Centre drafts child protection policy

A code of conduct for employees of all organisations and a declaration signed by them agreeing to ensure the safety of children are some of the provisions included in the Centre’s draft national child protection policy, prepared on the prodding of the Supreme Court in the wake of the Muzaffarpur shelter abuse case.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has placed the draft policy on its website and invited comments from stakeholders until January 4. This will be the first policy dedicated to the protection of children, an area that until now was only a part of the broader National Child Policy, 2013.

Key provisions and highlights of the draft policy:

Application of the policy: The policy will apply to all Institutions and organisations including corporate and media houses the government or private sector.

As per the policy, all organisations must have a code of conduct based on zero tolerance of child abuse and exploitation.

The policy requires organisations to lay down that employees don’t use language or behaviour that is inappropriate, harassing, abusive, sexually provocative, demeaning or culturally inappropriate.

Institutions should also designate a staff member to ensure that procedures are in place to ensure the protection of children as well as to report any abuse.

Any individual who suspects physical, sexual or emotional abuse must report it to the helpline number 1098 or police or a child welfare committee.

Unlike the national child policy 2013, the latest draft doesn’t talk about children who may need additional Special Protection measures.

Left out: It also doesn’t include provisions for protecting those affected by migration, communal or sectarian violence or children forced into begging or who are in conflict with the law and those infected with HIV/AIDS.

The draft talks about organisations laying a code of conduct, but it doesn’t explain what is acceptable behaviour such as the conduct of teachers in schools.

The Policy should address four aspects- creating awareness, prevention, reporting and responding. The draft needs to go into all these aspects, especially reporting structure involving various nodal bodies and monitoring mechanism for implementation of the guidelines.

The policymakers should take the opportunity to go beyond the role of Institutions and look at the role of individuals.

The norms should be designed in such a way that organisations can customise the policies according to the nature of their work.

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