Among the many injustices that innocent children around the world face, a rampant one is abuse. UNICEF defines violence against children as “physical and mental abuse and injury, neglect or negligent treatment, exploitation and sexual abuse”. This can include mistreatment by strangers as well as family members, underage labour, and most commonly, sexual abuse.
Child abuse is, unfortunately, a common phenomenon in India. While there is still focus on child abuse issues in the public domain such as unlawful labour and sex-selective abortion, abuse of a sexual nature remains hushed.
- Over 33,000 cases of sexual abuse were reported in 2011
- Out of these, over 7,000 were of child rape
- One in every 10 children is abused before the age of 18
- Over 7,000 children are raped every year
- Over 40% of girls undergo sexual violence before the age of 13
- 40% of the children are susceptible to threats of homelessness, trafficking, drug abuse, forced labour, and crime
Be aware! Look out for signs of abuse in the children around you. Families who have a history of domestic violence, alcoholism, etc are more vulnerable to child abuse. Children who seem withdrawn or have bruises must also be given special attention.
Speak up! Talk to children around you about the distinction between a ‘good touch’ and a ‘bad touch’. Make them feel comfortable, so that they may confide in you anything that bothers them. Speak to the adults in your family, and encourage them to give their children proper sex education.
Listen! Listening is a core component of making any child feel comfortable and valued. When someone confides in you about matters of abuse, ensure that you listen to them closely, and let them know that their privacy will be maintained. Try to understand the situation to the best of your abilities, and take whatever step you feel is necessary to ensure that the child is safe.
Report! As per Section 19 and 21(1) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, it is mandatory to report any such cases that one is aware of. Thanks to this Act, investigation has sped up and consequently, more cases have been reported. Dialling 1098 connects you to the Childline India Foundation, which works to keep children safe from abuse.
Child abuse is a major concern in India, and it is time we took active steps to curb it. Children who are subjected to abuse often develop psychological problems, and have difficulties in forming meaningful relationships in their adulthood.
Image Credits: The Better India