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An institution felt imperative
Although the government in its National Children Policy, 2011 has created the legal provision to appoint an Ombudsman for children to contribute to their welfare and rights, no visible progress has been made in this regard, child rights experts say.
The issue has been kept confined to file till now in the ministry, they viewed.
“Whenever there is an opportunity to talk with the top level ministry’s officials, we raise our demand for appointing the ombudsperson. They assure us to do the same immediately, but we see no implementation of the promise,” said a child rights expert seeking anonymity.
Ombudsperson offices are often referred to as Independent Human Rights Institutions. An ombudsperson or ombudsman means “Representative”. Other words sometimes used to refer to a similar role include: Commissioner, Bureaux, Mediator, and Defender.
An ombudsperson is an individual who acts as a “citizen defender”, dealing with complaints from the public about injustice and maladministration by government agencies. Some ombudsperson receive complaints from individuals and might have the authority to mediate between citizens and authority. Others might have the power to bring cases to court.
The roles of an ombudsperson for children are to promote and protect the rights and interests of children, improve access to existing rights and promote recognition of human rights not yet embodied in legislation or practice.
An ombudsperson for children is important as children are vulnerable to human rights violations and are dependent on adults, they have no vote and no access to lobbies that influence government agendas, they have limited access to complaints mechanisms, legal systems and courts and for many other reasons.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the UNCRC, has consistently emphasised the vital role of children’s ombudspersons in monitoring, promoting and protecting children’s rights.
It has encouraged state parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to develop independent human rights institutions for children, which should be given a broad mandate in law, specific functions, powers and duties relating to children and their rights as per the UNCRC.