Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence
By Azra Qaisar; Inputs by Mugdha Dandekar
If one takes a look at the recent reports on domestic and sexual violence, there seems to have been an exponential increase in the incidents amid COVID-19.
Unfortunately, the conditions that are required to prevent the virus from spreading like staying at home, social distancing, are also conditions that make people vulnerable as they may be forced to stay with their abusers.
This is Manisha’s story, whose daughter was sexually assaulted amid the COVID-19 induced lockdown by a man from the brothel she lived in.
Four-year-old Shalini (name changed), lived with her mother, Manisha (name changed) in one of the brothels of Kamathipura. The child would regularly attend one of Prerana’s Night Care Centers in the area but during the lockdown, she had been staying with her mother. One day amid the lockdown, Manisha needed to go out for some errands. She could not take her daughter along so she left her daughter with the brothel keeper. Upon returning, she discovered that Shalini had been sexually assaulted by the aadmi (fancy man) of one of the women in the brothel.
Manisha was deeply shaken but she resolved to take action. However, she was facing pressure from the community to not file the case. She reached out to Prerana, who assisted her through the process. An FIR was filed against the perpetrator, and after due process, he was arrested. Subsequently, a complaint was also filed against the gharwaali (brothel keeper) and the partner of the perpetrator.
While Prerana’s team helped the mother take legal recourse, they also spoke to her about the need to focus on the well-being and safety of the child. They helped Manisha understand that the child needed to be presented before a Child Welfare Committee. They assisted her through the presentation, and eventually, Shalini was placed in a child care institution for her care and protection. Meanwhile, a partner organization has been working with the mother for legal assistance.
In this case, Manisha was in a difficult situation where filing a complaint could have had dire consequences for her. She had registered a complaint against three members from the brothel, all people in positions of power in the community. Her resolve to do what was right for the daughter, despite potential backlash is commendable. Fighting against violence is very challenging but when mothers join the fight, the path becomes easier to navigate.
Disclaimer: All names of women and 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.