Pledging Solidarity to Prevent Child Abuse
The conference encouraged involvement from members beyond
the NGOs and other social welfare organizations to create awareness on the
prevalence of child abuse and steps to check the crime perpetrated against
young lives. Active participation included professionals from various
disciplines, people from different states in India
and sponsors from organizations that are committed to the abolition of any form
of child abuse. The numbers present proved the awareness; hence the evident
focus was the call for action.
Dr. Shantha Sinha, Chairperson, National Commission for
Protection of Child Rights, Delhi,
highlighted in her speech as to how children are vulnerable to abuse by people
closely trusted by them such as fathers, teachers, wardens and neighbors. But
the little ones are overpowered and forced to succumb to the abusive adults thrusting
victims to silence. One of the three brutal examples of child abuse cited by
Dr. Sinha, was where one child victim whose uterus had to be removed because of
the violence perpetrated on her, demanded justice but was abandoned by the
legal system because the police wouldn't even file an FIR. Another similar
example exposed the state of irresponsibility of authorities and the loopholes in the
existing system of law and order that allowed the criminal to go scot-free
after severely abusing a child.
Limitations in the Legal System
Sexual assault does not necessarily involve physical contact—
non-contact and invasive assaults should also be categorized as sexual assault in
the legal system. As of now, the legal system addresses sexual molestation only
to female victims and not boys. Plus, investigative measures often re-victimize
the abused child.
The conference emphasized on the need for pre-investigative
procedure to collect evidence, and conduct an inquiry where the child will be
comfortable through the procedure. The Juvenile Justice system should integrate
'children in contact with law' where children should be given a fair hearing as
witnesses. Investigation by police should protect children from hostile
processes and secondary victimization. And finally the examination procedure must
not be harmful to the child.
Since children are in no position to express abuse inflicted
on them, the repercussions have long term devastating impact such as HIV/AIDS,
depression, suicide, behavioral disorder and so on. "Children do not report
abuse", accounted Dr. Sinha, and hence insisted on creating a safe and
supportive environment to be implemented in households, schools, hostels and
everywhere children spend time.
The first amendment suggested was at the Policy Level, where
there should be universal and secondary education for children, followed by
zero tolerance to sexual abuse. This plainly means the need for legislative
reform. Secondly at the Service Level, in other words at the Capacity Level
where people should be in a position to protect and be sensitive to children. For this, adequate training on handling child
abuse must be a mandate to lawyers, police, teachers, and people from other
disciplines. Thirdly, family must be supportive. Discrimination of girl child,
child marriage, sending children far away to work as domestic help has to be discouraged
and severely dealt with, if reported. Finally and most importantly children
should be empowered to protect themselves and others. The role of media will definitely induce awareness
on child abuse but media should assume responsibility to treat the issue with
Support and Sponsorship
The conference was felicitated
by dignitaries, especially Honorable Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Chairman
National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi, Thiru. V.R.
Thanikachalam, Chancellor Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai, Ms. Mary Yapur,
Training Officer, International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and
Neglect, USA, Dr. Satish Kumar, State Representative, Chennai and Kerala,
UNICEF, Dr. Sarojini Varadappan, President, ICCW, Tamil Nadu and Dr. S.
Rangaswami, Vice Chancellor, Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai. The
conference was organized by Indian Council for Welfare, Tamil Nadu and Sri Ramachandra University, Porur, Chennai. The
program was supported by International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse
and Neglect (ISPCAN) and OAK Foundation in partnership with PLAN India and Save the Children (Bal
Raksha). The Resource Book containing details on measures that need to be implemented
and the current state of affairs on Child Abuse was presented on this occasion.
As Ms. Mary Yapur put it, the vision of Mr. Henry Camp, the founder of
International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, was to implement
a multi-disciplinary action, because every individual has a very important role
to play in addressing the issue of child abuse.