Child protection

We work to ensure the realization of children's rights to grow up in a family environment, protected from violence, abuse and exploitation.

A newborn child rests on a cot after being examined by Kiran Devi, an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) as part of Home Based New Born Care inside a hamlet in Shrawasti, Uttar Pradesh.

Protecting India’s children from violence, abuse and exploitation

India has a wide range of laws to protect children and child protection is increasingly accepted as a core component of social development. The challenge is in implementing the laws due to inadequate human resource capacity on the ground and quality prevention and rehabilitation services. As a result millions of children are prone to violence, abuse and exploitation.

Violence takes place in all settings: at home, school, child care institutions, work and in the community. Often violence is perpetrated by someone known to the child.

Portrait of 13-year-old Dharmendar (Name Changed), outside his house in Nalanda, Bihar.
Portrait of 13-year-old Dharmendar (Name Changed), outside his house in Nalanda, Bihar.

Violence against children is widespread and remains a harsh reality for millions of children from all socio-economic groups in India. Both girls and boys in India face early marriage, domestic abuse, sexual violence, violence at home and in school, trafficking, online violence, child labour and bullying. All forms of violence, abuse and exploitation have long-lasting consequences on children’s lives.

Exact data on violence, abuse and exploitation is not sufficient but overall India is becoming increasingly aware of violence against children, especially sexual abuse. Several cases that may have earlier gone unnoticed, are now being reported.

Anger and shock at child sexual abuse are not enough. We all need to come together to #ENDviolence against children.

India is now seeing a transitional period, with the prevalence of child marriage declining from 47 per cent girls married before age 18 in 2005-2006, to 27 per cent in 2015-2016. Despite the overall decline in India the national average masks realities at the district level with some districts continuing to have high rates of child marriage.

In the Indian context, child labour remains a complex problem. Despite proactive legislative measures and policies in India to combat the problem, the decline children working has been less progressive than expected. Children are most often found working in agriculture and households, with girls often being invisible. 

Data on sexual violence is scarce and is mainly based on reporting of cases. This means that figures underestimate of the magnitude of the problem, especially as many cases go unreported. From the cases that are reported it’s known that sexual abusers are mainly male and often individuals known to the child.

Solutions to end violence, abuse and exploitation

Progress has been made in generating social awareness, enhancing legislation and nurturing action towards ending violence, abuse and exploitation of children, but more needs to be done to ensure survivors and their families benefit from sensitive, timely and efficient protection and services. UNICEF focuses on implementation of key child protection legislation and promotion of practices that protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation.

Building on increasing awareness towards child abuse in India, UNICEF can play a major role in enhancing two missing elements of the government action: prevention and rehabilitation of survivors of child abuse and exploitation. 

Prevention is central to UNICEF programming as it is the most effective way to deal with child sexual abuse and exploitation. Ensuring India’s children are sufficiently protected requires more than the existing investment, which too is focused on post-incident responses. UNICEF takes a broad view of the range of support services that provide healing to victims/survivors and their families including focus on counselling, restorative justice programmes, support for school continuation, employment and social protection. Priority is given to promoting social protection programmes which incentivize the reduction of child labour and child marriage. 

Children play near Deonar dumping yard at Deonar area in Mumbai.
Children play near Deonar dumping yard at Deonar area in Mumbai.

A key area of work for UNICEF is to strengthen and advocate for effective delivery of preventive and response child protection services in selected states. Working in coordination with the Government of India, 17 state governments and civil society organizations, UNICEF is creating the building blocks of a child protection system, including financial and human resources, financial institutions, delivery of programmes and monitoring and evaluation.

UNICEF and its India partners are working together to ensure that children are protected from work and exploitation which is harmful to their development. They are working to ensure that children remain in economically stable family homes and get the opportunity to go to school and be educated.

UNICEF joins hands with government, civil society organizations and other partners in building communities and families where children are safe and free of abuse and exploitation.