Fourth Sunday of Advent: The Dignity of Children in India
Today we hear from the gospel of Matthew, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us” (Mt 1: 23). As we pray on our final Sunday of Advent for the people of India around the world, may we pray for the way of transformation in India for dignity and respect for children.
Children under the age of 18 comprise 37% of India’s population. Many of them experience deprivation such as lack of access to basic education, nutrition or health care. In addition, many are subjected to various forms of abuse, neglect, violence, and maltreatment which dominate their childhood experience.
Further violations of child rights, legitimized by cultural practices and customs deeply rooted in the male-dominant patriarchal society, involve child marriage, of which 326 incidences were reported in 2015-16, and gender discrimination, which has created significant gender disparity.
This is reflected in the preference for providing educational opportunities for the male child. The perception of girl children as a burden to the family also leads to sex selective abortion which has resulted in an unequal sex ratio in the country with 933 females per 1000 males (Census, 2011).
2015-2016: 32,973 cases registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act
- 19,765 cases of child rape
- 12,226 cases of sexual assault
- 934 cases of sexual harassment
- 47 cases of use of children for pornography
Additional abuse includes domestic abuse, child trafficking and child labor.
Linked to poverty and other social structures of the society, there are around 10.1 million working children between 5-14 years of age. This accounts for 3.9% of the total child population, and of these children,
- 0% used as peasants/cultivators,
- 9% as agricultural laborers,
- 2% as household industry workers,
- 8% as other workers (Census, 2011).
Under the Dominican Indian Center for Integrated Development, there are a number of programs helping youth.
A prime example of this is an initiative, Project Bloom, of Dominican friars in collaboration with Dominican Sisters of the Presentation and Dominican Laity in the Yuvajyothi Children’s Home of the Indian Centre for Integrated Development (ICID) in Nagpur.