Our country celebrates Children’s Day today on Nov. 14. It is celebrated as a tribute to Jawaharlal Nehru who was born on November 14, 1889. His love for children is well recognized and appreciated in even years after his death. Nehru was fond of children and would meet young kids with affection. It was for his special love towards children that he came to be known as the uncle for the children of the country. Schools organize events like debates, quiz competitions, and music performances to entertain the students and also distribute clothes, chocolates and books to orphans and underprivileged children.
However, before Nehru’s death, Children’s Day was celebrated on November 20, the day observed by the United Nations as universal Children’s Day. The date 20 November also marks the day on which the Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in 1989. The Convention, which is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty, sets out a number of children’s rights including the right to life, to health, to education and to play, as well as the right to family life, to be protected from violence, to not be discriminated, and to have their views heard. After Nehru’s death in 1964, it was unanimously decided in India to celebrate Children’s Day on the birthday of this first Prime Minister as a tribute to his love for children.
This day calls for an end to abuse of children. The Church wants us to redouble our efforts to protect children from abuse, exploitation and trafficking as well as provide safe, non-violent inclusive and effective learning environment in our educational institutions and ministry places. Furthermore, make an appeal to parents in your ministry places, not to relent in their efforts to send their children to school, especially the girl child as her education reduces infant and maternal mortality and prevents early and child marriages. It also increases literacy and reduces poverty. The saying that to educate a woman is to educate the nation is very apt in this regard. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012 which defines a child as any person below the age of 18 years, provides protection to all children against offences like sexual abuse, sexual harassment and pornography. This also calls for supporting genuine Me Too Movements, encouraging the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people to return to the Catholic Church as they suffered much in the Church and society and strayed away from the church because of the “negative attitude” of the church towards them in the past and squarely facing the sex scandal in the Church and elsewhere with unflinching faith through gender sensitivity, counseling, dialogue, community pressure, recourse to legal action and traditional means of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Keeping all the above in mind JDV has put into practice ‘A Policy for Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults from Sexual Abuse and Maltreatment’ that was compiled by experts. In keeping with the regulations of the said policy JDV has constituted an Internal Grievance Cell (IGC) which is active from Jan. 13, 2017 with Sr. Shanty George of Jesus and Mary as the Chairperson and other six members as members of the Internal Grievance Cell. We also have the undertaking regarding prevention of sexual abuse by all the staff members. JDV has made it mandatory, through the department of Pastoral and Moral Theology, for all the students who go out of it to enroll in the course on the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults jointly certified by JDV and the Gregorian University, Rome. The Spirituality Centre of JDV has thrown open the evening classes like ‘Spiritual Direction and Counseling,’ Yoga, meditation and Karate to all to grow in affective maturity. Our Women’s Forum and brothers in different communities organize every year Bal Mela for the children around and especially for the girl children. Thus, Children’s Day offers each of us an inspirational entry-point to advocate, promote and celebrate children’s rights, translating into dialogues and actions that will build a better world for Children and vulnerable adults.