The Ministry of Women and Child Development (a Ministry that always annoys me, because it seems so bizarre to lump women-and-children into one big category, as if they face the same problems, have the same needs, require the same degree of care and protection or have comparable abilities to make decisions for themselves) has come out with a new manual regarding juveniles.
It’s a set of guidelines on how to deal with children living in “institutions for children in conflict with the law”, meaning juveniles living in Observation Homes or Special Homes or Places of Safety. It contains several nice passages that talk of how the focus of these institutions should the rehabilitation of children and to be “vibrant centres” that lead them towards transformation. It emphasises that each child is unique, and has unique experiences and needs, and that this should be respected and acknowledged by the staff working in these institutions. It also specifies that the institutions should be accessible to the differently-abled, and inclusive to children of all genders, classes, ethnicities, physical abilities and other classifications.
It does take a slightly sinister note when it specifies that the staff should not hug, kiss, rub, fondle or touch a child in an “inappropriate or culturally insensitive way”, or sleep with a child alone, or inflict corporal punishment on them. The manual also states that staff shall not encourage infatuation of any kind from children. While we’re glad it’s all been spelled out in so many words, so that there’s no ambiguity at all, it makes you feel so uneasy at how it’s clearly necessary to specify these things in so many words, and wonder at the state of juvenile homes in India that prompted this manual.