Monday, 23 April 2007

Give them back their childhood

- The Hindu Magazine, Apr 22nd, 2007

THE first survey of its kind — the National Survey on Child Abuse — virtually across the length and breadth of the country has come up with a startling revelation: a majority of children have experienced various forms of violation, physical excesses and sexual abuse. Over 50 per cent had experienced physical abuse such as slapping and corporal punishment from parents and teachers alike; more specifically nearly 65 per cent of schoolchildren, particularly from government schools, reported that they had been beaten by their teachers.

Of the many children that were sexually abused, almost 70 per cent stated that they had never reported the matter to anyone. Last but not the least, with every second child admitting to being emotionally abused, it is no exaggeration to say that the survey is possibly the single largest vote of no-confidence against the natural and trusted guardians of the young.

Under a cloud

So much so that the much-revered and much-lauded Indian family is under a cloud for not only being one of the main perpetrators of the crime but also for using the smokescreen of the sanctity of the family to hide many ugly realities. More worrisome is the finding that the teacher, often associated with a noble profession, not only proves to be ignoble but also a child-baiter, resembling the infamous Fagin abusing Oliver Twist.

So what are we battling today? As a nation, we need to recognise the sanctity of the child, as citizens to stand up and be counted and as a society to have the courage to look within and speak out.

Maybe for a start we can recognise the fact that we all need help, having probably been trapped in two sets of irreconcilable value systems and norms? Ever ready to accept modern aspirations and values but not willing to sacrifice the traditional expectations and safeguards.

In many ways, more than happy to adopt norms such as the two-child household, nuclear family, facilitating children in the pursuit of excellence and even willing to treat them as friends in need of guidance and care but at the same time privileging oneself with the right to use of the age-old techniques of authority and wherever possible impose the familial diktat. In other words, as parents and as teachers, we often end up by making sure that all that we do in the name of children is driven by the adult and their notions of right and wrong, success and failure, truth and falsehood, excellence and mediocrity.

All pervasive occurrence

So does this lack of coherence and an inability to arrive at new norms of relationships leave us no choice but to build a nation-wide consensus on the need for a legal system to recognise and define child abuse?

More importantly, has the problem of child abuse reached a proportion and magnitude that it is beyond repair at the familial and societal level and now requires the firm and decisive intervention of the legal and human rights instruments? It is in this context that the evidence appears to be damning.

It is an all-pervasive occurrence inflicted on both girls and boys and assumes every possible form — from psychological, emotional, sexual, outright neglect to all manner of perversions and physical abuse.

In fact, we are being told in no uncertain terms that the Nithari incident is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg and, as a nation, we are possibly harbouring many such horrific incidents. However, even as we see Nithari as a great wake-up call, even as the government is now busy preparing a draft bill to prohibit "Offences Against Children," what the survey has indicated is a far deeper social malaise.

In fact, an equally disturbing trend and cause of concern is the numerous less known but equally poignant experiences that the child undergoes every day at the hands of teachers and other adults. Often caught between the urge to better their lives and finding it near impossible to get the necessary support from those who matter, millions of children have stopped dreaming of and aspiring to a better life.

Social activists involved in education-related issues find that in each class there are scores of children who have virtually dropped out. "They sit in the back, often in a state of trance, not wanting to participate in any process of learning and some do not even bother to open their bags and take out their books," said Mita Deshpande, a young researcher from Delhi associated with a project on quality of education in government schools.

Others are equally quick to add that this is not only rampant in government schools but also true for children studying in the so-called public or exclusive schools. This is particularly true for children with learning disabilities. Speaking in confidence, a parent, sharing her experience of having to deal with discriminatory teachers and school authorities, said, "Not a day goes by when I am not told what is wrong with my son and I am constantly amazed at how little they know or care to know about him. While as professionals they have a long way to go, it is their attitude as fellow human beings that leaves you with so little hope." According to her they often adopt the stance that offence is the best method of defence and therefore even before she turns around and asks them what they can do together to address the concerns of the child, they present a litany of woes, as if the child is misbehaving wilfully and deliberately.

Focus on child's rights

Clearly it is time that we give up the notion that parenting, mentoring and nurturing children is a private or institutional preserve and agree to bring it within the scope of a law that defines the rights and obligation that is firmly centred on the rights of the child. In the process, set right the age-old imbalances as far as the child is concerned. To begin with, get parents to stop taking for granted their "natural rights of ownership" over the child and assume that every kind of imposed behaviour is dictated for the future well being of the child.

Even more important, make the State far more accountable than it is today. Get the government to recognise that it has contributed to the current situation by under-investing and almost neglecting and ignoring the vital area of child protection.

India ratified the Child Rights Convention in 1992. However, much more needs to be done by way of embracing its spirit and ensuring that it trickles down into the existing legal framework and government schemes and policies. Further, such a child-centred legal framework needs to ensure a policy of zero tolerance for acts of violation against children while also providing for the effective protection and promotion of the rights of the child. For instance, even while addressing issues of child delinquency under the Juvenile Justice Act, most legal experts recognise the fact, that the Act has never considered the child as a legal entity with a right to self-expression and this has posed a major challenge for child-rights groups.

Speaking on behalf of CRY, a child rights advocacy organisation, K. Geeta, Deputy Manager, welcomed the government's move to legislate on this issue. "The issue has to be tackled at all levels, starting from the child, family, community, school, as well as law enforcers," she said. Given the enormity of the challenge, she added that not only should the legal and judicial system be geared to handle the issue of child sexual abuse, at a more practical level, an all out effort needs to be made to sensitise the police. They act as the first contact point for people seeking immediate relief. Therefore, they need to be made aware of the vulnerability of children and their responsibility towards them as law enforcers.

* * *

  • Two out of every three children are physically abused and every second child faced emotional abuse.

  • Of the 69 per cent of physically abused children, 54.68 per cent were boys. An equal percentage of boys and girls faced emotional abuse.

  • Of the children physically and emotionally abused in family situations, parental abuse constituted 88.6 per cent and 83 per cent respectively.

  • 65 per cent or two out of three children experienced corporal punishment.

  • Of the 53.22 per cent of children who faced one or more forms of sexual abuse, 5.6 per cent reported being sexually assaulted. The worst affected were children on streets, at work and in institutional care.

  • 50 per cent of the abusers were known to the child and in positions of trust and responsibility.

  • 32.1 per cent of children had experimented with one of the substances like alcohol, bhang, ganja, charas, heroin, smack.

  • Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Delhi have almost consistently reported higher rates of abuse in all forms as compared to other States.

    Source: National Study on Child Abuse; Conducted by Prayas Institute of Juvenile Justice in collaboration with Ministry of Women and Child Development; Supported by UNICEF, Save the Children Fund (U.K.).

    Sample Respondents: 12,477 children, 2324 young adults, 2449 stakeholders.

    Location: Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Mizoram.

  • Sunday, 15 April 2007


    While child sexual abuse takes several forms, here is one that is particular brutal and gut-wrenching

    A few excertps from the narration:

    "....These are the situations that had connections. And another. I was at work installing security alarms. The client's home was a concrete yard with two large dogs. The yard was hardly cleaned and it smelled of dog droppings badly. I hated this smell. It made me feel sick, very sick inside. And I hated dogs. Then three weeks latter my journal records remembering having them set their dog on me licking my genitals, me feeling sick about this and them having the dog do his business on my face. It's no wonder I feel that connections are important. I believe the things we hate are strongly connected to those earlier traumatic experiences. It's as though our feelings are the roadmap to our earlier childhood experiences. It's no wonder the things I hate are so strongly connected to the terror I experienced as a child."

    "...I can't talk about my childhood experiences without mentioning its effect on my understanding or more significantly my experience of God. To me God had turned his back on me, I was a dirty rotten no good for nothing low life, who deserved to be hurt, who was headed for hell. My self-image and my view of my creator was badly twisted and engrained in my life. Undoing this and then rebuilding it was horribly painful and difficult."

    Thursday, 12 April 2007

    Major findings of national study on Child Abuse

    The Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India is happy to share the report of the National Study on Child Abuse titled "Study on Child Abuse: INDIA 2007".

    The aim of the study was to develop a dependable and comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon of child abuse, with a view to facilitate the formulation of appropriate policies and programs meant to effectively curb and control the problem of child abuse in India. The National Study on Child Abuse is one of the largest empirical in-country studies of its kind in the world. This study also complements the UN Secretary General's Global Study on Violence against Children 2006.

    The initiative of the Ministry to conduct this study was supported by UNICEF and Save the Children. A Delhi based NGO, Prayas was contracted to design and conduct the research and submit a preliminary report. After the submission of the preliminary report, the MWCD appointed a Core Committee to review the complete data, analyze the findings and produce the final report along with recommendations.

    The study has provided revealing statistics on the extent and magnitude of various forms of child abuse- an area by and large unexplored. The study has also thrown up data on variations among different age groups, gender variations, state variations and variations within evidence groups. The findings will help to strengthen the understanding of all stakeholders including families, communities, civil society organizations and the state.

    Major Findings:
    1. Across different forms of abuse, and across different evidence groups, the younger children (5-12 years of age) have reported higher levels of abuse than the other two age groups.
    2. Boys, as compared to girls, are equally at risk of abuse
    3. Persons in trust and authority are major abusers
    4. 70% of abused child respondents never reported the matter to anyone

    Physical Abuse
    1. Two out of every three children are physically abused
    2. Out of 69% children physically abused in 13 sample states, 54.68% were boys
    3. Over 50% children in all the 13 sample states were being subjected to one or the other form of physical abuse
    4. Out of those children physically abused in family situations, 88.6% were physically abused by parents
    5. 65% of school going children reported facing corporal punishment i.e.two out of three children were victims of corporal punishment
    6. The State of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar and Delhi have almost consistently reported higher rates of abuse in all forms as compared to other states
    7. Most children did not report the matter to anyone
    8. 50.2% children worked seven days a week

    Sexual Abuse
    1. 53.22% children reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse.
    2. Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar and Delhi reported the highest percentage of sexual abuse among both boys and girls.
    3. 21.90% child respondents reported facing severe forms of sexual abuse and 50.76% other forms of sexual abuse.
    4. Out of the child respondents, 5.69% reported being sexually assaulted.
    5. Children in Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi reported the highest incidence of sexual assault.
    6. Children on street, children at work and children in institutional care reported the highest incidence of sexual assault.
    7. 50% abuses are persons known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility.
    8. Most children did not report the matter to anyone

    Emotional Abuse and Girl Child Neglect
    1. Every second child reported facing emotional abuse
    2. Equal percentage of both girls and boys reported facing emotional abuse
    3. In 83% of the cases parents were the abusers
    4. 48.4% of girls wished they were boys

    The gravity of the situation demands that the issue of child abuse be placed on the national agenda. The Ministry on its part has taken measures such as the enabling legislation to establish the National and State Commissions for Protection of Rights of the Child, the Integrated Child Protection Scheme, the draft Offences against Children Bill etc. These are a few important steps to ensure protection of children of the country. But clearly, this will not be enough, the government, civil society and communities need to complement each other and work towards creating a protective environment for children. The momentum gained needs to enhance further discussion on the issue amongst all stakeholders and be translated into a movement to ensure protection of children of this country.

    The report can be accessed from the Ministry's website:

    Tuesday, 10 April 2007

    Child Abuse: India 2007 (Survey)

    Some more news on the recent survey conducted by UNICEF, Prayas and Save the Children.

    The Hindu - April 10th, 2007

    NEW DELHI: With two of every three children facing some form of physical abuse, an official study, "Child Abuse: India 2007," has suggested that the issue be placed on the national agenda. Fifty per cent of the abusers are people known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility. The study, released by Minister for Women and Child Development (Independent charge) Renuka Chowdhury here on Monday, says children in the age group of 5 to 12 faced higher level of abuse. Over 70 per cent of the abused children did not report the matter to anyone.

    Andhra Pradesh has the highest percentage of almost all forms of abuse, followed by Assam, Bihar and Delhi. In the national capital, 87 per cent of young women reportedly faced one or more forms of emotional abuse during childhood.

    According to the report, of the 69 per cent children physically abused, 54.68 per cent were boys. And 88.6 per cent were abused by parents. Two of every three children were victims of corporal abuse in school. According to the study, 53.22 per cent children reported having faced some form of sexual abuse. Nearly 22 per cent child respondents reported facing severe forms of sexual abuse and 5.69 per cent reported being sexually assaulted. Children on streets, at work and in institutional care also reported the highest incidence of sexual assault.

    Every second child reported facing emotional abuse, irrespective of its sex. But 48.4 per cent of girls wished they were boys, suggesting that the abuse was more in the case of a girl child. In 83 per cent of the cases, parents were the abusers. "This is one report that we are releasing with a heavy heart," Ms. Chowdhury said. She asked State Governments to ban the sale of drugs and tobacco products, including gutka, to children as it caused serious diseases.

    The study has recommended legislation that will address all forms of abuse. It stressed on the need for a separate national child protection policy.

    The Ministry is likely to place before Parliament the draft Offences Against Children Bill. A website to track missing children is to be launched by July.

    The study, conducted jointly by the UNICEF, Save the Children and Prayas, covered over 13 States and 12,000 children.

    Monday, 2 April 2007

    Culture,Conditioning and Perpetrators-3

    Culturally, a huge chunk of the male population considers watching porn to be normal but watching other people having sex is being voyeuristic and that is considered as a sexual disorder or paraphilia. Now I brought this up because porn is an industry which is on the rise and growing everyday!! The figures are available on these websites.

    The porn industry to keep its market going keeps getting more and more creative and there is no end to this road of perversion. It just keeps getting more bizarre and vulgar. Child pornography is on the rise according to official statistics. Now people watching it would say or think they are not committing CSA but they are perpetuating it by just watching it. It is because, there you demanded for it in the first place that it was made and in the process an innocent life destroyed! There is no manufacture when there is no market. WHEN THE BUYING STOPS THE KILLING STOPS TOO!!

    “Most societies follow a patriarchal culture today. Male dominance is emphasized in the most basic form by emphasizing the penis. Fact: penetration during sex in the 21st century has been deeper than ever before. The condition of women has also deteriorated the most in this time. Poverty, ill health and any other social problem you can think of have become feminized. Women and children are bearing the brunt of this brutal system. (even the UN reports have cottoned on this fact. btw... have you ever read “state of the worlds children” report? bet most folks haven’t. it’s not popular with mainstream media!)”

    Our generation believes in complete freedom and in following their instincts. The definition of freedom was never defined as “the freedom to bind, control or hinder another person’s freedom.” Well, we don’t hinder other people’s freedom, do we? We do it in ways that are barely seen…and through paths so twisted that they can never be detected! For example how we force kids and women to prostitution. We force women? Some people say women are prostitutes and porn stars by choice. Are they??

    It is high time we looked at our moral responsibility when making advertisements which stereotype and condition us to the terrible things to a point that they no longer shock us. Culture is a very strong factor which influences our thinking in subtle ways. It is everybody’s responsibility to perpetrate a healthy and morally sound culture in sex. Indifference is a sin on par with the act of crime itself.

    “The most distressing aspect of the world into which you are going is its indifference to the basic issues, which now, as always, are moral issues”

    “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing” Albert Einstein

    Culture,Conditioning and Perpetrators-2

    Sexuality is one of the least understood facets of human nature and the most exploited. See any perfume ad in a magazine or even bisleri water ad for that matter…what does it depict? Everything and anything is related to sex. What the heck? Even the dream of every girl-the ever beautiful barbie screams sex!!How many of us are aware of this.

    I would like to quote from another person’s blog.

    “In 1957 Mattel mildly remodified a German pornographic toy called Lilli, to market it as barbie. Lilli was popular for her tight sweater and removable miniskirt. it took until 1971 for Barbie to lose Lilli’s sly down and sideways glance and be able to at least look straight. She has still not lost the anti-gravitational breasts.”

    “Degrading denim.”
    “Has anyone noticed that the advertisements for jeans are getting extremely crude? You glance at the ad and you cannot quite make out exactly what it is for - aphrodisiac, Viagra-substitutes,impotency cures –oh yeah,or just plain old jeans.

    The last ad I saw showed a man and a woman, both bare-chested. Ok… maybe they were trying to promote body comfort and confront body politics… but nope. The primary focus of the ad was on the man reaching for the woman, both of them looking like they were ready to mate at the drop of a hat - the jeans were not even fully seen, for crying out loud!”

    There is a lot of conditioning going on here. From everywhere there is this message that sex is a very important thing!!!It is one part or a phase of human life. Every animal species including humans spend their reproductive age indulging in this reproductive activity called “sex”; but there is no species on earth which is as obsessed with the act, other than humans!! If aliens were to visit earth, their first observation would be that human beings are obsessed with sex.

    Now the concept and importance of sex has been changing over civilization. In the animal kingdom it is a process to procreate and in some species for bonding between the male and female. In humans it is not just for procreation but for pleasure and for bonding between the male and female. When you forget the importance of the process you lose control over it as well. Sex is influenced by culture, social, political, psychological, religious and economic factors as well! Any one of these factors can alter the meaning of sex and can lead to CSA. Some priests in medieval times believed that sex with a virgin would give them salvation. Even today, such twisted and baseless beliefs do exist. In Africa, AIDS affects a large number of children, because of the belief that sex with a virgin or a child cures AIDS!! Politically, sodomy is unlawful; but it is a way of showing sexual love in the gay community.

    Culture,Conditioning and Perpetrators-1

    It is true that perpetrators don't fit into any category and cut across social and economic barriers. There is no justification for the heinous act of the perpetrator. But is branding them as bastards a solution to the problem? There is no way to check on every child in the world. So at this point of time all we can do is educate the child to distinguish between a safe and an unsafe touch and how it can protect itself or run for protection. Hope that the child will protect itself. As parents and concerned citizens we can be watchful of what is happening to a child. That is a preventative measure. But still is it effective? How many perpetrators roam around wearing a badge which says “perpetrators”? The whole reason why CSA happens in households is because the perpetrator is a wolf who is sly and plans its attack on the victim. Now it is clear there are no way judge a person based his social status because what has been known is that perpetrators are otherwise normal people who commit this monstrous crime.

    One solution over the long run is to understand the factors that shape a person’s sexuality and actions and thus make sure such factors are curbed. Some male perpetrators are victims of CSA themselves and very few are exclusive pedophiles (again that is not a justification for their acts of CSA). The perpetrator who is apparently a normal person in the society commits CSA mostly for sex itself than any other reason.

    Lanning, of the FBI’s behavioral sciences unit wrote in his 1987 paper, Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis:
    “Situational-type sex offenders victimizing children do not have a true sexual preference for children. They may molest them, however, for a wide variety of situational reasons. They are more likely to view and be aroused by adult pornography, but might engage in sex with children in certain situations. Situational sex offenders frequently molest readily available children they have easy access to such as their own or those they may live with or have control over. Pubescent teenagers are high-risk, viable sexual targets. Younger children may also be targeted because they are weak, vulnerable, or available. Morally indiscriminate situational offenders may select children, especially adolescents, simply because they have the opportunity and think they can get away with it. Social misfits may situationally select child victims out of insecurity and curiosity. Others may have low self-esteem and use children as substitutes for preferred adults.

    In a July 2000 study by the NCJJ entitled Sexual Assault of Children as Reported to Law Enforcement, 34.2% of child sex offenders were family members and 58.7% were acquaintances, while only 7% of child sexual abuse was perpetrated by strangers. Amongst younger victims, the percentage of family perpetrators was even higher. In 48.6% of cases involving victims between zero and five years of age, the perpetrator was a family member, while it was 42.4% for victims between the ages of six and eleven. The percentage of perpetrators that were strangers for these age ranges was 3.1% and 4.7%, respectively.”