Violence against children is a not something new in our society; it has, however, changed its definitions several times. Despite it being common knowledge, very few people actually understand in depth, what violence against children really means. Every time a child is hit by a teacher because he/she didn’t understand something, every time a child is verbally abused to the point of tears, every time a child is touched in a way it makes him or her uncomfortable- it is violence.
Hidden in Plain Sight
UNICEF published a report on violence against children titled, ‘Hidden in Plain Sight.’ This report includes extensive amounts of data about the wide categories and types of violence against children, their sociological, psychological, economical impacts and so on. This report takes 190 countries into account and has brought into light some shocking facts about child abuse and violence. One in every ten girls under the age of 20 has been sexually forced; one in every 3 married girl between the age of 15-19 has been a victim of physical, sexual and/or mental violence; 95,000 homicide victims in 2012 were children and adolescents, making them one fifth of the total homicide victims; three in 10 adults believe that physical punishment is essential in the upbringing of a child.
Violence against children is taking place all around us, some choose to ignore it and many others are the ones giving shape to it. Many parents consider it their right to shout at their child for not finishing food, forcing him/her to stay in a dark room or pulling their ears for being unruly, as a methodology to make the child a better individual. But little is known about the long term effects of these things. According to the UNICEF reports, children who grow up witnessing violent behaviour around them tend to be violent themselves, ultimately inflicting the same on their own children.
Deeper Layers of Child Abuse
For parents who think that they are hitting their child for his/her own good- it has been discovered that children who are abused are more likely to get lower grades, drop out of school or college and have poor learning and behavioural problems.
Bullying is also a kind of violence in which the perpetrators might be children themselves. In a middle income country such as India, almost half the adolescent population has been or is being subjected to bullying. Also, children are the worst sufferers when it comes to freedom in sexual preferences. Even in countries where homosexuality is legal, adolescents face violence if they are homosexuals or bisexuals. In a nation like India, where the subject of “sin” and pending legal recognition is concerned, adolescents constrain their sexuality which can cause serious psychological damage. The stigma of accepting homosexuality is present more in boys than girls, with the former having a harder time making his peers accept it as well. The most appalling discovery, however, is that children with homosexual guardians are also subjected to violence.
Bell Bajao campaign- a 2008 initiative undertaken by an organization named Breakthrough encourages men and boys to ‘ring the bell’ to end domestic violence. This is a bold step towards ending violence which goes on behind closed doors. Breakthrough’s vans travelled across India and showed videos of people ringing the bell and intervening to stop domestic violence. More recently in 2013, a media campaign called ‘Time to Sound the Red Siren’ was launched. It addresses the issue of sexual violence among children, especially girls; an issue which does not get the required exposure in the Indian society.
Violence against children is not an issue which can be done away with economic development. High income countries face this as well. In fact, with economic development, cyber-victimization increases. In order to put a stop to child violence, one must understand that it derives its strength from any form of violence which can influence the human mind. Violence is never the answer when it comes to teaching our children or instilling values and etiquettes. It is not just the parents who have to be educated about how to treat their children and impart education, this responsibility falls upon the entire society. It is time to raise our voices against child abuse; it’s time to spare the rod.