The UN Convention on the Right of the Child urges nations to take all possible measures to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation. Addressing violence against children is a key focus of UNICEF’s Child Protection programme in India and here, interventions are focused around prevention of violence and appropriate responses to cases of violence.
UNICEF works closely with the Indian government to strengthen systems that can respond to violence. They do by building the capacities of local governments, the police, child protection agencies and other stakeholders to ensure these groups can respond effectively to children’s unique needs in situations of violence.
The government’s recently launched Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) has presented an important opportunity to set up Child Protection systems at state, district and village levels. At the local level, this will take place through community child protection committees, networks of leaders, frontline workers and community members.
It will be these groups’ role to raise awareness about the problem of violence and provide liaison between the community and Child Protection structures when incidents of violence are reported. As part of strengthening response to violence, UNICEF is also working with the medical sector to support the management of sexual abuse in a child-sensitive way.
In terms of prevention, UNICEF has conducted two campaigns within the #End Violence initiative. The campaign mobilizes several major stakeholders to foster an allied front against violence, including by engaging the education sector.
At the community level, UNICEF and its partners work directly with 250,000 adolescent girls in 42 districts across 10 states, with a focus on empowerment of girls to acknowledge and address violence, child marriage, child labour, trafficking and sexual exploitation.
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Preventing and responding to sexual violence requires strong collaboration across sectors and departments. At both central and state level, it is key to work cross-sectorally within UNICEF, across UN agencies and amongst civil society and government.
Some child and adolescent violence interventions by UNICEF include:
POCSO Act: The new national Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Act has offered UNICEF’s state offices an opportunity to standardize their response to sexual violence and the provisions of the act into new efforts by multiple stakeholders.
These include the police, judiciary, State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR), who through multi-sectoral consultations, can now build holistic road maps and build the capacity of stakeholders and workers. This work will require continued support and innovations from state offices.
Police gender sensitization: In order to sensitize the police on issues of gender and make them more responsive to the needs of women and children, UNICEF works closely with police departments across all states.
The “Gender Sensitization and People Friendly Police” project in the state of Karnataka is an intensive training programme for police personnel. Through this programme, 12,000 – or nearly 12 per cent – of that state’s police have already been trained on gender-sensitive policing.
The effectiveness of the programme has resulted in the scheme being replicated in the states of Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. UNICEF also works extensively with the police to strengthen reporting systems related to trafficking of children.
Indian Medical Association: UNICEF has also worked hard to build a partnership with the Indian Medical Association on the role of the medical sector in the prevention of, and responses to, sexual violence.
The affiliation was initiated with a large symposium, a publication for doctors and the mobilization of a group of experts in the field. The symposium is being followed by a year-long series of training and awareness-raising events across the country to reach a large numbers of health professionals and sensitize them to the needs of victims of sexual violence.
Collaboration between UNICEF’s Health and Child Protection experts will be instrumental in the campaign and UNICEF is encouraging many partners to come on board.
SAIEVAC: To develop and strengthen National Child Protection Systems in the region, UNICEF works closely with the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC), an inter-governmental initiative in the region.
At present, UNICEF is actively involved in setting up the proposed National Action and Coordination Group (NACG). The NACG is expected to enhance coordination and networking among the civil society and the government, to further the agenda of Violence Against Children, set forth by the UN Study on Violence Against Children (2006).
Schools: Several UNICEF state offices have started working on the prevention of child sexual abuse in schools. UNICEF’s Child Protection section is also collaborating with the Education section on other pilot programmes which can be replicated across states.
Toolkit: The development of a toolkit on sexual and gender-based violence for work with adolescents and capacity-building of NGO partners aims to create dialogue and capacity on the ground to address the issue. At the same time, advocacy and technical capacity is taking place with the Indian government to build one-stop crisis centres where survivors can access a wide range of services.
#End Violence campaign