Bangalore Bangalore International Centre had arranged a thought-provoking Panel Discussion on “Addressing Child Sexual Abuse”, on Saturday, 27th September 2014 at 6.30 PM at its auditorium. The panelists were Dr. K John Vijay Sagar, Associate Professor, Dept. Of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, NIMHANS, Mr. NV Vasudev Sharma, Trustee & Executive Director, Child Rights Trust, Bangalore and Dr. Shaibya Saldanha, Founder, ENFOLD Proactive Health Trust. The event was moderated by Mrs. Sreelakshmi Gururaja who is a former UNICEF Representative.
Dr. ShaibyaSaldanha pointed out about the need for a generational change in attitudes to children, in the way adults approach young people and communicate with them. Children will be able to report sexual abuse only when they feel secure enough to express their thoughts and feelings to trusted adults who surround them. Sexual abuse needs to be combated on many different levels. This involves creating awareness in parents and teachers; following a policy of zero-tolerance to any abuse of children, whether physical, emotional or sexual; and a multi-disciplinary team action to support a child who has been abused and to ensure adequate and time bound punishment to the perpetrator.
Mr. Vasudeva Sharma stressed that Sexual contact with children (below 18 years) in any set up is exploitation. Any exploitation is a crime. Most of such criminal acts occur in exploitative situation, contexts and relationships where the child is under the supervision, control, fear or mercy of the exploiter or his/her associates. Secondly the child may not have access to protective measures/bodies/institutions or have no knowledge of such information.
He gave some instances of the reported cases of Child Sexual Abuse and urged consideration of the fact that violations of rights of children and particularly sexual exploitation of children are largely unidentified and so unreported. This is largely due to indifference; negligence and inaction by legally responsible service providers and protectors at home and in the outside world. These are Omissions and are as bad as crimes.
He reiterated that as a society, if we care for the rights of children and justice for children, we need to be sensitive to identify acts of 'omission' too and report them to the authorities. Due to the absence of simple and commonsense based protection measures to uphold rights of children, as a society and a country we are facing several inequalities and it is becoming very expensive.
Unfortunately we all (the govt., NGOs, private parties, media, academic circles, law enforcement authorities and the judiciary too) wait for a calamity to occur and respond to it. Our biggest inadequacy is not pre-empting possible disasters. Disasters particularly that fail to protect children.
Contemplation, publicity and application
Due to very high voltage publicity, people of India are aware of the basics of the POCSO Act. This has raised both right and unrealistic expectations of the common citizens about both justice and protection measures to care for children. In some places and by some authorities the imaginations have hit the sky and have been branded as ‘mission impossible’!
The question now is about the systems-is it prepared to implement what is promised in the Act. How long we have to wait for it to function and uphold rights of the children? It is very easy to hold Government accountable and corner it about the inadequacies. In reality as the Act has clearly mentioned every one of us – have a role in implementing the Act or build the system brick by brick to see that the new system works and delivers the expected results.
The other panelists spoke on the same vein and suggested the evolution of following guide lines:
- Every school authority should take a firm step towards converting their schools as ‘schools with child rights’
- All education institutions should put efforts in understanding child rights, juvenile justice act, RTE and POCSO and implement the same.
- Conduct regular interaction with parents and children on all issues concerned to them
- Invite ChidLine 1098 and/or SJPU, DCPU team, CWC and KSCPCR members regularly to interact with children, teaching and non teaching staff including governing body members
There was an excellent interactive session which followed the discussion between the audience and the panelists.