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India has recently seen impressive economic growth. However, poverty and injustices, often tied to gender and class, are cruel realities for millions of women and children.The framework of the Indian Constitution provides the necessary means for the protection, development and welfare of children. Yet children, especially girls, are a particularly vulnerable group. A high number of children are malnourished and many do not enjoy the right to an adequate standard of living, such as access to clean drinking water, adequate housing conditions and latrines. Access to school and health care is limited. 

Millions of children live and work on urban streets in India. The problem of harmful child labour is well recognised and millions of children are engaged in hazardous labour, including as bonded labourers, especially in the informal sector, in household enterprises, in agriculture, and as domestic servants. There is a legal minimum age for employment, but it is rarely enforced and appropriate penalties and sanctions are not imposed to ensure that employers comply with the law.

India is also considered to be a source, destination, and transit country for children who are trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation and concern is expressed that the programmes for the physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation remain insufficient and inadequate.

Armed groups are responsible for forced recruitment of children. For instance, in the state of Chaattisgarh, the Naxalites (armed Maoist groups) have been carrying out bombings, torture and killings, using children as young as 12 in some of their operations. Children have also been recruited by armed groups in Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal States.

There is a persistent social discrimination against children belonging to Scheduled Castes and Tribes and other tribal groups. Discriminatory social attitudes and harmful traditional practices towards girls result in low school enrolment, high dropout rates and early and forced marriages. Gender inequality is perpetuated in areas such as marriage, divorce, custody and guardianship of infants, and inheritance, and in the continuing practices of child marriage, dowry and devadasi, where girls are used as sex slaves in the name of God.

A child abuse study made by Save the Children in India reveals that the majority of children were physically abused in 13 states in one or more situations. Corporal punishment is not prohibited in the schools of most states, in the family, or in other institutions for children, and remains acceptable in society.

Children in detention facilities often suffer from ill-treatment, torture and sexual abuse. There are also alleged instances of killings of children by law enforcement officials.

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