One more Children’s Day has passed happily and peacefully in our country; we have kissed our beloved little ones a goodnight sleep; and have slept ourselves beckoning those colorful dreams we have set for our kids. But are we thinking that our kids, the future of the country, will have a better tomorrow? Are we even sure that they are going to be happy and safe for the coming few days?
How many of us are sure of our children being not abused or harassed on a daily basis? How many of us are really confident of sending our kids to school, a daycare, a playground or leaving them with a care taker or a relative?
Well, the statistics do not give us peace of mind anymore. Day by day the number of cases reported in various media is getting higher; and it is still said that the magnitude of sexual violence against children is unknown, according to a report by Hindustan Times appeared in the month of May, 2017. The report gives excerpts of a survey conducted by a humanitarian organization World Vision India, among 45,884 child respondents (in the 12-18 age groups), that one in every two children is a victim of sexual abuse. Conducted across 26 states in the country, the survey also reveals the fact that every fifth child does not feel safe anymore, and that most families do not feel comfortable reporting the abuses.
A more serious issue regarding this is the fact that the children are not safe even within the four walls of their homes. Two years earlier, the National Crime Reports Bureau reported that the perpetrators of sexual exploitation are often known individuals to the victims than strangers. Thus the usual preventive mechanisms of CCTV camera installation, self-defensive training programs etc. fail, as the children are in no clue of how to ward off the unwanted sexual advances from their own relatives and acquaintances. More disturbingly, in such circumstances the children are not only least encouraged to speak up about their conditions, but often threatened to be silent by their abusers.
According to Childline India, the child abuses has a tone of secrecy in our country, as the focus is generally towards the more popular domains of child labour, prostitution, marriage etc. Till recently the cases that reported to have happened in the homes, schools and such places were the children is primarily taken care of were least reported and got very meager attention. Also, the child victims are at the risk of not knowing what to do about it and of whom to approach for it. The societal structure, the importance given to families as far as a child’s development is concerned, the values which portray the dependence of children towards their parents and other relatives, the nurtured approaches of being submissive, obedient, and forgiving, and other innate qualities of our culture can be pointed to as key factors of such dilemma. Moreover our country does not have proper means of protecting children against abuses that happen in their homes, or if it has, then it does not provide proper channels through which the victims can avail them, or simply they do not have the knowledge of the existence of such measures.
UNICEF on Violence on Children
UNICEF derives its definition of violence against children from W.H.O. as “physical and mental abuse and injury, neglect or negligent treatment, exploitation and sexual abuse” or anything that is potentially harmful to a child’s health, survival, development, or dignity. It cautions that these ill treatments can take place in homes, schools, orphanages, residential care facilities, on the streets, in prisons, and in workplaces (here we need to pause for a moment, as child labour is already a crime in the country).
Here comes the importance of child protection activities. According to UNICEF guidelines, the child protection is the duty to respond to the needs of the vulnerable group of children in the country. And the vulnerable group includes: children subjected to violence, children in the midst of armed conflict, children affected by HIV/AIDS, children engaged in labour or marriage, children without parental care, children who are sexually exploited, children facing trafficking etc. A child born to any of these groups is at the risk of getting neglected or abused.
There are many measures with which we can to a far extend stop the crimes against children. Improvising the bystander behavior to a more concerned citizen, any one of us can bring about a change in our surroundings. The least we can do to help a victim is to report to the authorities and for this the Childline is a better option. The Childline number is 1098 and you can call them at any time anywhere in the country and the people concerned will do the needful.
Every sort of harassments towards children, however minor they might seem, should be checked as these bitter experiences remains with them throughout their lives, shaping and distorting their behavior, thought patterns, relationships, motives, and their perception of the world. If we expect our children to be empowered, let us teach and inspire them to fight back against the sexual advances, irrespective of their societal background, caste, creed, or economic status. Let us make them be proud of themselves.