Critical Thematic Issues:
Child Marriage :
Child marriage threatens the lives, well-being and futures of girls around the world
Child marriage refers to any formal marriage or informal union where one or both parties are under the age of 18, is a violation of human rights and has profound negative implications for the development and well-being of child brides and grooms. It’s a complex issue that intersects with various other social, economic, and political challenges, including poverty, education, and gender inequality.
According to UNICEF, an alarming statistic reveals that almost half of all child brides, amounting to 290 million individuals, reside in South Asia, accounting for 45 percent of the global total. Sub-Saharan Africa follows closely behind, representing 20 percent, while East Asia and the Pacific contribute 15 percent, and Latin America and the Caribbean make up 9 percent. The persistent prevalence of child marriage poses a formidable challenge to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 5.3, which aims to end this harmful practice by 2030. Unfortunately, the combined impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic shocks, conflict, and climate change poses a serious threat to the hard-won gains made in curbing child marriage, jeopardizing the progress toward achieving this critical global objective. Efforts to address these interconnected challenges are crucial to safeguarding the rights and well-being of millions of vulnerable children worldwide.
There are many negative Impacts and Consequences of Child Marriage Health Risks like child brides are more likely to die in childbirth and are at a higher risk for complications. Child marriage usually results in the end of a girl’s formal education, limiting her opportunities and economic prospects. Child brides are more likely to face domestic violence, abuse, and lack of agency in their marital home. Early marriage often limits a girl’s opportunities for personal growth, socializing, and overall life experiences
Factors Contributing to Child Marriage Poverty, Cultural and Social Norms, Gender Inequality, Lack of Education and Inadequate Legal Frameworks. While many countries have laws against child marriage, enforcement is often weak or non-existent.
To Combat Child Marriage there is need for Strengthening Laws and Policies, Empowering Girls. Providing girls with access to quality education and health services can reduce the likelihood of child marriage. Progress has been made in recent decades, but child marriage remains a critical challenge in many parts of the world. Ending the practice requires comprehensive efforts at multiple levels of society.
Child trafficking is a severe and grave violation of children’s rights. It involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of children for exploitation. This exploitation can be in the form of forced labor, sexual exploitation, organ trafficking, forced marriage, and other forms of abuse. ( ILO convention no. 182 (1999) on the worst forms of child labor (WFCL) classifies trafficking among
“forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery”
Article 23 prohibits human trafficking and beggar forced labour without payment.
Article 24 forbids the employment of children below the age of 14 years in dangerous jobs like factories and mines.
Reasons and Causes of Child Trafficking Poverty, Lack of Education, Children in areas of conflict are at an increased risk of being trafficked, either by armed groups or by those looking to exploit the chaos.
There is a significant demand in many sectors for cheap or unpaid labor, and sadly, children are often seen as easy targets for such roles. In many regions, a lack of comprehensive laws against trafficking or poor enforcement allows traffickers to operate with impunity.
Trafficked children suffer from various health problems, from physical abuse and torture to sexually transmitted infections and mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
These children often miss out on education, limiting their future prospects. Even after being rescued, many victims lack the skills or opportunities to support themselves, making them vulnerable to re-trafficking.
Various international frameworks and treaties, such as the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (often referred to as the Palermo Protocol), aim to address the issue of child trafficking. Still, it remains a significant challenge that requires collective action from governments, NGOs, and civil society globally.
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Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation
Child sexual abuse and exploitation is a deeply distressing and grave violation of the rights of children. It encompasses a range of acts, both physical and non-physical, that exploit a child for the sexual gratification of another person. There are many types of sexual abuse like Contact Abuse, where an abuser makes physical contact with a child, such as fondling or sexual assault and other is Non-contact Abuse which include activities such as exposing oneself to a child, grooming a child for abuse, exploiting them through prostitution, or using them to produce child pornography. With the rise of the internet, there has been an increase in online child exploitation. This includes sharing explicit images of minors, grooming via chat rooms or social media, and live-streaming of child sexual abuse.
Children are trafficked between regions or countries to be sexually exploited.
Injuries, sexually transmitted infections, and unwanted pregnancies can result from abuse.
Many survivors of child sexual abuse experience PTSD, depression, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, and other psychological issues.Trust issues, fear of intimacy, or struggles with one’s own sexuality can arise.
Corporal punishment refers to the use of physical force to cause pain, but not injury, for correction or control. Historically, corporal punishment has been used in a variety of settings, including homes, schools, and judicial systems. Over time, views on corporal punishment have shifted, and its acceptability has become a topic of significant debate and scrutiny.
Homes are perhaps the most common setting where corporal punishment is used. It includes acts like spanking, slapping, or hitting children with objects like belts or paddles. Historically, many schools around the world employed corporal punishment as a means of discipline. This could involve punishments like caning, paddling, or slapping.
There’s a consensus among many psychologists and child development experts that corporal punishment can lead to physical injuries and long-term emotional and psychological harm. By using corporal punishment, adults might unintentionally teach children that violence is a suitable way to solve problems. Many human rights advocates argue that corporal punishment violates the rights of children to be protected from harm and dignity.
Child labour refers to the exploitation of children through any form of work that deprives them of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and is mentally, physically, socially or morally harmful. It is a pervasive problem throughout many developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa, Asia, and South America.
The main causes of child labour are poverty and lack of education. Many families are unable to afford the basic necessities of life, so children are forced to work to help support their families. In some cultures, work is seen as a way for children to learn adult skills, understand responsibility, or contribute to the community.
Some families are forced to send their children to work due to debts they owe to others, a form of modern-day slavery. Children are sometimes preferred by employers because they are more manageable, cheaper, and less likely to protest against poor working conditions.
Children are more susceptible to injury, and they often work in hazardous conditions without protective gear. Working often interferes with a child’s ability to attend school or participate in educational activities. Without education and with the physical and psychological scars of child labour, many children face limited economic opportunities in adulthood.
Many countries have laws against child labour, but enforcement remains a challenge. International conventions, like those from the International Labour Organization (ILO), aim to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.
Ensuring schools are close to communities, affordable, and child-friendly can make a big difference.
Cross Cutting Issues:
Children with Disability
Children with disabilities face a unique set of challenges that can affect multiple facets of their lives. These challenges can be physical, cognitive, sensory, or mental health-related. In many societies, children with disabilities encounter prejudices, discriminatory behaviors, and barriers that prevent them from fully participating in community life. This lack of inclusion can impede their overall development and well-being.
Challenges Faced by Children with Disabilities are Limited Access to Education, Many educational institutions are not equipped or willing to adapt to the unique needs of children with disabilities, leaving these children with fewer educational opportunities. Access to specialized medical care and rehabilitation services, Stereotypes, prejudices, and misconceptions, Inadequate infrastructure, such as lack of ramps or accessible transportation.
Child participation refers to the active involvement of children and young people in decision-making processes that affect their lives. It recognizes children as active holders of rights who can, and should, have a say in issues that concern them. The concept is rooted in Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which states that children have the right to express their views in all matters affecting them. Participation boosts a child’s confidence, self-esteem, and sense of responsibility. Engaging in decision-making processes helps children develop critical thinking, communication, and negotiation skills.
Involving children can result in services and policies that are more tailored to their actual needs and realities.
But Sometimes, children are superficially involved in decision-making processes,
( with their inputs not genuinely considered)without their inputs genuinely being considered. In some cultures, children are seen and not heard, making it challenging to change established norms.