• How do we address Child Abuse! – Ms Amisha Jain,  Senior, Charter School of Wilmington, US

Child abuse is an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm, and can take many forms such as violence, child labor, child trafficking, genital mutilation, and child marriage. All of these lead to factors like neglect, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, and exploitation.

Those who do abuse are cruel and utterly inhumane- no child deserves to go through any of it. They should not have to experience marks such as scratches, bruises, fractures, or bite marks being made on their bodies, nor the invisible marks made on their hearts and souls.

I find it extremely upsetting to see a child who has been abused- he or she is terrified of personal contact, is extremely weak or aggressive mentally and physically, does not like the sounds of cries, and seems frightened when asked to go home with a single adult. No child deserves this treatment. At such a young age, children should be nurtured in a close-knit and loving relationship with their families, close relatives, and friends. Yet, quite the opposite is felt- they are unloved, caged, helpless, and so scared that they think they cannot tell anyone to try and save themselves.

I always thought the majority of victims were girls, like many of you probably do, but this is incorrect. They are equally likely to be male or female; in 2005, research proved that 47.3% of child victims were male, and 50.7% were female. Even worse, children from birth to the age of three are preyed on the most- at such an age, these poor babies are defenseless and have no control over what is being done to them. Imagine a child who has just learned how to walk being beaten and sexually abused by a perpetrator. The image is simply horrendous and sends shivers down my spine.

I think that perpetrators find young children easy targets because they are inexperienced and naïve. However, it is a proven statistic that about 90% of perpetrators are known adults to the child- imagine a friend’s dad, an aunt, or worst of all, one’s own mom or dad.

Why have a kid if all you want to do is kill it?

Why does child abuse takes place? The most popular explanations are work pressures, lack of support or education, poverty, marital issues, loneliness, feeling of power and control, and/or ill health- however, none of these factors are excuses to treat a child this way.

Those that do suffer from child abuse face many detriments for the rest of their lives. Child abuse is tied to diseases such as Ischemic heart disease (IHD), Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), sexually transmitted diseases, and liver disease. Other issues are substance abuse, suicide attempts, discomfort with intimacy, depression, adolescent pregnancy, and more extreme, fetal death! Approximately 5 children die every day because of child abuse and so many more are stripped of their innocence second by second.

We need to come together to fight this disgusting and deplorable act. In the US alone, there are 42 million victims of child sexual abuse, and this is 42 million too many!

“What can I do,” you may ask?

All of us can work together to help prevent these abuse cases as much as possible. The more we keep an eye out, the less people will try and take advantage. We should be empowered to act, should reach out and intervene whenever we can, and should spread awareness both verbally and through the initiation of programs. These programs could include lessons where children are taught how to deal with situations as these and are able to identify the menace- they need to be more aware of how predators act and search for their “prey.” The youth should also understand that there is no social stigma in telling an elder about an occurrence they have witnessed or personally experienced, and should feel empowered to raise their voice against these wrongdoings.

We have the power to create positive change!

  • The menace of Child Marriage – Amisha Jain,  Ms Amisha Jain,  Senior, Charter School of Wilmington, US

Marriage is a sacred relationship between two individuals who are in love with each other, accept each other, and want to live the rest of their lives together to expand on their friendship. A marriage is considered a “Child Marriage” when the ages of those being paired together are below legal age- either the woman is not yet 18 and/or the man is younger than 21. In general, a forced child marriage destructs many lives and is a great detrimental evil and a form of abuse.

International law says that marriage without the free and full consent of both spouses is a human rights violation and is not in-line with several international and regional agreements, but can you believe that illegal marriage still continues to occur everyday?

Worldwide, it is estimated that 60 million girls become child brides per year, of which 30 million are in South Asia alone. Furthermore, more than 700 million girls alive today were married before the age of 18- this accounts for 10% of the world population! If these trends continue, an additional 1.2 billion adolescent girls will be married by 2050.

I deplore this kind of marriage. It is because of these forced child marriages that girls are facing more dangers than they have to. Can you believe the leading cause for death amongst female children is something that could be easily avoided? Pregnancy and childbirth!

Marriages at a young age are making girls more vulnerable to high maternal mortality rates and domestic violence. In a majority of child marriages, the girls are never given a choice- it is done without their permission or input and they are losing the nurturing of their parents much earlier than what is considered the healthy and adult age. In extremely bad cases, there are forced child marriages where the children do not even understand the concept of marriage and they are being pushed to go through with it!

What is happening to these girls is that their lives are trapped, desperate, and full of misery. They do not know anything at such a young age, and thus do not know how to make good decisions. And even if somehow a girl is able to run away from this relation, her family will never accept her because it is a disgrace in their society.

Think about it- a nation’s priority is prosperity. Shouldn’t they have more incentive to put an end to these adolescent marriages, especially since they are harming their economy? It is true they have established the necessary laws, but how much are they really enforced?

So then you think… Who is to blame? What is to blame?

The answer is simple, yet extremely complicated. There are numerous reasons why people urge these marriages. Some parents think they are protecting their girls, especially those that live in war-affected areas. Others do not see anything immoral in it- child marriage is their traditional belief and their relatives encourage it. However, the encouraging sometimes becomes pressurizing. In some societies, parents need to have their girls married before they might become sexually active, and some places are still biased in gender- they find that girls are mainly on this Earth for the role of wife, mother, and homemaker. On the other hand, many sell their girls into marriage for financial reasons, and this in many cases, leads to prostitution as well.

And now, the question I hope is taking over your entire brain… What can we do about it?

No one person’s efforts are anywhere near enough, including the governments and police, until society as a whole does not change its perception. We need to focus ourselves on the fact that there should be no gender inequality- girls have a right to be looked at as equally as boys and should be given the same treatment, whether it be for marriage, education, or other opportunities. Until other injustices are tolerated, child marriage will continue to be a global issue as well. But in the meantime, we can empower girls with information and skills, provide them with support, both economically and emotionally, can hold rallies and educational seminars, should help increase the access to high-quality education, and should of course spread awareness and abide and further enforce the rules.

But, it is also important thing to understand that this will not be achieved by just females. I think that men and boys should be a central focus for this dilemma because they are the ones that can most successfully challenge the norms put against their gender. Imagine if no male even accepts to marry a young girl- then there would be no such occurrence as child marriage because the girl’s family would have no options and this would then tip the balance of child marriage!

Thus, it is vital we educate everyone on how early marriage is harmful and catastrophic and gather a multitude of people to speak out against this discrimination. If we act on whatever opportunities we get, eventually we can help change the lives of girls and young women all around the world. By doubling our efforts together as families, communities, and whole countries to get more people involved, along with speaking our hearts and minds out through the numerous proclamations and additional enforcement, we can eventually put an end to these evils and let girls prevail!

  •   Disempowering the women – Dr Bhandari

Shiela, my housemaid came to me this morning with swollen eyes. She was hit badly by her drunkard husband the night before. She had a worried look on her face. She said that our government had stopped the use of 500 denominations. She was holding a wad of 500 rupee notes in her hand. She said that these were her savings hidden from husband. Now that these notes were banned, she wanted me to exchange for her. I did because she came to me with an expectation and hope. However I was reminded of my childhood days when I used to receive money whenever I visited my aunts. My aunts used to hide money in the safety of the house and indulged in social give and takes without the knowledge of their husbands. Like this, they felt  free to save and use the money as per their free will. I talked to many women around and concluded that the sudden announcement of demonetizing the currency may have an adverse impact on them.

Lets assume that in contemporary times, women of our country are banked. They have bank accounts that they are free to operate. This may in fact prove to be a flimsy assumption. Both, the women, who earn an income of their own as well as those who do not, tend to keep some amount of money aside for an expense that they may not like to share with their husband at home. The reasons may be several that may range from helping the parents or siblings to buying an item of personal choice. Many people may not buy the argument that women save money at home for  use in adverse times.

Being a patriarchal society, we are all aware that men, by and large, own and control the finances of home as well as outside. The role of women in economic decision making is hardly any. There is  enough evidence to prove that economic empowerment may not necessarily mean social empowerment for women. They may have the capacity to earn but spending the same money may not rest with them. Their lack of mobility compounds the problem.  So the question here is, How do women help themselves? A convenient option for them is to keep some money aside at home which may not be in the knowledge of their husband. This is a ready resource that they can use at their convenience.  The recent denomination of 500 and 1000 rupee notes may have a tearful impact on the fate of such women who were keeping their long term savings at home. The pertinent issue here is, Whom do they confide in now and declare their personal savings? If they tell their husband, they are afraid to lose their freedom. They are afraid that their husband would be  stricter from now on and would keep a tab on their money.  The lack of mobility may add to their woes if they strive to be independent in handling their money. As I understand, this argument would hold  valid for all women, literate  and illiterate, earning and non-earning. We must study the related issues in the context of existing social realities especially when they concern the women.

Lets not forget, women have been steadily moving towards empowerment in recent times. Lets not Dis-empower them now!

 

  •  How safe are our Girls?  – Dr M. Bhandari

Radha, 13 years, lived with her parents and a younger brother in a village near district Shamli in U.P. Radha  was attending a neigbourhood government school near her home. She loved going to school everyday. Her parents, daily wage labourers, worked hard to run the household.

Due to uncertain source of money, Radha’s parents decided to pull her out of school. Radha cried. The little girl protested as much as she could. But her parents did not listen.

One day, Radha left home in anger. She sat in a state roadways bus, little knowing where the bus was going. On reaching Greater Noida, the bus stopped at the main bus stop. Radha got off and started walking along the road side. She was scared and her eyes looked for a known face in the hustle and bustle of the city.

The leering eyes of passing men fell on the young and timid Radha. Sensing her helpless and alone, a man came near her and asked if she was lost. Radha did not reply. The man said that he would give her  food and shelter. Hungry and tired Radha, tagged along. However she did not like the leering looks of that man. She tried to run away. But the man followed and caught hold of her. Taking an opportunity, he sexually abused her  and left her on the roadside. He ran away from that place.

Hearing the cries of little Radha, an auto rickshaw driver stopped and dropped her at the police station. There on, the Child Line team took the care of Radha.

 This is not an isolated case of child sexual abuse. This is the story of around  53% of children in India who are subjected to sexual abuse, a figure inferred from the study of 125000 children in 13 states across the country that also concludes that  over 20% of children are subjected to severe forms of abuse (MWCD, Govt. of India: 2007).

The situation is grim and that leads us to question, the vulnerability of our young girls to abuse? How convenient is to abuse a child and get away with it? How far is POCSO effective in addressing child sexual abuse? Where do we fix the responsibility – State, Judiciary or the Society?

 

 

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