Reports of consultations with street children in India were shared with officials of the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child and other civil society organisations at the South Asian Confe
Reports of consultations with street children in India were shared with officials of the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child and other civil society organisations at the South Asian Conference: Forthcoming General Comment on Children in Street Situations. These comments from the conference, organised by Plan India and Consortium for Street Children, will be used to formulate the general comment on street-connected children, which is expected to be published in 2017 after consultations with stakeholders across nations.
These consultations with street-connected children as well as civil society organisations will be India’s contribution in the general comments, which will provide an authoritative interpretation of the rights in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The deadline for submitting inputs for the general comments is April 12, the international day for street children.
During the consultation, conducted with 38 children from eight states, Nepal and Bangladesh over a period of three days, street-connected children spelled out their demands. The street-connected children, who experience severe violations of their rights and are generally “invisible”, falling through the cracks of the system, asked the government to give them their rights, restructure the justice system and take away dependence on NGOs.
Further, they asked the government to ensure safety for girls, provide agricultural support so that children aren’t forced to migrate and work on the street and rehabilitation for parents involved in substance abuse. They also asked the government to punish those who hurt children working on the street and to pay higher salaries to the police so that they stop harassing them. The children also shared their experiences and understanding of their situation during the consultation.
The Concerned for Working Children’s Kavita Ratna, one of the facilitators of the consultation, said the children were keen to know when these consultations would get converted into effective measures, much like the adults at the conference were. Such consultation processes are also being conducted simultaneously in 20 other countries.
Gehad Madi, member of the UNCRC committee and advisory board, said this was the very first time that children had been included in such a consultation. He added that the 10,000-word general comment will try to define street children as also devise guidelines and recommendations for state authorities.
According to the Consortium for Street Children (CSC), an international network for street children, this will enable the state to develop a comprehensive national strategy for street children, which will ultimately mean street children become a priority for the government.
CSC president and Plan India patron Surina Narula said the general comment must take into consideration children from different situations like poverty, war, migration while defining street-connected children. However Rajib Haldar, director, children protection, Child in Need Institute, said the definition being given for street children is far too wide. “It should include children surviving on, working on the street and children on the brink of coming onto the street and they should be looked at from the legal perspective, not just emotionally.” He added that the issues of children must be taken up on the mission mode.
There were also discussions on what can be done to make governments accountable, street-connected children from the perspective of child labour, as also agency of such children during the conference. While Bharti Sharma, ex-chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee, said the measures must be aimed at the family and not just the child, child rights activist Khushboo Jain pointed out that the voice of the family was completely missing from the general comments.
Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights Stuti Kacker, the chief guest at the conference, said efforts have to be made to prevent from coming in conflict with the law. “But personally, I feel street children urgently need a nutritional safety net.”