Has the lockdown in the last months exacerbated the already alarming problem of CSA that India has been facing? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.
Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) has been a growing problem in India, and the onset of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown has only made the problem worse.
The novel coronavirus has hit many lives, rather every life, but some lives are more significant than the others. An increase in the cases of CSA can be further broken down into the environment that a child finds themselves in. For a child from a relatively underprivileged background, in many cases, parents tend to displace their frustrations onto their children. Inability to find work and poor mental health of the parents can often lead to them abusing their children at home, which can be mental, physical or sexual.
While some of us are sitting in the comfort of our couches, there are others who don’t have anywhere to go to. While we are happily surfing the internet, watching our favorite TV series and eating healthy in our haven, some people are dealing with a toxic environment in their own homes.
The world is going through a grim period of suffering. But we need to acknowledge a darker part of the crisis, which is the unnoticed story of children who have become the worst victims.
A report released by the India Child Protection Fund in April 2020 reveals the severity of the problem at hand. A few days after the lockdown began, there was a 95% rise in the demand for child pornographic content in India on adult websites.
A recent report released by the Child-line India Helpline further exemplifies the increased vulnerability of children to sexual abuse in the last two months. The helpline received more than 92,000 SOS calls asking for protection from abuse, just 11 days into the lockdown.
To meet the increased demand for new material, more children are being sexually abused on camera. Michael Oghia was on a Zoom video conference with about 20 climate activists last week when someone hijacked the presenter’s screen to show a video of explicit pornography involving an infant.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, Telegram, TamTam and Mega said that they have zero tolerance for child sexual exploitation and that finding, removing and reporting such content to law enforcement remains a top priority. People are generally spending far more time at home and online, giving them more time to look for the content of all sorts, including child sexual exploitation material.
A considerable disadvantage of the national lockdown in lieu of rising cases of CSA has been that children who had been abused could seek help at school, with their teachers playing the role of a guardian. Since the stay-at-home orders due to the corona virus outbreak, children who are sexually assaulted by someone in their own homes are in more danger. The victim and the predator are locked under one roof, and the victim cannot go out due to the pandemic. But due to the shutdown of schools, they have nowhere to go and complain and are living in hell.
There has been a decrease in the number of calls on the CSA helpline number. The victims are scared to use the phone in front of the predators. During times of closed businesses and looming unemployment, violence against children escalates. The lockdown has affected the economy. Stressed adults take their frustration out on the unaware and helpless generation of society. The root cause is stress due to the crashing economy which has increased anxiety due to an unknown future. But who is to be held culpable?
CSA is not inevitable; we can take precautions and prevent it. The best thing a child can do is communicate with a trustworthy adult about the feelings of discomfort. They can decide the boundaries to be set with the abuser. The adults should be open to the children and allow them to communicate with them whenever they want openly.
Now, more than ever, children are spending time on the internet. Adults need to keep a check on age-appropriate conversations. They should report unsolicited and sexual content. Regular cleaning of caches and history can also help if someone fears that a person is stalking them.
Children can create code-words with someone they trust and use them when they receive signs of danger. They should know all the routes in case of an emergency so that they can go to a nearby friend’s or a relative’s place. They can call the child helpline number too — 1098.
But the government has to step up and take proactive measures to counter rising CSA cases during the national lockdown. With the restrictions concerning the movement of people and services slowly reducing, it’s high time that we also develop a mechanism which designates child care workers to take real-time action when needed.
Amoli Trust hopes to deal with the epidemic of CSA during this pandemic. We hope to stay safe from the virus inside as well as outside.
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 email@example.com. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.