Saving Our Children
The Hindu|November 18, 2018
Saving Our Children

On the occasion of World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse, here's a peek at the rising crimes against children, and an attempt to see what more
the State can do in terms of ensuring the welfare, and future, of its youngsters

S. PoorvajaRamya Kannan

Last week, a 16yearold tribal girl in Sitling, in the western district of Dharmapuri, was raped by two boys from the same village as she went out to the fields to answer nature’s call. Five days later, the young girl died in the government hospital in Dharmapuri. Both the victim and her parents had struggled to register a complaint, and by their account, had to run from pillar to post and pay a bribe for the police to do so. Several days later, a team of activists who went on a field visit to inquire into the case found personal effects of the girl at the same spot, exposed to the elements, unclaimed by the police, though it did seem to them that it would serve as crucial evidence.

The Dharmapuri case has emerged as a classic representation of the threats children in the State face and indicates a measure of the State’s initial response to such heinous crimes. Violence against children takes various forms – physical and mental torture, sexual abuse, neglect – and can be perpetrated by a wide range of people the child comes into contact with, including parents, teachers, caregivers, peers and strangers.

Ahead of the World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse (November 19), it behoves the State, especially one that has witnessed a series of gross assaults on children over the last year, to take stock of the safety mechanisms it has in place to ensure the protection of children against any kind of abuse. While the State is a signicant institution, the welfare of the children rests with other institutions — the family, society and schools — and spreading awareness among them is key.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that globally, up to 1 billion children aged 2-17 years have experienced physical, sexual,
emotional violence or neglect in the past year, and warns that experiencing violence in childhood has a lifelong impact on health and wellbeing. In 2012, 9,500 children and adolescents were killed in India, representing 10% of all children globally and making India the third largest contributor to child homicide after Nigeria and Brazil (WHO 014, Global Health Estimates). In fact, one of the targets of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development is to “end abuse, exploitation, tracking and all forms of violence against, and torture of, children”.

Rising trend: “One of the theories going around,” says Girija Kumarababu, honorary secretary, Indian Council for Child Welfare, “is that we are seeing a lot more cases these days because of increased awareness about POCSO and better access to media. It may be true, it needs to be examined. However, to me, there is denitely an increasing trend of violence against children, and each case is more and more gruesome.” She goes on to add: “To me it seems as if the perpetrators are challenging the State, cocking a snook at all child rights activists.”

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November 18, 2018