Enforcement of child protection laws must be made effective
Implementation of orders passed by the Goa State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has often been slower or ineffective. One of the reasons was that the orders were to be implemented only through the agency of the women and child development department. The amendment proposed to the Goa Children’s Act, 2003 will make five government departments – women and child development, labour, health, social welfare and education – responsible for executing the orders passed by Goa State Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The amendment will also make it obligatory for these departments to implement different provisions of the Act based on the type of violations. The government also proposes to change the definition of child to comply with the latest changes in criminal rules. Accordingly, a child has been defined as a person who is under the age of 18 years and all offences committed against any person below the age of 18 should be brought under the ambit of the Goa Children’s Act.
Children are often denied their fundamental rights. Much like adults, they have a right to life, health, nutrition, education, recreation and right to protection from all sorts of violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect. Though Goa has a stringent law in the form of the Goa Children’s Act and was the first state to frame a law to protect children, it has not been able to contain crimes against them and protect the rights of all children. Though Goa has been clubbed among safest states for citizens in the country, violations of various fundamental rights of children are often reported in the state. The amendment to make action against violations more effective and quick is welcome in this regard. But the amendment should not remain on paper. The measure of success of law does not lie in the stringency of its wording, but in the seriousness with which it is implemented. It is heartening to note that the government intends to set up a children’s court also in South Goa for expeditious delivery of justice.
Children of workers at construction sites spend their days and nights in inhuman conditions with their parents. It is a common sight to find toddlers being carried by the parents to construction sites and other workplaces and left to play or sit in dirt as their parents work. Though the law provides that every workplace should have a crèche, it is rare to see such a facility. Allowing workers’ children to play around work sites endangers their lives. There have been instances of children meeting with accidents. These children are denied their right to minimum standards of food, shelter and clothing. They do not get proper nourishment, nor any proper leisure and entertainment. Despite presence of schools in the nearby areas children of daily wage labourers are denied the benefit of schooling because of their temporary residence and lack of support from the employers and the government. There are rules laid down for protection of rights of contract labourers, and there are rules laid down for the protection of rights of children, but both are flouted openly.
Child labour is not uncommon in the state. Children are used as domestic help. They are also hired by many businesses, such as restaurants. Children are also found begging. The women and child development and the non-government organizations working for child rights should work intensively to rescue children from labour and begging. The size of the problem and the number of children needing rescue may not be very large in Goa, yet the violations of their rights are out in the open, and the government and NGOs must go out and curb these violations. There are cases of sexual exploitation of children booked, but many of such cases might be going unreported for various reasons, including the child fearing vengeance or the family suppressing it. The government needs to make punishments for violations of children’s rights deterrent, so that other victims feel emboldened to lodge complaints. Apart from amending the law to make it more effective, the government and other stakeholders must work with a perspective that privileged children are as much at risk as underprivileged children just because they are children and provide protection to all children.