On the outside India’s orphanages seem safe havens for India’s homeless street children. Secretly, orphanages are dens of cruelty to children, even though they, and other stakeholders, expect nothing but kindness. Exploitation, sexual and psychological violence, and abuse at child homes and orphanages is common. The mistreatment of children, a list of violations of child rights at orphanages in India, must be understood, so that solutions are identified. This is even more pressing as many of these orphanages enjoy the charity and kindness of India’s public-hearted citizens.
Abuse at orphanages and shelters
Year on year, scandals at Indian orphanages have revealed how children’s homes are managed. Staff at India’s orphanages have even been implicated in criminal charges. In a culture of abuse, even older children learn to bully and assault the young. Children are sexually abused, beaten, and psychologically abused. This culture runs rampant in institutions, which are not supervised by any regulatory bodies, and therefore escape scrutiny. These orphanages also do not have any standardisation in quality of care. Attempts to address these issues is resisted, as privately-run ‘homes’ refuse to be registered with India’s 2000 Juvenile Justice Act.
With such shocking lack of concern, it is not a surprise that there is minimal investment on infrastructure. Across reports submitted to the government, poor infrastructure are common. Poor lighting, cramped accommodation, regular violence as a means of discipline instead of proper child behavior methods are just some examples of poor infrastructure at orphanages. This is all exacerbated by the Lack of well-trained, educated staff that treat helpless homeless children and their distinctive needs with empathy.
Orphanages are instead ‘ruled’ with fear. Children are also kept unaware of their rights, and who they can report child rights violations to. Abuse is carried out by personnel appointed at these institution, including wardens, watchmen, cooks, and other staff who carry out abuse.
Falling adoption levels
Due to increase in surrogacy, couples today can choose this option over orphanage. Further, many couples even return children they have adopted back to agencies. These children are therefore treated like commodities that can be returned. Only a small number of children are up for adoption, even though India tens of thousands of orphans who are in need of a stable home and caring family. Many adopted children are neglected by parents, if they suffer from a medical problem or are over the age of 2. According to a Supreme Court PIL, over 11 million children were abandoned in India in 2013, most of whom were girls.
Orphans, despite parents
Many orphans are actually not ‘orphans’ in the literal sense – they simply have been put into foster care by families who find it hard to take care of them. Often, it is due to an absent or negligent father, and a working mother and a mother who must work and doesn’t have the time to provide care. These parents consider an orphanage’s care infrastructure to be better than their own home and care. This is because they are unaware of the true conditions of a children’s orphanage.
Bal Raksha Bharat, India’s leading child rights NGO believes in empowering communities with the capabilities to provide basic care to children. It is enabling families to access essential information, nutrition, and health care services. Institutional care should be the last resort, the NGO believes. It works across geographies to promote family, kinship and alternative care. Insead of supporting orphanages, donate to NGO fundraising to ensure essential resources and child protection services meet at-risk children. Donors will also receive a substantial donation tax rebate.