Plan India’s Statement
As an organisation working to advance children’s rights and equality for girls, Plan India believes that the absence of any form of protection not only denies children their rights, which they are entitled to, but also emphasises the abdication of our role as a society, as child protection is every citizen’s responsibility. Plan India firmly believes in the constitutional mandate to protect children, and that the State has foremost responsibility to uphold it, even before families. Child Care Institutions (CCIs) are meant to provide much needed parental support to children who are in difficult circumstances. To this end, a number of CCIs have been established by the government or in partnership with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). These institutions are a safe haven for children who are destitute and without support from their families, communities and other social structures. They are generally the last hope for exceedingly vulnerable children in difficult circumstances.
In this context, it is appalling and reprehensible to learn, that girls in a government funded Care and Protection Home in Muzaffarpur, Bihar were subjected to serious violations of their rights, from the very people entrusted to ensure and protect their well-being. It is deplorable that gross misconduct and atrocities, including the sexual abuse of girls, have further been discovered through numerous media reports. The incident is shocking in itself as complaints against this institution have been received since 2013, and in 2014, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Court assigned an Additional District Judge (ADJ) to regularly monitor the institution. Despite these objections and ongoing monitoring, it is disturbing to note that this institution was provided with the statutory registration to continue as a Child Care Institution.
The incident in Muzaffarpur is by far one of the most condemnable and requires appropriate legal actions to ensure that all children are protected from harm.
Plan India strongly condemns any form of abuse, exploitation and neglect of children particularly those in need of care and support. We would also like to reiterate the need to strengthen the systems that support children in difficult circumstances by initiating the following measures:
- The government should constitute a high level commission of inquiry to look into this incident and formulate appropriate regulations for all CCIs.
- Concerted efforts should be made to ensure that such incidents are not repeated, and keeping this in mind, a review of monitoring systems of CCIs should be strengthened.
- A comprehensive analysis of CCIs across India by the Supreme/High Court Juvenile Justice Committee (JJC) could provide in-depth guidance to improve the governance of homes.
- Standard Operation Procedures for CCIs should be developed by the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), and mandated to be practiced by all the CCIs.
- Child Safeguarding Standards should be implemented in all the CCIs, at par with international standards for care and protection.
- Robust and timely reporting and response mechanisms need to be established within the CCIs.
- Alternative Care based on the ICPS scheme needs to be strengthened.
- As and where applicable, de-institutionalised community based care, family based care and foster care should be considered for children in difficult circumstances.