The International Day for Prevention of Child Abuse on Monday was observed in different ways across the country. One of this was to push for the implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act and setting up of children's panchayat in the villages.
Rajiv K. Haldar, executive director of Prayas, an NGO which works on issues of juvenile justice, said that they have submitted a set of recommendations for the implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act to the Delhi high court which has received positive feedback.
The act strives to benefit children in conflict with the law or those in need of care and protection.
"At present there is a juvenile justice board, which many think is not child-friendly. Because of slow trials, hundreds of children remain in juvenile homes, year after year. This is a kind of abuse -- institutional abuse -- because the child is not given a fair trial, his freedom is at stake, he doesn't get a proper education...
"That's why we are demanding an additional juvenile justice board, so that there is speedy trial of those children in the juvenile homes and they are rehabilitated soon after that," Haldar told IANS.
"We have been assured that the new juvenile justice board will be inaugurated by the end of December this year since this concept has been given the nod both by the government as well as by the high court," Haldar added.
Saying that a number of sensitisation programmes had been organised for the day in order to spread awareness about child abuse in their centres as well as in various schools, Haldar said that the International Day for Prevention of Child Abuse was the perfect occasion to revisit their aims and work towards it with a renewed energy.
"We are working with the police, the judiciary, teachers and religious leaders in different states towards sensitisation against child abuse. A day like this is just a reminder of our objectives and aims," Haldar said.
Kailash Satyarthi of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), an organisation which fights child labour and abuse, said that this day provided an opportunity to make people aware of the menace of child abuse.
"Our aim is to build a child-friendly society and all our activities on the day in different states of the country are in the same vein.
"We are talking to the panchayats of various villages to organise a children's panchayat where the kids get to voice their problems, their ideas and thoughts. The main panchayat of the village can then synchronise its activities with the children's panchayat and help the kids in whichever way it can," Satyarthi told IANS.
He said that members of the BBA working in different states were advocating against child labour in the villages and encouraging education.
"What generally happens on such days is that politicians and other important people give lectures but the real message meant for the masses never trickles down to the actual target. With these activities we hope to bridge the gap," he said.
According to a national study on child abuse conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development along with the UN International Fund for Children (Unicef) and NGOs Prayas and Save the Children (UK), whose report was released this year, child abuse is rampant in India.
The report says that more than 400,000 children in India are reported to be victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
It goes on to say that the extent of abuse inflicted on children is reflected by the crime records data. Incidents of crime against children showed a rising trend from 1999 to 2001 -- 4,957 cases were registered in 1999 as against 6,087 cases in 2001.
According to the study, 53.22 percent of the children surveyed faced one or more forms of sexual abuse while 21.9 percent of them faced severe forms of sexual abuse.
Internationally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 40 million children below the age of 15 suffer from abuse and neglect, and require health and social care.
The International Day for Prevention of Child Abuse was observed first by the Women's World Summit Foundation, an NGO coalition of women and children organisations along with the American Psychological Association (APA) to mobilise and educate governments and societies to take action to prevent child abuse.