De-institutionalising India’s orphanages : localising child rights in an institution for HIV-infected/affected children in Rajasthan
Mortensen, Therese Boje
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The fact that children growing up in institutional settings are at risk of harmful development is recognised in both psychological studies and international law on children’s rights. Still, orphanages persist in many parts of the world. In India, ‘care homes’ or ‘hostels’ are common alternative care solutions for children from impoverished families. Through a legal and, primarily, an anthropological lens, this thesis asks to what extent the clear impetus towards de-institutionalisation in international human rights law has potential to change such practices. The study contributes to a body of scholarship on ‘localising children’s rights’ by conducting an ethnographic case study of an institution for HIV-infected/affected children in Rajasthan. The study finds a complex picture with numerous causation factors of institutionalisation, including a widespread stigma of HIV/AIDS, poverty, a positive perception of institutions, and lack of functional alternatives. The institution in question also played a range of social functions other than child care, such as education, a means for parents to ‘rescue’ their children from extreme poverty, and a supportive environment for the community of people living with HIV/AIDS. These factors point to the need for a more contextualised approach to children’s rights, specifically that local causation factors and social functions of existing institutions should be taken into account when developing rights-based deinstitutionalization strategies.