THERE IS AN ESTIMATED 314.700 STREET CHILDREN IN KOLKATA
WHAT IS A STREET CHILD?
The Indian Embassy estimates 314.700 street children in Kolkata, India. What most street children have in common is that they spend most of their time on the streets or at a railway station. About 50% of all street children stay in these areas to earn money for food by polishing shoes, collecting bottles or begging. For these children, every day is a battle against poverty and hunger. They work between 10-13 hours a day and are exposed to high health risks due to unhygienic working- and living conditions. The right to be a child and have a normal childhood is basically non-exciting because they don’t have any access to leisure-time activities.
Some of the children have families but a great number of them do not have any adults to take care of them. Often, these children run away from home due to violence or sexual abuse. Some of them have lost their parents in war whereas other children got lost at markets or at the station.
WHY DO STREET CHILDREN ABUSE GLUE AND HOW DOES IT AFFECT THEM?
Abusing drugs and other cheap things, such as glue, is a common thing among street children all over the world. Just as it is uncertain how many street children there are in the world, it is impossible to put an exact figure on how many of them abuse glue.
However, some have estimated that approximately 70 percent of street children sniff glue to fight the hunger and to survive their hopeless situations. It also gives them the courage to steal and do sexual favours in order to survive. The glue damages the children’s livers, lungs and brains.
The drug addiction affects their personality and many of the children become more aggressive.
The most typical damages that can occur from the abuse is:
- Short-term memory loss.
- Loss of hearing.
- Convulsions in arms and legs.
- Brain damages.
- Bone marrow damages.
WHY DO CHILDREN BECOME STREET CHILDREN?
There are many reasons why children end up on the streets but to list a few they include:
- Armed conflict and war where children lose their parents.
- Poverty, which forces the family to send their children on the streets to work and live.
- Natural disasters where children become separated from their family.
- Violence or sexual abuse at home, which causes the child to run away.
- Deadly diseases that leave the children orphaned.
HOW ARE STREET CHILDREN BEING TREATED?
Most street children are fighting to survive. They work, beg and in some cases they steal to get food. As a result, street children are often unpopular. As an example, the shopkeepers drive them away from the street if they disturb the costumers.
Street children are often victims of nicknames, which indicate that the population dislikes them. In Rwanda they are called ”saligoman”, which means ”brats”. In Rio de Janeiro they are called ”pivots”, which means ”small criminals”. Lastly, in Hounduras they are called ”resistoleros”, which means ”glue sniffers”.
Children who live on the streets have no one to take care of them and that makes them an easy target for kidnappings, violence or sexual abuse.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was created to secure children with fundamental rights while they grow up. The UN passed the Rights of the Child at a general meeting on the 20th of November 1989. More than 190 countries have signed the convention and thereby agreed to follow it.
WHAT ABOUT STREET CHILDREN’S RIGHTS?
Children who live on the streets are rarely aware of their rights. They do not have anyone to take care of them and to give them love and support – nor is there anyone to make sure that they go to the doctor, school or receives regular meals. As a result, the children end up in crime and problems with the police or other children and adults who live on the streets. If the children end up in jail, they often get treated like adults, which is in breach with the Rights of the Child.