On 14 December 2018, the Government of India released the draft National Child Protection Policy. It was open for comments till 4 January 2019. HRF got it translated into Tamil and conducted an online consultation followed by a Foresight Forum on Thursday, 3 January 2019 from 0900 to 1730 (9am to 5.30pm) in Chennai to draft the civil society response. 34 individuals participated, and 38 organisations and networks endorsed the response which was drafted as a full-fledged alternative policy and submitted to the Government of India.
An egroup was specially formed for this purpose, so that there will be sufficient engagement before the Forum and thereby maximise the efficiency of the in-person time. Some who could not attend the Forum participated online and posted comments to the online document.
Though the time was short (20 days during the holiday season), and the draft policy could be better written (it talks of ‘constitutions of India’ among others), it was important that civil society engaged with the process to ensure that a comprehensive policy that protects and promotes the best interests of the child – especially children from the socially excluded communities and vulnerable sections – is in place.
Foresight Forums are small intensive working groups. They are an initiative of HRF to proactively inform public opinion and policies so that global best practices are adopted and promoted at all levels. Each Forum is on a particular topic and brings together civil society voices so that practitioner experience is consolidated for informing public policy, academia, opinion leaders and decision makers. They are to support the existing initiatives with high-quality evidence for dialogue and multi-stakeholder engagement.
This Forum was specifically to provide input to the government on the draft National Child Protection Policy from the perspective of the children from socially excluded communities and vulnerable sections. It covered a wide range of topics related to the specific needs and recommendations for protection of transgender children, children with disabilities, children from specific communities such as fishers, Adivasi, Dalit, street and homeless children, children of migrant labour, domestic labour, children in conflict situations, in institutional care (orphanages) or foster care (including adoptions), children during and after disasters, evictions, resettlement and rehabilitation, children in schools and playgrounds (including from bullying), in mass media, in cyberspace, in special family situations (single/separated parents), building safe and child-friendly spaces (rural and urban), minimum standards, competencies and capacities for effective state mechanisms, and statutory involvement of civil society mechanisms.