Hyderabad/Ahmedabad: When will India get serious on child protection?
The Norwegian Court sentencing Indian couple for abusing their 7-year-old child has delivered timely lessons to the government for setting up strong child protection services in the country.
The Oslo District Court has charged Chandrasekhar Vallabhaneni, a software professional from Andhra Pradesh, and his wife Anupama with "gross repeated maltreatment" of their child by "threats, violence or other wrong" and set a jail term of 15 and 18 months, respectively.
"In Norway’s case, we have seen that the best interests of the child are of paramount importance and that the child’s rights are non-negotiable. It’s time India learnt a lesson and paved a safer future for its children back at home too," said Thomas Chandy, CEO, Save the Children.
Save the Children is an arm of International Save the Children Alliance, which fights for children’s rights.
“Although we don’t know the extent of the severity of abuse in this case, separating a child from the care of the family should be seen as a measure of last resort, and should be for the shortest possible duration and regularly reviewed,” he said.
In Scandinavian countries -- where the child protection laws are very strong -- they have a mandatory disclosure of any suspected or actual cases of abuse/neglect/distress to their protection services.
Their protection services have trained professionals and have resources to provide immediate relief and back-up support to such children. “But there are no such systems in place to quickly check and punish suspected abuse in our country, where such cased would go unreported – and there would hardly ever be any trial or any punishment,” lamented Chandy. “And the bleak scenario is unlikely to undergo any positive change unless India strengthens and empowers its fledgling protection services soon.”
Corporal punishment in India is banned under RTE but not under all settings, such as families, care homes and other institutions. Another big problem is the deficit of professionals to handle such situations in India. At the same time, foster care is still being developed in India – “and while developing this we should look at the cultural context, kinship care, extended family value system that are the capitals that our age-old social fabric already provides,” felt Chandy.
In India, juvenile justice care and protection act is apex legislation which deals with children in need of care and protection. But the mandatory disclosure by medical professionals is not backed up by an adequate support system for those affected. Indian law also does not recognise verbal and emotional abuse.