Innocence of childhood falls victim to pandemic . . .
More than 9,300 children in India have lost one or two parents or guardians due to COVID-19 over the past year. In some cases, families have also lost their sole earners, putting many children at increased risk of neglect, abuse, forced labour, and trafficking. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced earlier this week that children who have lost parents or guardians to COVID-19 will receive financial support and education through the PM CARES for Children scheme. Meanwhile, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has set up an online portal to track at-risk children. It is also encouraging people to report orphaned children to district officials. However, a lack of awareness about such directives could hamper their success.
Falling prey to trafficking . . .
While the Indian government tries to ameliorate the issue of orphaned children through foster care and identifying at-risk youth, the adoption rate in the country is meagre and the process is difficult to navigate. In March 2020, only 3,351 children were adopted in India, compared to 66,000 in the U.S. Meanwhile, pictures of children up for adoption are circulating on social media, raising fears of trafficking and abuse. Local traffickers are preying on vulnerable children left in the care of NGOs or extended family members. Many children are lured away to work in cheap and exploitative industries such as bangle manufacturing or being sold for sex work. The Indian police, who are receiving distress calls from children, are demanding authorities ramp up efforts to care for at-risk youth.
A societal failure exacerbated by pandemic . . .
The pandemic-induced limitations on economic activities and public life have exacerbated and highlighted the systemic socioeconomic inequalities at the core of human trafficking worldwide. Like India, child rights violations are being reported in Vietnam, the Philippines, the Middle East, and Thailand. The US Human Trafficking Department considers most Asia Pacific economies to have a high percentage of vulnerable populations and governments to have low human rights protections. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime argues that since child trafficking is a global issue, it is imperative to adopt a more rigorous approach to protect vulnerable children worldwide.