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Child Rights Crisis Camouflaging Onscreen Endearing Kids – IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

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Child Rights Crisis Camouflaging Onscreen Endearing Kids - IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

Nithi Nithyanand Shetty

Macaulay Culkin -Culkin rose to fame as a child actor in the movie Home Alone. In an interview with Esquire magazine in 2020, he talked about the pressure he faced as a child actor and how it affected him. He said, “People assume that I’m crazy, or a drug addict, or whatever. And I’m not. I was just a kid who was working a lot and going through a lot.”

There have been many child actors who have struggled with psychological issues in their adult life. Child actor abuse is a serious issue that has been reported in various parts of the world, including India. The exact status of child actor abuse in India and globally is difficult to determine due to the lack of comprehensive data on the subject. However, there have been several high-profile cases of child actor abuse reported in India and other countries, which have shed light on the issue.

In India, child actor abuse has been reported in both television and film industries. Children working in these industries are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by adults who are in positions of power, including directors, producers, and casting agents. The abuse can take various forms, including physical and emotional abuse, sexual harassment and assault, and exploitation through long working hours and low pay.

Globally, child actor abuse has been reported in various countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. In the US, the #MeToo movement brought attention to the issue of child actor abuse, with several actors coming forward with their stories of abuse and exploitation. In the UK, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse investigated allegations of abuse in the entertainment industry, including the abuse of child actors.

Child labor laws and regulations regarding the working conditions of child actors vary across countries. In India, the working conditions of child actors are governed by the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, and the National Policy for Children, 2013.

Under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, children under the age of 14 are prohibited from working in hazardous occupations, including the entertainment industry. Children aged between 14 and 18 can work in non-hazardous occupations, but they must have a certificate of fitness and cannot work for more than six hours a day. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, provides for the care, protection, and rehabilitation of children who are victims of abuse, including child actors.

In addition to these laws, the Ministry of Labour and Employment has issued guidelines for the employment of children in the entertainment industry. These guidelines include provisions for the protection of child actors’ health and safety, education, and working hours.

The regulations and authorities involved in the prevention of abuse of child actors in India and globally also vary. In India, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is the statutory body responsible for the protection of children’s rights, including child actors. The NCPCR has set up a Grievance Redressal Cell to receive and address complaints of child abuse in the entertainment industry.

Globally, various organizations are working to prevent the abuse of child actors, including the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the International Federation of Actors (FIA). The FIA has established guidelines for the employment of child actors, which include provisions for the protection of child actors’ safety, health, education, and working conditions.

Efforts are being made to address child actor abuse in India and globally. The Indian government has introduced laws to protect children in the entertainment industry, and several NGOs are working to create awareness and provide support to child actors. Similarly, various organizations and industry bodies in other countries are also taking steps to address the issue of child actor abuse. However, there is still a long way to go to ensure that child actors are protected from exploitation and abuse in the entertainment industry.

There is a lack of comprehensive data and statistics on child actor abuse in India and globally. However, there have been several reports and studies that have shed light on the issue.

According to a report by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), child actors in India face various forms of exploitation and abuse, including physical and emotional abuse, sexual harassment and assault, and exploitation through long working hours and low pay. The report also noted that child actors are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation due to their age, lack of experience, and dependence on adults in the industry.

In the United States, the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) conducted a survey in 2018, which found that more than one in four child actors had experienced some form of harassment or abuse in the entertainment industry.

Real-life anecdotes of child actor abuse in India and globally highlight the violations of child rights in the entertainment industry. Some examples include:

In 2018, a 14-year-old child actor in Mumbai was allegedly molested by her acting coach. The accused was arrested and charged with sexual harassment.

In 2019, a 17-year-old child actor in India filed a complaint against a casting director for sexual harassment. The accused was arrested and charged under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

In the United States, child actor Corey Feldman has spoken out about the abuse he and other child actors experienced in the entertainment industry in the 1980s. Feldman has claimed that he and his friend, actor Corey Haim, were sexually abused by industry insiders, including managers and producers.

These examples highlight the need for stronger regulations and enforcement mechanisms to protect child actors from abuse and exploitation in the entertainment industry. It is important to ensure that child actors’ rights are protected, and they are provided with a safe and healthy working environment.

Jodie Foster – Foster began her career as a child actor in the 1970s and has since become a successful director and producer. She has spoken about the pressure she faced as a child actor and how it affected her mental health. In an interview with The Guardian in 2016, she said, “I was a little freaked out by the whole celebrity thing. I was having panic attacks and felt like my world was closing in on me.”

Corey Feldman – Feldman began his career as a child actor in the 1980s and has since spoken out about the abuse he and other child actors experienced in the entertainment industry. He has struggled with addiction and mental health issues throughout his adult life. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2020, he said, “I’m still dealing with the trauma of my childhood. I’m still dealing with the abuse that I went through.”

These are  examples of child actors who have struggled with psychological issues in their adult life. The pressure and scrutiny that comes with being a child actor can be overwhelming, and it is important to provide support and resources to help them navigate these challenges.

Child actors abuse and labor raises several ethical and moral issues, such as 

Exploitation: Child actors are often exploited by adults in the entertainment industry who prioritize profits over the well-being of the child. This exploitation can take the form of long working hours, low pay, and exposure to inappropriate content.

Consent: Children may not have the capacity to fully understand the implications of their participation in the entertainment industry. This raises questions about whether their participation can be considered truly consensual.

Safety: Child actors may be exposed to physical and emotional harm, including abuse and harassment, due to the inherent power imbalance in the entertainment industry.

Education: Child actors may have to sacrifice their education to pursue a career in entertainment, which could negatively impact their future opportunities and quality of life.

Psychological well-being: Child actors may experience psychological issues, such as anxiety and depression, due to the pressure and scrutiny they face in the entertainment industry.

One such  case is of Drew Barrymore – Barrymore began her career as a child actor in the movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. She has spoken openly about her struggles with addiction and mental health issues, which began when she was a teenager. In an interview with People magazine in 2020, she said, “I had a tumultuous and unpredictable upbringing. There was a lot of chaos and instability, and I didn’t have a strong, consistent support system.”

Parental guidance: Parents or guardians of child actors may also be complicit in their exploitation, either by encouraging their child’s participation in the industry or by failing to advocate for their child’s rights.

It is important to prioritize the well-being and rights of child actors and to ensure that they are provided with a safe and healthy working environment. This includes regulating working hours and pay, providing access to education and support services, and ensuring that appropriate measures are in place to prevent abuse and harassment. Ultimately, the entertainment industry has a responsibility to ensure that child actors are treated ethically and morally and that their rights are protected.

Child labor laws and regulations regarding child actors vary by country and state, but here are some general guidelines:

Working Hours: In many countries, child actors have limits on the number of hours they can work in a day and in a week. For example, in the United States, child actors aged 16-17 can work up to 8 hours a day and 48 hours a week, while those aged 15 and under can work up to 9.5 hours a day and 48 hours a week. These hours must also be during the daytime, and child actors may not work late into the night or early in the morning.

School Attendance: In many countries, child actors are required to attend school while working on a set. In the United States, child actors must have a teacher or tutor on set who ensures that they receive at least three hours of school instruction per day.

Rest and Meal Breaks: Child actors are also entitled to rest and meal breaks during the day, and these breaks must be accounted for in the total number of hours worked. In the United States, child actors must be given at least 30-minute meal breaks for every 5 hours of work, and a 15-minute break for every 2 hours of work.

Parental Consent: In many countries, parents or legal guardians must give written consent for their child to work as an actor. This is to ensure that the child is not being forced to work and that they have a supportive family environment.

Safety Measures: Child actors must be protected on set. This includes providing safe working conditions, adequate supervision, and ensuring that they are not exposed to hazardous materials or situations. In the United States, child actors are required to have a studio teacher or a child welfare worker present at all times.

It’s important to note that these regulations are not exhaustive and may vary by location. Parents and guardians of child actors should research the specific regulations in their area and ensure that they are working with reputable agents and production companies who prioritize the safety and well-being of their children.

Overall, the regulations and authorities involved in the prevention of child actor abuse in India and globally are focused on protecting children’s rights, ensuring their safety and well-being, and providing them with education and support. However, there is still a need for more comprehensive and effective regulations and enforcement mechanisms to protect child actors from abuse and exploitation.

The article is by Nithi Nithyanand Shettyv, a student at TATA Institute of Social Sciences.

Read more on IMPRI: The Current Status of Indian Foreign Policy with the G20 Presidency.

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