Austin, TX, November 13, 2009 – Saturday is Children’s Day in India; yet for 25 million Indian children, there is no cause for celebration. Amidst their country’s growing prosperity, these 25 million children live without parents, in orphanages or on the streets where they are vulnerable to abuse, child labor, trafficking, malnutrition and disease.
Close to four million more children are joining their ranks each year, and India is home to the world’s largest population of AIDS orphans, at approximately two million. According to UNICEF, one of every three of the world’s malnourished children lives in India, and about 50% of childhood deaths in the country are attributed to malnutrition or starvation. Save The Children found that more than 400,000 children each year die within the first 24 hours of life in India.
While the rest of the world celebrates United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) from November 14-21, these children have lost their rights and indeed, even their voices. UNICEF defines a child as “invisible” when he lacks an environment that protects him from violence, abuse and exploitation; goes without basic necessities such as adequate food, health care and schooling; and is neglected by the state.
The UNCRC is a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations, and the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. In 1989, world leaders decided that children needed a special convention just for them because people under 18 years old often need special care and protection that adults do not.
However, twenty years later, India has fallen far short of meeting the rights of these children. Journalist Shelley Seale aims to help give these children a voice with which to be heard by the world, and demand that their rights are upheld – rights inherent to them from the moment of birth. Her new book, The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India, tells the personal stories of many of these children who have been orphaned and abused; who live on the streets or have been trafficked into child labor or the sex trade.
Seale spent three years traveling throughout India, interviewing orphanage directors, social workers, doctors and teachers, and getting to know just such children in order to tell their stories with a strong and hopeful voice. The book was published in June 2009 to critical acclaim, with a foreword by Joan Collins and endorsements from Save The Children, Human Rights Watch and Born Into Brothels.
With The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India, Seale is doing her part to make sure these children are ignored no longer.