This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Towfeeq Wani. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Meet Shahid, A Jamia Student Who Cycled 4400 Km To Fight Child Abuse In Juvenile Homes

More from Towfeeq Wani

By Towfeeq Wani

On the day Shahid reached Srinagar, schools were closed and the streets deserted as the city had been put under a curfew by the state authorities. Unable to reach his planned destination, which was Kashmir University, he managed to reach a school on the outskirts of the city which was luckily open despite the restrictions. Although he had not anticipated any trouble in the final leg of his ‘tour-de-India’ sort of journey; he was satisfied that he had finally finished it. Two days later he flew back to his hometown.

jamia student cross india cycling for sexual abuse of children in juvenile homes
How It All Started

Forty-one days earlier, on 03 June 2015, a student of Jamia Milia Islamia, Mohammed Shahid (which literally means a ‘witness’) started a solo bicycle journey from Swami Vivekananda Ashram in Kanyakumari, in hope of reaching Srinagar, which he finally did on 13 July 2015. Sitting in my room in Kashmir, on the same day, I read in Jamia Journal that Shahid had finally arrived in the city. A little description was given along with a photograph in which he was donning a bicycle gear and had many placards and posters around him. A first peep and I thought it had something to do with bicycling or environmental issues. However, upon reading some of the placards in the photograph, I realised the larger frame of the picture.

Working with an NGO ‘Butterflies’ in Delhi, Shahid got to visit a juvenile home attached with Tihar Jail in November 2014 as a part of the project ‘Children’s Conflict With Law’. The experience he had there was primarily instrumental in arousing his interest in the issue. “I met around 400 kids, and as per my assessment, 99% of them had been sexually assaulted at one point or the other by the authorities there,” Shahid says with a heightened sense of concern visible in his expressions, “It all started from there.

Juvenile Homes: ‘India’s Hell Holes’

Rape and sexual violence against inmates has been used as a systematic tool of torture in jails throughout the world, reports of which have surfaced in the media many times. However, children are the easiest targets of sexual abuse inside the fortified walls of a juvenile home, most of whom are not even aware of the ways in which they are abused. In its 2013 report India’s Hell Holes: Child Sexual Assault in Juvenile Justice Homes, the Asian Centre for Human Rights said that sexual offences against children in India have reached epidemic proportion.

The report stated that more than 48,338 child rape cases were recorded from 2001 to 2011 and that India saw an increase of 336% of child rape cases during these years. “Juvenile justice homes, established to provide care and protection as well as re-integration, rehabilitation and restoration of the juveniles in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection, have become India’s hell holes, where inmates are subjected to sexual assault and exploitation, torture and ill treatment apart from being forced to live in inhuman conditions. The girls remain the most vulnerable,states Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.

Recently, an exposed child sex scandal jolted Pakistan as police discovered 400 video recordings of more than 280 children being forced to have sex in Punjab, after which the government ordered a judicial investigation into the case.

In India, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, drafted to effectively address sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children, deems a sexual assault to be ‘aggravated’ under certain circumstances, such as when the abuse is committed by a person in a position of trust and authority vis-à-vis the child, like a family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor. The cases of juvenile homes certainly fall in this category.

Pedalling For A Purpose

Back home in Kerala, many months later, Shahid told his parents about his experience in the juvenile home. “Unlike the large population of our country who wait for some external agency to come and solve our problems, you should raise awareness on the issue,” he recounts his mother telling him. Being a cycling enthusiast throughout his childhood, he decided to pedal across the length of India, from south to north. As such, he started his training in January. “I used to cycle daily in Delhi, mostly from Jamia to JNU and back.

Although unintentionally, as Shahid admits, travelling on the bicycle did send a message of using environmental friendly modes of transportation as many Indian cities, especially New Delhi, continue to be among the most polluted ones in the world.

In his one-sided journey of about 4430 kilometres, Shahid visited 31 schools and some colleges where he spoke to hundreds of students. “I addressed people in 19 public places apart from the schools and also gave handbills to thousands of people I met during the course of my journey. Once I told them about my cause, almost all the people showed enthusiasm and many promised to further the message,” says Shahid.

When asked how this menace can be eradicated from the society, Shahid replies laughing, “Certainly not by riding bicycles.” Then suddenly, turning serious, he continues, “Basically we need to change ourselves and our families because that is from where most of the cases are reported.

Some Things Are Not Better Left Unsaid

Following Shahid’s path, many students, organisations and clubs in his home state have started taking different initiatives to raise awareness on the issue. A large number of sexually abused children are too innocent to comprehend the fact that they are being exploited, and even those who realise what is going on are not experienced enough to handle the abusers. Also, adults consider it a taboo to even talk about it aloud while ironically they are the ones who abuse them. Even if children muster the courage to tell their elders, they are silenced for the fear of being shamed in the society.

Everyone in the town talks about child abuse in general, but when it comes to this specific topic, most lips are sealed. Let us pledge not to be the mute spectators anymore,” says Shahid.

If you are a survivor, parent or guardian who wants to seek help for child sexual abuse, or know someone who might, you can dial 1098 for CHILDLINE (a 24-hour national helpline) or email them at dial1098@childlineindia.org.in. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.

You must be to comment.
  1. Vikas

    Hi, this is such a great story and congrats to Shahid for doing this. Can someone connect me with Shahid, I would like to support him on this next project.
    cheers!
    Vikas

More from Towfeeq Wani

Similar Posts

By Imran Khan

By Prerana

By PRIA (Participatory Research in Asia) India

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below