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Child protection in India moves forward

Sir Frank Peters :: Child protection in India moves forward. “One step in the right direction for Indian children… one giant leap for mankind”.

India’s legislators would have every right to paraphrase Neil Armstrong’s famous first-step-on-the-moon quotation when they introduced laws to empower and give more protection to their children.

As from this week, anyone in India subjecting a child to corporal punishment in school, orphanage, hostel or any child care institution could be jailed for three months or even face dismissal from service and a fine, under the new Juvenile Justice Act.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill was passed by Rajya Sabha in the winter session of Parliament and got presidential assent on December 31.

No doubt having the law banning corporal punishment to children is a major step forward; making the law effective is something else again, as we know only too well in Bangladesh.

It’s been five years since High Court Justices Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif banned corporal punishment in Bangladesh schools and madrasas. They defined corporal punishment as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom’.

While much progress has been made during this period, there’s a rogue element within the teaching fraternity that flout the rules as if they were a law onto themselves, which is not beneficial to Bangladesh.

Despite the massive over-whelming evidence that corporal punishment is inhumane, damaging, archaic and totally ineffective, it continues at the hands of ignorant, law-breaking ‘teachers’ in Bangladeshi schools and madrasas who take personal pleasure from beating and damaging children, it would seem.

Shakespeare once wrote: “a rose is a rose and given any other name it would smell as sweet”. Similarly, you can call corporal punishment ‘discipline’ or any name you like, but that doesn’t change the fact, it’s still child abuse. And those who mete it out are child abusers.

Several new offences committed against children in India that were not adequately covered under any other law, are included in the new Act. These include sale and procurement of children for any purpose including illegal adoption, corporal punishment in childcare institutions, use of child by militant groups, offences against disabled children and kidnapping.

(Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor and human rights activist.)

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