How vulnerable are children in India to crime? An analysis by Child Relief and You (CRY), released this week, paints a rather grim scenario.

The report reveals that crimes against children rose by 20 per cent –higher than overall number of crimes which rose by 3.6 per cent.

The CRY analysis is based on the latest National Crime Records Bureau for 2016-2017 data released on October 21, 2019 after a gap of two years.

Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh had the dubious distinction of topping the list of States for overall crimes against children. Both stood at 14.8 per cent with over 19,000 cases. Jharkhand saw the highest increase in crimes against children at 73.9 per cent while Manipur had a significant decline of 18.7 per cent between 2016 and 2017.

Among crimes against children, kidnapping and abduction continued to be the most prevalent accounting for 42 per cent of the total 1,29,032 cases of crime reported. The other major crimes against children include violations of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, rape, sexual assault and procuring of minor girls.

Child labour and child marriages

Child labour also saw a substantial increase of 126 per cent, with the NCRB report listing 462 cases of child labour in 2017 against 204 in 2016. As for child marriage NCRB records 395 cases registered under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) 2006. This shows that there has been an increase of 21.17 per cent in the reporting.

The CRY analysis sees this as a positive development. “The increase in reported cases of child marriage and child labour can be deemed as a positive development since both the issues often get social sanction and go unreported,” points out the analysis while emphasising that there is an urgent need for increased attention to the issue of child protection given the increasing rate of crime against children.

“Clearly, a lot more has to be done to protect children,” said Priti Mahara, Director – Policy Advocacy and Research, CRY.

Mahara added, “There is a need to increase financial investments in child protection with a focus on prevention of crimes against children. Also, we need to facilitate convergence between government and civil society to generate awareness about redressal mechanism in the community, capacity building of officials in the child protection system like police, child welfare committees and facilitate the creation of a conducive, safe environment to increase reporting of crimes against children.”