India is an explosion of color. With vibrancy, life and an enormous population of 1.1 billion people, India also boasts some of the most vulnerable and abused children in the world.
The manifestations of violations against children range from child slaves and child trafficking, to commercial sexual exploitation and many other forms of abuse. There are an estimated 12.6 million children engaged in hazardous occupations, according to UNICEF. India also has the highest number of child laborers under 14 in the world.
Young girls are especially vulnerable. In states like Bihar, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Uttar Parades, 60 percent or more of girls dropped out before completing five years of primary education.
Trafficking of children is also an enormous problem in India. Studies show that over 40 percent of women sex workers entered prostitution before the age of 18.
Rural poverty is rampant, with massive unemployment and widespread lack of basic clean water, sanitation and access to education. In the cities, India has one of the highest numbers of street children in the world: at least 11 million, which is a conservative estimate by UNICEF.
In addition India has utilized a hierarchical system called the caste system flowing out of Hindu beliefs, for centuries. Citizens are placed into four sub-classes (Brahmins, Ksatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras), which more or less determine a person’s future. One leads to prosperity and opportunity while another leads to destitution, exclusion and rejection.
On one hand, the Indian caste system is gradually diminishing, especially in metropolitan and other major urban areas, due to higher level of education, co-existence of all communities, and a declining knowledge of, and respect for the caste system. But in the countryside and small villages, this system is still very rigid.
One out of six Indians lives and suffers at the bottom of the Hindu caste system. In India, the lowest rung on the caste system are the 160 million “Untouchables”, or the Dalit, those considered “dirty” and “unclean” and who are therefore completely marginalized, sometimes beaten or killed, and suffer the worst of what it means to be rejected.
Although India banned untouchability with the “Untouchables Act of 1965”, the Untouchable ideology and practice of discrimination continues.
Children who are considered Untouchable face an especially lonely and difficult road, placing them at greater risk to becoming a street child. Most of 180 children in Sanctuary Home in southern India are from the “Untouchables” caste.
Asian Pacific Children’s Fund is a specific response to the many needs of children in India. By providing a home and an environment in which to thrive, these vast numbers of children in need will decrease. One at a time.
Learn more about our home in India!