Child rights activist and Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, who has liberated over 87,000 children from trafficking and slavery, talks to Lakshi Bhatia ahead of the launch of his campaign, Surakshit Bachpan, Surakshit Bharat (Safe Childhood, Safe Childhood) as a first in engaging with global faith leaders to fight child sexual abuse. Excerpts:
After your Nobel Peace Prize win in 2014, child rights movement grew in India. What your roadmap for India?
The Nobel Prize was not a full stop in my life. I felt a deep sense of moral responsibility and obligation since this was the first time in 100 years that a prize was conferred to this cause. I spearheaded a campaign to include child slavery, violence against children, forced labour, trafficking in the global development agenda that now calls for their abolition. In India, the focus was on amendment of the Child Labour Act and the ratification of two pending International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions. Success came late.
Could India have voiced concerns against the minimum age limit and the worst forms of child labour under the ILO Conventions?
The new law is in sync with both ILO conventions. The minimum age of employment is 14, or the age of completion of basic education. No child under 18 shall be employed in hazardous occupations. Now we have a good law which just needs to be enforced.
Campaigns you are working on?
The hidden sin of child sexual abuse is growing at an alarming rate. Last year, 15,000 cases were reported under POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act), which means that every hour, two children are sexually abused in India. But such cases are in millions. Rate of prosecution is 6 per cent, conviction less than 4 per cent. Gang-rape, rape and murder and the average age of victims is decreasing.
Religious leaders and faith communities are the most networked, claiming allegiance of billions of believers. With the launch of Surakshit Bachpan, Surakshit Bharat, we aim to engage faith leaders to fight child sexual abuse. Besides this, the 100 million for 100 million campaign aims to mobilise victims of multiple violence and those who wish to be change makers.
India has seen a rise of nearly 25 per cent from the previous year in human trafficking—19,223 women and children in 2016 as against 15,448 in 2015.
The middle-class looks for a cheap docile workforce, normally a child from flood- or drought-hit or poverty-stricken areas such as Assam, Bihar and Odisha for domestic work, child marriage and prostitution. This shows the close nexus between traffickers and government agencies. The Railways benefit hugely from this lucrative trade. Simple camera surveillance can help in tracking such cases.
Many children have been exploited under the pretext of entertainment. Do you support a ban on child reality shows or call for regularisation?
It is well defined in the new Juvenile Justice Act. My office had worked closely in defining those rules. If there is hindrance in education, healthcare, protection and freedom of a child with economic considerations involved, then it is intolerable. It is the collective responsibility of parents and event managers, among others, to ensure recess time is not compromised under the garb of entertainment.