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Child Abuse – Why We Need To Act Immediately

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Children are often treated as divine gifts for the humanity. Every human being must treat children with care and affection. Children are also tender beings who can be scarred by witnessing different kinds of atrocities. In view of that, the United Nations declared the United Nations Convention on the Right of Children.

But what is the current situation? Does that declaration seem enough to protect the children?

One of the pertinent issues faced by our country is the overwhelming increase of child abuse. We can find plenty of news articles on a daily basis which report children being abused through various means. These incidents depict the dark and cruel face of our country, otherwise known for a rich and vivid cultural heritage.

The most prominent reason for this ever increasing rate of child abuse, is the lack of ignorance and awareness about the issue. People seldom talk about the issue and like to cover up or ignore such incidents, which often benefit the perpetrators. It is high time now to start creating awareness and encouraging discussions regarding this matter.

Child abuse can be found in every nook and corner of our country in various forms. India is home to 450 million children and records the most number of child sexual abuse cases. About 69% of Indian children are physically abused including more than half of our street children. India also leads the world with the most number of child labourers. We even have a law which supports child labour, which is like spitting our own face. It is also a fact that, in every seven seconds, one adolescent is killed due to violence globally. These facts and figures show the dismal and pathetic situation of our children, who are meant to lead our nation towards a brighter future.

The popular notion regarding child abuse is that, it is sexual and just that. But in reality, it is more than that. WHO defines child abuse as “Any act that is potentially or actually harmful to a child’s health, survival, dignity and development is abuse.”

Child abuse can be broadly classified into five types:

1. Physical Abuse – Physical abuse includes any activity which intends to harm a child physically. This includes beating a child, wounding a child and even murdering a child.

2. Emotional Abuse – Emotional abuse is one of the most common forms of child abuse. This includes ridiculing a child, bullying or making fun of a child, threatening and pressuring a child to meet adult needs and expectations

3. Sexual – The most popular form of abuse. Child sexual abuse is one of the hot and most discussed topics all around the world. This includes molesting a child, forcing a child to touch private parts of a person and exhibiting private parts in front of a child

4. Neglect – Neglecting a child’s well being is also a type of abuse. Not providing ample time to play with or listen to the child, ignoring children’s presence or partiality in upbringing are some examples of neglect

5. Exploitation – Child labour and child trafficking comes under this category

The implications of these activities on a child are unthinkable. For a child, the effects of abuse last a lifetime.  If we trace back the history of many criminals, we can find the signs of child abuse and the implications of that, which led them to become anti-social.

Children may be affected by behavioural problems like increased anger and lack of orientation. Depression, suicidal tendency, alcoholism, drug abuse can also be termed as after-effects of child abuse. Many children may cultivate low self-esteem and an array of phobias due to the trauma created. It is also likely for them to become abusers in the future as a measure of revenge.

The common myth regarding abuse is that strangers mostly abuse children and only girl children are abused, but the facts show otherwise. In 95% of the reported cases, the perpetrator is known to the family. It can be a father, mother, brother or any other relatives. Boys are also abused in the country same as of girls, and the rate of such abuses is alarmingly increasing. The major challenge faced related to these incidents is the reluctance of the child’s family to properly report the incident or the manipulation by the concerned authorities to wash off the case.

The only way to contain and prevent these abusive incidents is to act against it continuously. We all have the power to act on it. What we need to do, is just start the movement.

Prevention

  • Start providing proper sex education through schools and develop policies which encourage sex education.
  • Provide cascading training to teachers and counsellors about prevention of child abuse.
  • Start door to door awareness campaigns like vaccination campaigns.
  • Build the capacity of the parents to act against child abuse.
  • Media/Public campaigns – Through Public and Social media regarding the prevention and support system of Child Sexual Abuse. Organizing street plays or other creative methods with the aim of making public speak out. We can promote film actors, child artists as brand ambassadors of these campaigns.
  • Strengthening ‘Action Committees’ at grass root level.
  • Crime mapping – The objective is to identify the geographical area or specific spots which are prone to get abused. This can be done effectively among school children separately for boys and girls. This will help us to ensure Police patrolling in those areas.

Rehabilitation – Care and Support

  • Formation of groups among caregivers of child survivors even if it is family or institution to enhance mutual support.
  • Continuous psychological support to the survivors and their families to get rid of the traumatic situations by a government practitioner or health team specially trained on child sexual abuse.
  • Promoting community rehabilitation of these children (Education, employment etc.) through continuous follow-ups by professionally trained persons.
  • Regular monitoring by various government authorities on the effective rehabilitation of child survivors.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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