TW: Domestic violence.
By Madhuri Shinde
At Prerana, we work with children in need of care and protection, under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) 2015. In our work, we often come across complex situations where we have to carefully navigate our way between assisting a child in distress and also upholding confidentiality.
Anusha (name changed) was admitted to a Children’s Home in 2019 as a missing child. She was soon restored to her family by the Order of the Child Welfare Committee, and we at Prerana were asked to follow-up on the case. Through follow-up visits and interventions with the child, we got to know that the child did not share a healthy relationship with her father.
During the COVID-19 induced lockdown, Anusha’s mother called us, sharing that the father and some relatives had got Anusha engaged to be married. Anusha was not willing to get married but her father was forcing her. The mother requested Prerana to help them out but not to disclose that she had revealed this information. The father of the child would often get physically violent, and the mother was afraid that if he got to know that she was trying to stop the wedding, he would physically abuse her.
We spoke with Anusha, and her mother, and assured them of confidentiality. Prerana reached out to the Child Welfare Committee, and the District Child Protection Unit to arrange a Home Visit. The DCPU visited the child’s home to follow-up but did not mention the information they had received. They educated the family about the legal implications of getting their child married early, and how violation could lead them to be prosecuted.
Following this visit, the family decided to not go ahead with the wedding for the time being. However, while a harmful situation was averted, Anusha and her mother live under the threat of violence each day. Her father is an eminent social figure, and they feel afraid to register a complaint against him or leave the situation.
This case was not easy for the team as they had to ensure that help reached the child but also had to avoid revealing how they knew of the child’s situation. It was a tricky situation to navigate between helping the child but also upholding confidentiality.
There are many like Anusha and her mother, who live in violent situations but are not always in a position to leave the abuser. In this case, while they navigated a violent situation through Prerana’s assistance, they still had to live with the person due to social obligations.
Disclaimer: All names of children have been changed in this article.
This post is a part of Prerana’s campaign under 16 days of Activism. It was first published in Prerana’s online resource centre. To know more about human trafficking and issues of child protection in India, read here.