No matter how one manages to join back the pieces of a broken string, the knot that forms as a result of the attempt, will always be a bump in young minds, especially for those who are sexually abused! No matter how hard victims try, some dark incidences always leave a permanent mark.
Activists and lawyers in India are working round the clock to ensure safety and protection for children from sexual abuse but the increasing incidences of abuse have made parents more anxious by the day. Sexual harassment against children has grown to become a vile concern in our country and according to Corvette Forum, it’s heartbreaking to realise that every 155 minutes, a child under 16 is raped, and every 13 hours, a child under 10.
Recently the Hindu reported about the Delhi police busting a WhatsApp group of paedophiles of 119 members from India, U.S., Pakistan, China and Brazil. With increasing public access to mobile phones and social media, child rights activists and child counsellors have got concerning stories to talk about.
Bangalore based Child Welfare Activist Nagasimha shares in an exclusive conversation with NTD India that the call for help from desperate parents has increased over the years. He painfully shared that most innocent children are introduced to the concept of sex by older members of the family, close relatives or even seniors at schools but the most recent crimes were pointed towards the internet.
“One day I was called by a school to counsel some students who misbehaved in class and were caught red-handed by the teacher. The three young boys were watching some inappropriate videos sitting on the back bench”, said Nagasimha.
According to Nagasimha whoever is providing children with such sexually offensive content is also indulging in child sexual abuse.
What can parents and teachers do?
According to TOI, out of over 2,000 parents surveyed in eight cities, 67 percent said that they would not want textbooks to be replaced with tablets or laptops. With the access of internet becoming so effortless, children are just a finger touch away from the risk of being exposed or used for inappropriate content.
Ramya, a mother of two and a resident in Hossur, who is also distraught by the issue not being sensitised enough said, “I am giving all kind of sexual education according to my kid’s age and clearing their doubts, if any, on a time to time basis. We parents should monitor their internet usage all the time as a security measure and make sure they are comfortable talking about everything to us and not a stranger online.” Ramya also specifically instructs her children to “never share personal details with any strangers online.”
It’s disheartening, but at the same time encouraging to see parents become emotionally prepared to face such a situation. The fact that the risk is inevitable, makes it harder for adults to lay their guard down.
School teacher Sudha agrees that adequate consciousness about the evils of interacting with strangers is to be imparted to children from a young age, which will positively empower them in the right and safe ways. As she talked to NTD India about her 11 years of experience of dealing with children in Kerala, she said, “If I come across such a situation, surely I will respond to it and call that person for a personal talk. On the other hand, that child’s parents are to be called and advised to educate the child about the (kinds of) touches so that he or she can escape from those things in future days.”
Children are constantly surrounded by people and even strangers on the internet and Sudha feels that awareness programs alone cannot help the society escape from such happenings and that every individual should have an identity and responsibility towards the society.
She added “Children nowadays lack in values and caring from their homes. So they become the victims of many illegal happenings. So a mass decision is to be made. And those victims are to be punished. But in our society, we are trying to protect them.”
Nagasimha too can’t stress enough on how important it is for parents to be spending time with their children. “You can’t stop them from being curious. It’s always better to teach and guide them personally so that they won’t fall into dangerous hands because of their innocence. Parents must also keep a check on their phone and other sources of internet. Don’t be authoritative, be affectionate but also be careful not to be their friend. Be a responsible parent”, he said.
He also added “The only way we can contain such a situation is by cautioning the parents in the first place. Prevention, protection, provision and participation is the motto adults must strictly follow to keep children away from becoming victims of any sort of sexual abuse. Children are unaware of their bodies and curiosity is natural but parents must take control over the means through which they learn about their sexuality.”
Ramya assures that if they face any form of assault, she would console her children and make them comfortable. And if medical attention is required, it will be given along with safe counselling for the kid. “We will confront the predator and intimate the proper authorities and will make sure that he won’t escape from the law.” Being fearless and righteous in the face of such alarming circumstances is exactly what the law requires adults to do.
What does the law say?
Being a victim of sexual assault even before being old enough to understand what that even means is a pitiful experience for a child. How adults deal with it, will determine the extent of trauma the child would suffer in his or her future.
Robin, an eminent advocate from Bangalore city who has been actively fighting for the rights of underage victims of sexual abuse talked about the extensive law for the protection of children and said, “These laws are there to help the victim and to bring the perpetrator to justice but we can’t do our part unless adults take the hints and complains of the victim seriously and take a step to stop it right at its roots.”
He added, “Not reporting or even concealing such incidences is a punishable offence that can fetch up to 6 months of jail time or fine or both.” He reminds everyone to be responsible adults as he advices, “Such cases (cybercrime or not) should be immediately reported to the Special Juvenile Police Unit or the local Police and shouldn’t be left without the proper assurance by the police by registering an F.I.R.”
A ray of hope
Nevertheless, it’s heartwarming to see so many institutions that are associated with children provide special training to every individual who interacts with a child. U&I, an organisation whose mission is to provide non-formal education for underprivileged children, sees hundreds of volunteers coming through their doors every term.
One of the core founders, Mr. Ajith proudly shared, “We run a curriculum called Kid Power which teaches children what to do if someone approached them sexually and what is a good touch, what is a bad touch. We even have doctors coming in to educate the children, which helps immensely.”
He assured, “For the volunteers, as a part of their orientation, they’re taught what they can and can’t do with a child and most importantly never to be alone with a child at any given point in time so that nothing inappropriate is done, said or even shared with a child.”
And as for keeping a strict control over the inappropriate usage of internet around children, volunteers aren’t permitted the usage of phones or other such devices during interaction hours and they are under constant surveillance by a dedicated team of staff.