A SHAKTI VAHINI RESEARCH INITIATIVE
Section 17 of the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005 provides for the constitution of a State Commission for Protection of Child Right (SCPCR) in each State. The SCPCR has been constituted in eleven States, namely, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan and Sikkim.
Section 13 (1) (j) requires the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and SCPCR to inquire into complaints of violation of child rights. NCPCR has received 767 complaints of child abuse since its inception in 2007. These have been referred to the concerned authority for remedial action.
NCPCR has inquired into complaints of violation of child rights in the reality show, titled ‘Pati, Patni aur Woh’ and has made recommendations to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting under Section 15 of the CPCR Act to establish, inter alia, an effective mechanism for introduction of a ‘pre-clearance system’ for the reality show; Electronic Media Monitoring Centre and the Inter-Ministerial Committee of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to make proactive interventions in taking cognizance of the reality shows affecting child rights and taking prompt measures to prevent their telecast; make special drives through electronic media to educate parents and the public about violation of child’s right to health, psyche, safety, education, recreation, leisure, etc. and to formulate detailed guidelines for safeguarding the rights of children in the entertainment industry.
Recommendations made by NCPCR to Ministry of Information and Broadcasting:
(i) Programs, like, ‘Pati Patni Aur Woh’ should not be aired in future on the following grounds:
a. The program violates the relevant rules of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994. Such Rules are:- Rule 6 (1) (a) and Rule 6 (1) (l): Rule 6 (1) (a) Programme Code — Programme that offends against good taste or decency; and Rule 6 (1) (l): Programme Code — Programme that adversely impacts children and is in derogation to their rights to dignity.
b. The anxiety and stress, to which the infant children were exposed to, in the serial is unacceptable.
c. The focus of the programme was entertainment at the cost of the dignity of the children.
d. There were no exit provisions in the Contract so as to allow the parents of the children to take them out of the show at any time during production. The Contract was one sided with most of the obligations on the parents. The responsibilities and obligations placed on the production house and surrogate mothers, were comparatively less.
e. The psychologists, engaged by the Production house for assessing the children involved in the show, only made physical and mental assessment (as against psychological, emotional assessment) of the child. The long-term effects of separation on infant children from the parents and participation in such shows were not addressed and/or communicated to the parents.
f. On occasion, especially in the context of infant and/or very small children, even a parental consent is not a justification for a child`s participation in a reality show. They must be protected from all forms of physical, physiological or mental trauma, anxiety, violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, mal treatment, or exploitation, including sexual abuse while in the care of parents, legal guardians , or any other person who have the care of them, (as required under Article 19 (1) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 which has been acceded to by India on 11December, 1992) and the Juvenile Justice Act.As mentioned earlier the separation of infants and young children involved in the programme from their patents ( natural care givers) even for a few minutes, causes anxiety and impacts upon their emotional well being and psyche.
(ii) The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting should establish an effective mechanism in terms of legal provisions and administrative structure for introduction of a ‘pre-clearance system’ for the reality show. This pre-clearance system may involve a multidisciplinary expert panel which would assess any reality shows using children, and also, issue guidelines on the cut off age limit for the participation of children in such shows. This would entail screening participation of children even before the production of a program is done. These guidelines should also detail the procedures and processes that would need to be adhered in order to protect the best interests of any child.
(iii) The Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC) and the Inter-Ministerial Committee of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting should make proactive interventions in taking cognizance of the reality shows affecting child rights and taking prompt measures to prevent their telecast, instead of waiting for the public to lodge complaints.
(iv) The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting should make special drives through electronic media (Door Darshan & All India Radio) and other available means for educating the parents and the public that the involvement/participation of children in reality shows to the extent it is violating their right to health and psyche, safety, education, recreation, leisure, etc. must be discouraged.
(v) A detailed guidelines need to be in place for safeguarding the rights of children in the entertainment industry after having broad-based consultations with prominent psychiatrists, psychologists, family therapists, child rights groups, legal experts, child development experts, etc.
(vi) The shooting sites / sets should be inspected by the multidisciplinary inspection panels constituted for the purpose by the Government and the producers and TV channels associations (for self-regulation). There should be a regulator to which the producers must provide prior information about the shooting of their programmes, especially, the place(s), schedules and particulars of the programme, the particulars of the persons (e.g., name, address, age, sex, qualification) proposed to be involved in the shootings and the safety measures / safeguards proposed to be taken.
(vii) There is need for consultation with child psychologists and experts about the minimum age of participation of children in reality shows and like to protect children’s rights even with a policy before production of the show.
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