Bangalore: An NGO fighting for shared parenting in case of divorce or separation Monday demanded a separate union ministry for child development as they constitute more than 40 percent of the population.

“For the over-all development of children, an independent ministry for them is must,” founder and president of Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP) Kumar V. Jahgirdar told IANS ahead of Children’s Day Nov 14.

Noting that the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 lays down stringent punishment for offences like sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography, he said public awareness about the statute needs to be improved.

The act defines a child as anyone below the age of 18 years and protects them from physical offences. It provides for punishment ranging from simple to rigorous imprisonment.

“Now we have the act in place but the common man is not aware about it. To make the public aware all government offices and police stations should put up posters about the punishment for child abuse,” said Jahgirdar.

He also demanded that sex education be made compulsory in all high schools that  special courts be set up to try child abuse cases within six months.

“The women and child development ministry is working more for women rights than child rights which is not in the interest of children who make up 40 percent of our population. They are not vote banks so political parties ignore child rights,” Jahgirdar said.

CRISP, with regional chapters in Chandigarh, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi and Lucknow, has been demanding that separated parents get equal access to children. It has also sought the setting up of special courts to deal with child custody cases.

Manpreet Bhandari, a member of the NGO, said: “The act (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) should have provision to punish the custodians of children who file false abuse cases against the spouse in matrimonial disputes.”

Studies conducted by CRISP, which was invited by parliament’s standing committees on issues pertaining to child rights welfare, show heavy dropouts from schools due to matrimonial disputes.

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