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Child Abuse: Putting an end to childhood

Some recent cases of child abuse have shocked the nation. Parents with a hope of a better future send children to schools but unfortunately, some come back with horrific unforgettable memories, Abhay Singh writes why.

 Abhay Singh |  2017-10-21 14:34:12.0

"The uncle is very bad I will not go to school again," were the words of a five-year-old victim to her parents after being sexually assaulted inside a school. A day before the incident she was happy but in following 24 hours her life changed; after coming back from school, she did not eat well, stopped talking to her parents and did not go to play outside with other kids. These symptoms can be noticed in many children who face abuse. Some recent cases in Delhi-NCR have shocked the nation, while parents with a hope of a better future send children to schools, unfortunately some come back with horrific and unforgettable memories.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines child abuse and child maltreatment as, "all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child's health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power."
Several complaints of child abuse have been coming to the office of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) through emails, letters and in POCSO e-box. In most cases, minors have been blackmailed through photographs, or some persons had misbehaved with them in school or at home. It has also been found that due to social stigma, sometimes complainants do not write their names in the complaint. Child rights body deal with the cases keeping in mind the safety of the children. "When we meet the victims we find them in a state of shock owing to the trauma they had faced. We instil confidence into the minor victims through education so that they can achieve something in their life and get out from their horrific past," said Yashwant Jain, NCPCR official. This has been the daily routine of Jain after joining the child rights body. Jain stated that after they come to know about such incidents, quick action is taken. "We investigate several things, questioning every person related to the case, in the process," said the NCPCR official. There are several reasons of abuse – sometimes it is social isolation, non-interactive parents leading their children to feel neglected. Even, negligence from the school authority in providing safety and security is a major problem. Homeless children are most vulnerable to abuse, which is why many homeless families have been keeping stray dogs with them to alert them of approaching strangers.
Pedophiles
The definition of a paedophile as per the Oxford dictionary is: a person who is sexually attracted to children. Further, several other sources define Pedophilia as, "a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children."
A major breakthrough took place when Delhi Police arrested a serial rapist from New Ashok Nagar in East Delhi earlier this year. The accused, Sunil Rastogi (38), a pedophile had sexually assaulted several minor girls. The victims were threatened by Rastogi of dire consequences if they spoke about the abuse. Even though the girls did not reveal the incidents to their respective families, a behavioural change in the children concerned the parents and on further questioning, the incidents were revealed. Recently, three blind minors aged between 14 to 15 years had been facing sexual harassment from quite some time by a British national who was arrested from RK Puram area, last month. The accused, as per preliminary investigation, is found to be a pedophile.
Victim's family trauma
A five-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by a peon inside a school premises in Shahdara district. On the day of the incident on September 9, at around 2 pm when the school got over she came home with her father. "My daughter used to be very happy earlier; but taht day she did not eat properly, when she sat with me on the dining table I noticed a change in her behaviour," said the victim's father. The girl remained quiet the entire day and later went into the bathroom and started cleaning herself off the blood when her mother noticed something amiss and asked her what she was doing, and the incident came to light. Talking to Millennium Post, the parents of the victim stated that their daughter told them that the uncle (accused) was very bad, and that she will not study at that school instead will take admission to the educational institute where her brother studies.
Father of the victim who works as a mechanic said that he works overtime to educate his children so that they live a good life in future. "I thought after home, school is safe for children but after theisincident, we have lost our trust," said the father. "On the day when the incident took place she was crying due to pain and told us that she did not want to go again. As parents it was a horrific day for us," said the mother.
Police have found negligence on the side of the school where the five-year-old was sexually assaulted by a peon inside a room. Police sources claimed that during questioning of school staffs they have alleged that security measures like CCTV cameras were not present in the school.
Another minor, a six-year-old was sexually assaulted by a peon inside the school premises Malviya Nagar on October 4. Like every day, the girl took her lunch box and went to school but when she returned it was not like everyday talks between mother and daughter. The girl was scared and she cried while narrating the incident to her mother; it shocked the family. Talking to Millennium Post her father stated that the minor girl has been studying with the dream of becoming an engineer. He added that after home, school was the place where parents think children are safe but the incident has put up a question in their minds. "Why are such incidents happening inside the school?" questioned the father. Police claimed that they have sent a detailed three-page advisory related to safety and security to 395 schools in south Delhi. Deputy Commissioner of Police (south) Ishwar Singh stated that they have sent the advisory to the particular school also but they found lapses in safety measures in the school. According to advisory in the wake of recent incidents of killing, sexual assault, harassment happenning in schools, the school officials and staff need to be alerted about potential hazards and the threat to the safety and security of the students.
Police data
From the year 2016 till August 2017, Delhi Police had registered more than 2500 cases of rape and molestation of minors. The safety of women in the Capital remained the top priority of the city police as they have arrested more than 9000 people involved in rape and molestation of women. Police data accessed by Millennium Post claimed that around 3672 accused were arrested for being involved in rape cases from the year 2016 to August 2017, whereas more than 6000 people were arrested on the charges of molestation. The data further claimed that in the year 2016, around 902 cases of rape and 918 cases of molestation of minors were also registered by the city Police. This year, as per records till August, around 629 cases of rape and 482 cases of molestation of minors were registered.
Awareness about child abuse
"The only way to stop child abuse is to raise awareness about the issue, not only amongst children but also amongst parents. Parents often tend to assume that the child is lying, or they choose to push it under the carpet, that gives a boost to abusers," says Ananya Chakraborty, Chairperson, West Bengal Commission For Protection of Child Rights.
Speaking about general awareness of child abuse in the country, Chakraborty says: "People, in general, are not aware of child sexual abuse. Even though some are aware of the issue, sometimes they try to avoid the social stigma by protecting their own family members, which is not right. Most child sexual abuse cases happen within the family or among known members. Moreover, it is very important to believe, and stand by the child."
Considering the growing menace of cyber crimes targeting children, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has now enhanced the scope of POCSO e-box to handle cyber bullying, cyber stalking, the morphing of images and child pornography. Child victims themselves or their friends, parents, relatives or guardians can report cyber crimes by pressing the e-box button available at the Commission's website: www.ncpcr.gov.in. They can also register their complaints on email id: pocsoebox -
ncpcr@gov.in or mobile no.: 9868235077
.
The NCPCR had launched an awareness campaign on the protection of children from sexual abuse. According to Rupa Kapoor member of NCPCR, soon an initiative in which more than 90 per cent cinema halls in the country will be displaying an advertisement providing awareness on the protection of children from sexual abuse. "Awareness among people is very important, with Indigo Airlines we have recently launched the initiative where messages about Child Sexual Abuse will be printed by airlines in their e‐ticket itinerary and bus grab handle," said Rupa Kapoor.
How can young children be protected and educated about their rights? "In schools lessons on good touch and bad touch are given to small children; besides children must also be taught about 1098, the helpline number. They should know that if something happens, they can call 1098 asking for help, and things would be taken care of," explained Ananya Chakraborty.
"In Bengal, we have issued a directive to all police stations that every time a child sexual abuse case is reported they have to inform us within 24 hours. We are very pro-active here, and try to get actions the moment we come to know of it," said Chakraborty.
Efforts by Delhi Police
After a five-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by a peon inside the premises of a private school in Shahdara, Deputy Commissioner of Police Madhur Verma stated that Delhi Police commissioner Amulya Patnaik has directed district DCPs to contact and pursue with the school authorities in their respective areas to enhance the security of children in schools. According to police, the school authorities must get a police verification done for the staff employed especially bus drivers, conductors, peon and other support staff. They should employ supporting staff from authorized agencies only and keep proper records.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING
According to NGO Shaktivahini, little children who can barely stand, are married off flouting all laws; little ones are sacrificed, trafficked and sold; as others are locked, abused, sodomised – the list is endless. And there are all those realities that never make the news. Rishi Kant from Shakti Vahini said that the most vulnerable ones are the poor girls and women who live in rural areas. With no money in hand, the traffickers easily lure them on the pretext of job and then traffick them. The young women who are mainly sold off as brides and brought to Haryana-Punjab are called "Paro" or "Molki". It has also been found that these women are also being used as the farm worker and are being sexually abused and resold to other men that again provide a market for trafficking of women.
Rescued by an NGO Empower People, a trafficked victim stated how she was trafficked at the age of 9 from Kamrup district in Assam as a domestic worker and then she was sold by the woman to an old man. She also mentioned that she might have been sold for ten thousand rupees. After living with the old man with a short span of time she ran away from there as they were abusive and brutal.
"We rescue the victims of trafficking and then we work for their rehabilitation," said Shafiq R Khan from Empower People.

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