New Delhi: Staffers at government homes for juveniles have been asked not to kiss, hug or fondle children, use abusive language or beat them.
"Do not sleep alone with any child or use corporal punishment or tolerate corporal punishment by other staff members," a code of conduct issued by the women and child development ministry for staff and office bearers of child care institutions states.
The manual, 'Living conditions in Institutions for Children in conflict with Law', was issued by the ministry after the Supreme Court in February asked it to develop a list of dos and don'ts for juveniles in government care.
The manual asks all staffers to ensure a culture of "openness" to facilitate greater interaction with children, a ministry release said Friday.
It urges staffers to be "inclusive" and involve children without exclusion on the basis of gender, disability, ethnicity or religion.
The manual warns them against "the potential for peer abuse" and urges them to "develop special measures/supervision to protect younger and especially vulnerable children from peer and adult abuse."
In this context, it cites instances such as children being bullied, victimized, abused or discriminated against.
What the manual said
The manual also says that staffers and employees "should not kiss, hug, fondle, rub or touch a child in an inappropriate or culturally insensitive way...They should also not use language that will mentally or emotionally abuse the child or threaten or use abusive language".
They have been asked not to develop "sexual relation with a child or give cash or any kind of gifts" directly to children.
"They should also not do things of a personal nature that a child could do for him/herself, including dressing, bathing and grooming," the manual states.
There should be no discrimination on the basis of "race, culture, age, gender, disability, religion, sexuality, or any other status".
The staffers have been instructed not to engage children in personal work or take any photographs that could violate the child's dignity or privacy.
The manual follows the Supreme Court's directive to the ministry to draft a document similar to the Model Prison Manual prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs in a case regarding inhuman conditions in 1382 prisons across the country.
"There is nothing wrong in issuing guidelines for staffers in such institutions as instances of abuse by them are common. However, I am not sure how a series of guidelines can change that," Yogesh Dubey, child rights activist and a former member, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said.
He said the ministry should concentrate on acquiring more funds so that the institutions could improve their infrastructure.
"Children should have enough food to eat and there must be transparency in the day to day workings of such institutions," he said.
The ministry said the objective of preparing such a manual was to provide guidelines to states and other stakeholders which would help them establish institutions for "children in conflict with law" and provide them with appropriate institutional and rehabilitative services.