DEFINITION OF CHILD AND MEANING OF CHILD RIGHTS
(Child Rights and Social Action)
3rd Year Hons.
Topic: Definition of a child and meaning of child rights
INTRODUCTION TO CHILDHOOD
Children and childhood across the world, have broadly been construed in terms of a ‘golden age’ that is synonymous with innocence, freedom, joy, play and the like. It is the time when, spared the rigours of adult life, one hardly shoulders any kind of responsibility and obligations. But, then, it is also true that children are vulnerable, especially when very young. The fact that children are vulnerable, they need to be cared for and protected from the ‘harshness of the world outside’ and around. This being so, the adult-child relation, parents in particular, is said to provide ‘care and protection’- serving thereby the ‘best interests of the child’ and meeting their day-to-day ‘needs of survival and development’. The adult is presumed to be the guardian and in that respect expected to take the responsibility of child’s welfare and development. Whether or not, the premise underlying this is correct or not, the childhood ‘reality’ on the whole is questionable, demanding critical evaluation. Accordingly, idealistic notions and representations associated with children and childhood have been challenged, especially in relation to poverty, disease, exploitation and abuse rife across the globe. Many also believe that childhood is that period during which children are subject to a set of rules and regulations unique to them, and one that does not apply to members of other social categories. It is indeed a period in a person’s life during which she/he is neither expected nor allowed to fully participate in various domains of social life. It is thus not a world of freedom and opportunity but one of confinement and limitation in which children are ‘wholly subservient and dependent’. This being so, childhood is nothing short of a world of isolation, sadness, exploitation, oppression, cruelty and abuse. To dichotomize and juxtapose these theoretical models of the child-adult relation reveals fundamentally different ways of seeing and understanding the very essence of childhood and children. In this sense, childhood is not a static, objective and universal fact of human nature, but a social construction which is both culturally and historically determined. The French historian, Philippe Aries, in his landmark book ‘Centuries of Childhood’, also claimed that ‘the idea of childhood did not exist at all in earlier times’, as once the ‘child’ moved from the biological dependence of ‘infancy’ it ‘belonged to adult society’. According to his analysis, children were ‘miniature adults’ as they dressed, behaved and conversed similarly, and were engaged in the same social activities and work. WHO IS A CHILD?
Defining what age a person is or ceases to be a child is a constant debate in the India. Child Rights in India. Child in India Statistics and Children in India, the Census of India considers children to be any person below the age of 14, as do most government programmes. Biologically childhood is the stage between infancy and adulthood. According to the UNCRC 'a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier'. This definition of child allows for individual countries to determine according to the own discretion the age limits of a child in their own laws. But in India various laws related to children define children in different age limits. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860 finds that no child below the age of seven may be held criminally responsible for an action (Sec 82 IPC). In case of mental disability or inability to understand the consequences of one's actions the criminal responsibility age is raised to twelve years (Sec 83 IPC). A girl must be of at least sixteen years in order to give...