The International Day for Street Children is celebrated every year on 12th April. The Street Children Day was launched in 2011 by the Consortium for Street Children (CSC) to create a broader awareness about the issue of street children all around the world. The Consortium for Street Children (CSC) is the leading international network dedicated to realizing the rights of street children worldwide. According to the CSC, “This year we are demanding that the United Nations recognizes the Day, so that street children and their champions have a louder voice.”
The phenomenon of street children have been growing rapidly and at present street children are quite visible in big cities of the developing world, such as Karachi, Mumbai, Manila, Sao Paulo, Mexico City and Durban.
A Research Paper, “The Problem of Street Children: Case Study of Sargodha City” jointly written by Sadia Rafi, Mumtaz Ali & Muhammad Amir Aslam stated that, “Street children are not limited to the developing world. Perhaps every industrialized country has its runaways and orphans. In nineteenth century Europe street children were written about in the famous novels Oliver Twist and Les Miserables (Agnelli, 1986, p 45.). In the mid-1800’s articles appeared in newspapers and about “street Arabs” (Williams, 1993, p. 831). In Nobody’s Child, Christina Noble (1994) describes how her life as a street child in mid-twentieth century Ireland led to her work with street children in Vietnam.”
Due to their fluid nature, it is hard to quantify the number of street children; however, a number of researches and studies mentioned that around 100-140 million street children are present worldwide. It is important to mention that it is widely recognized that around 25 million children and youth are living on the streets of countries, located in Asia. International, national and local organizations, working on the issue of street children, believe that numbers of street children are increasing very rapidly.
The number of street children has grown in recent decades because of growing urbanization, increasing work opportunities in big cities, widespread recessions, unemployment in rural areas, poverty, conflict, civil unrest, family disintegration, large family size, and natural disasters. Violence against children, mistreatment and neglect are also some of the documented factors compelling the young children to leave their homes and seek shelter in big cities.
Either in Karachi or Mumbai or Mexico City, these children face similar problems. They are living and working in terrible conditions with no protection. Lack of adequate food, shelter and other basic needs are the major problems, they face regularly.
The ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has bound the state parties to follow the Convention in letter and spirit.
CRC Article 2:
1. States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.
2. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians, or family members.
CRC Article 3:
1. In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
2. States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures.
3. States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in
All around the world, street children are subjected to physical, sexual and emotional violence by the criminals, police and even ordinary people. “Violence refers to acts of aggression and abuse, which causes or intends to cause criminal injury to a person. Violence essentially falls into two forms, Random violence, which includes unpremeditated or small-scale violence, and coordinated violence, which includes actions carried out by sanctioned or unsanctioned violent groups as in war and terrorism.”
Mostly street children are the victims of random violence. Basharat is only twelve years old and has been living on the streets for last four years. “I usually get my food from a charity hotel, located in a densely populated locality. Once, while taking extra care of my food I was mistakenly collided with a heavily built young man. The young man severely punished me that even the passer-by and hotel’s staff rescued me from his wrath,”Basharat informed and added that he also lost two teeth during the punishment.
Wajid is now fifteen and at the age of ten he adopted the streets as his new home. “My father was very cruel and without any reason, he shouted and slapped on me. I left the house due to his behaviour; however, I am in regular contact with my mother and elder sister,” Wajid told and added that once he was collecting the trash in a local market and some shopkeepers severely beaten him and handed over to police as they doubted that he had stolen something from their shop. Later, police also punished him though Wajid repeatedly told them that he is not a thief.
National governments, UN agencies, international and national organizations and members of civil society around the world have expressed their concern over the violence against street children. It is widely agreed that these children need care and protection. However, it is highly recommended that community-based alternative care is a good option and institutional care should be used as a last resort.
The Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children have also reaffirmed the responsibility of the State to ensure the provision of appropriate alternative care for children deprived of parental care. (UN General Assembly, Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children: resolution adopted by the General Assembly, 24 February 2010, (A/RES/64/142).)
Occasions such as 12th April, the International Day for Street Children gives us an opportunity to review the situation and take more plausible and practical steps to tackle the issues confronted by these children. Like other children, these children too have the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. Due to their vulnerability, these children should be introduced to an environment that facilitates and fulfils their basic needs. Allocation of resources is essentially required to encourage and establish efficient childcare alternatives to protect vulnerable street children.
Amir Murtaza is a regular contributor on human rights issue for the AHRC, he can be reached at; [email protected]