By:Bindu Shajan Perappadan
‘Those in 15-18-year age group lose out on Right to Education, are no longer protected by labour laws’
“Childescents, or children in the age group of 15-18 years, are the most disadvantaged group,” noted a report by Child Rights and You (CRY) on Wednesday — World Population Day.
The report, titled ‘Childescents of India: We Are Children Too’, is a comprehensive narrative on 15-18-year-olds — “their rights and the lack of them, vulnerabilities of the age group that often go unnoticed and the many discrepancies that seep in while we discuss about this particular set of children”.
CRY CEO Puja Marwaha said, “This report establishes the vulnerabilities of childescents, children lost in the transitory space from childhood to adulthood, through in-depth data and policy analysis, making use of available primary and secondary data and published literature; and identifying gaps, and thereby seeks to influence policy and decision makers to close the gaps.”
Ms. Marwaha said childescents lose out on the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act that ensures education for all within the age group of 6-14 years as soon as they cross 14; they are no longer under the protection of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (CLPRA) as the Act allows children in the age group of 15-18 years to join the workforce barring a limited list of occupations and processes that are considered hazardous.
On the cusp of adulthood
“Being on the cusp of adulthood, their health — especially sexual and mental health — is a matter of concern as well. And unarguably, protection becomes a much bigger worry in the case of these children in the context of rampant child marriages, often forcefully executed. Children of this age group are often also trafficked for either labour or flesh trade,” she said.
The report highlighted that there are nearly 100 million childescents in India currently and one billion children will pass through this life stage over the next decade.
But this huge population remains largely invisible as children and thus under-served.
The report stated that there is need for special focus on children from socio-economically weaker backgrounds; creating systems to identify and track children at risk of dropping out of school, remedial support and appropriate provisioning to keep them meaningfully engaged in education.
It noted that more than 40% of children aged 15-19 years are undernourished, and a whopping 54% girls and 29% boys in the same age-group are anaemic, as the latest NFHS-4 2016 data suggests.
“A comprehensive nutrition supplementation programme, along with better provisioning, implementation and sensitisation towards physical, sexual and mental health challenges facing this age group should be the prime focus,” pointed the report.
“It is of utmost importance to recognise that childescence as a life phase comes with unique vulnerabilities, challenges and opportunities at the levels of self, society and systems. We should unanimously commit to altering our social perception and treatment of these children in order to make their childhoods happy, healthy and creative,” Ms. Marwaha.