the worlds largest democracy with a population of over a billion-400 million of which are children
• India is known for its multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious background. It has 15 official languages and 36 states and union territories.
• There are approximately 673 million Hindus, 95 million Muslims, 19 million Christians, 16 million Sikhs, 6 million Buddhists and 3 million Jainsin India.
• Approximately 26% of the Indian population lives below the poverty line and 72 % live in rural areas.
• Even thought the percentage of the Indian population infected with HIV/AIDS is 0.9%, (5) it has the second largest number of people infected with HIV/AIDS in the world, the first being South Africa.
• Despite the many recorded gains in the recent past, issues such as gender inequity, poverty, illiteracy and the lack of basic infrastructure play an important role in hindering HIV/ AIDS prevention and treatment programs in India. The impact of the AIDS crisis has not begun to fully emerge in India and AIDS related orphaning has not been documented.
• Yet, it is estimated that India has the largest number of AIDS orphans of any country and this number is expected to double in the next five years.
• Out of the 55,764 identified AIDS cases in India 2,112 are children.
• It is estimated that 14% of the 4.2 million HIV/AIDS cases are children below the age of 14
• A study conducted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) found that children of infected parents are heavily discriminated-35% were denied basic amenities and 17% were forced to take up petty jobs to augment their income.
• Child labor in India is a complex problem and is rooted in poverty.
• Census 1991 data suggests that there are 11.28 million working children in India.
• Over 85% of this child labor is in the country’s rural areas and this number has risen in the past decade.
• Conservative estimates state that around 300, 000 children in India are engaged in commercial sex. Child prostitution is socially acceptable in some sections of Indian society through the practice of Devadasi. Young girls from socially disadvantaged communities are given to the 'gods' and they become a religious prostitute. Devadasi is banned by the Prohibition of Dedication Act of 1982. This system is prevalent in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Assam.
• More than 50 % of the devadasis become prostitutes: of which nearly 40 per cent join the sex trade in urban brothels and the rest are involved in prostitution in their respective villages. According to the National Commission on Women an estimated 250,000 women have been dedicated as Devadasis in Maharashtra-Karnataka border. A study conducted in 1993 reported that 9% of the devadasis are HIV positive in Belgaum district in Karnataka.
• Street children are those for whom the street more than their family has become their real home, a situation in which there is no protection, supervision, or direction from responsible adults. Human Rights Watch estimates that approximately 18 million children live or work on the streets of India. Majority of these children are involved in crime, prostitution, gang related violence and drug trafficking.
A street child is a term used to refer to children who live on the streets of a city. They are deprived of family care and protection. Most children on the streets are between the ages of about 5 and 17 years old, and their population between different cities is varied. Street children live in abandoned buildings, cardboard boxes, parks or on the street itself. A great deal has been written defining street children, but the primary difficulty is that there are no precise categories, but rather a continuum, ranging from children who spend some time in the streets and sleep in a house with ill-prepared adults, to those who live entirely in the streets and have no adult supervision or care. A widely accepted set of definitions, commonly attributed to UNICEF, divides street children into two main categories: Children on the street are those engaged in some kind of economic activity ranging from begging to vending. Most go home at the end of the day and contribute their earnings to their family. They may be attending school and retain a sense of belonging to a family. Because of the economic fragility of the family, these children may eventually opt for a permanent life on the streets. Children of the street actually live on the street (or outside of a normal family environment). Family ties may exist but are tenuous and are maintained only casually or occasionally.
• A staggering 10,000 babies die every single Day from easily preventable causes such as malnutrition and diarrhea
• More than 2 million babies die each year before they celebrate their first birthday
• Every 6th girl-child’s death is due to gender discrimination, also known as female infanticide
• Over 10 million children go to sleep on the pavement each night hungry and unprotected
• Over 40% of children live in poverty and extreme hardship
• Nearly half of India’s children are deprived of their fundamental right to education each Day
• A startling two-thirds of girl-children cannot read or write
Exploitation of Children
• India is home to the largest population of working children in the world with an estimated 111 million children struggling as child laborers - most often working in hazardous and degrading conditions, for an average of 12 hours a Day and earning extremely small wages
• The third largest crime in India after drugs and gun smuggling is child trafficking – over 45,000 children go missing each year
• Over 2 million children, mainly girls aged 5-15, are forced into prostitution and sexual slavery
Each year 500,000+ children are forced into the sex trade with an annual increase of 10% Children are the future of a nation. Yet they have been neglected a lot in India, which is evident from the existence of infant mortality, child morbidity, child malnutrition, childhood disability, child abuse, child labor, child prostitution, street children, child beggary, child marriage, Juvenile delinquency, drug addiction, and illiteracy.
Childhood is the time when a person needs nurturing, schooling, time to play and explore the opportunity to grow both emotionally and physically. When a child is forced to work, it hampers his growth, stunts his psychological and intellectual development, and prevents him from realizing his full potential. Child labor is an unmitigated evil and any society which suffers from it should be grossly ashamed of it.
Child labor & trafficking are just symptoms. They are not the real problem. The problem lies elsewhere. Unless the root problem is countered, mere addressing of the symptom makes the situation immensely worse for the victimized children. In India, children’s vulnerabilities and exposure to violations of their protection rights remain spread and multiple in nature. There is a wide range of issues that adversely impact on children in India, making them especially vulnerable. With such future citizens in large numbers, the future of our country is bleak.
Every citizen, NGO’s and Charitable Trust and Foundation, CSR of Private Companies and Limited of the country should pledge and ensure that children around them are not forced to any sorts of exploitation. Little measures like getting a child educated, teaching children around, being more active to the happenings around, can make a big difference in the current situation and condition of children in India.
President & CED,
Rural Life Development Society