UNICEF uses the term ‘child protection’ to refer to preventing and responding to violence, exploitation and abuse against children – including commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking, child labour and harmful traditional practices, such as child marriage.
UNICEF’s child protection programmes also target children who are uniquely vulnerable to these abuses, such as when living without parental care, in conflict with the law and in armed conflict. Violations of the child’s right to protection take place in every country and are massive, under-recognized and under-reported barriers to child survival and development, in addition to being human rights violations.
Children subjected to violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect are at risk of death, poor physical and mental health, HIV/AIDS infection, educational problems, displacement, homelessness, vagrancy and poor parenting skills later in life.
Child protection is an issue in every country and a high priority for UNICEF. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international treaties, all children have the right to be protected from harm. UNICEF activities are guided by the existing international normative framework for the rights of the child, as well as decisions and policies agreed in United Nations intergovernmental bodies.
A Protective Environment for all Children
Preventing and responding to violence, exploitation and abuse is essential to ensuring children’s rights to survival, development and well-being. The vision and
approach of UNICEF is to create a protective environment, where girls and boys are free from violence, exploitation, and unnecessary separation from family; and where laws, services, behaviours and practices minimize children’s vulnerability, address known risk factors, and strengthen children’s own resilience.
This approach is human rights-based, and emphasizes prevention as well as the accountability of governments.
This protective environment rests in 2 strategic pillars: strengthening of national systems and social change, which translate into the following 8 key strategies:
1. Governmental commitment to fulfilling protection rights: includes social welfare policies, adequate budgets, public acknowledgement and ratification of international instruments.
2. Legislation and enforcement: includes an adequate legislative framework, its consistent implementation, accountability and a lack of impunity.
3. Attitudes, traditions, customs, behaviour and practices: includes social norms and traditions that condemn injurious practices and support those that are protective.
4. Open discussion, including the engagement of media and civil society: acknowledges silence as a major impediment to securing government commitment, supporting positive practices and ensuring the involvement of children and families.
5. Children’s life skills, knowledge and participation: includes children, both girls and boys, as actors in their own protection through use of knowledge of their protection rights and ways of avoiding and responding to risks.
6. Capacity of those in contact with the child: includes the knowledge, motivation and support needed by families and by community members, teachers, health and social workers and police, in order to protect children.
7. Basic and Targeted Services: includes the basic social services, health and education to which children have the right, without discrimination, and also specific services that help to prevent violence and exploitation, and provide care, support and reintegration assistance in situations of violence, abuse and separation.
8. Monitoring and oversight: includes effective systems of monitoring such as data collection, and oversight of trends and responses.
UNICEF and Child Protection in India
The goal of the programme is to prevent violence against children and to strengthen protection services for children in vulnerable situations.
It supports the implementation of the Government of India’s newly launched Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) to create a protective environment for children through the improvement and expansion of services for children in need of care and protection and children in conflict with the law under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act and related legislation.
UNICEF also supports the government in order to contribute to a reduction of child labour by strengthening child protection structures to adequately protect children against exploitation and abuse, improving the quality of education to increase enrolment and retention, raising awareness and empowering families and communities so that they take collective action against child labour, and addressing exclusion of vulnerable families to service provision and social protection schemes.
UNICEF also works closely with the Ministry of Women and Child Development and other stakeholders to reduce the incidence of child marriage, ensuring implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act and addressing the social norms that underline this practice.
Other areas where UNICEF supports the Government of India and other partners are on the prevention of child trafficking and the rehabilitation, return, and integration of trafficked children; the fight against corporal punishment; promotion of birth registration; and strengthening its knowledge base on the situation of children and child protection issues in the country.