Why can’t We Stop it?
Seven year old girl child Adithi was denied food and beaten to death by her father and step mother at Calicut. The case was charge sheeted 18th July. Five Year old Shafeek from Kattappana, Kerala was at death bed due to continued torture by his father Shereef and step mother Aleesha for more than a year. At Palakkad, a 14 year old girl has been repeatedly abused by her step mother’s relative and her own father. The news of the same arrived on July 21st. On October 28th, Trivandrum CHILDLINE has intervened and rescued a nine year old child from Nedumangad who has been sexually abused by her step father. In Alakode (Kannur district), the case of a girl who had been sexually abused for the past six years by her parents and 5 others has come to light a few days ago. She was forced into prostitution for money. In Trivandrum a girl’s hand was fractured because of violence from father after drinking, last week. Such story goes on every day.
As per statistics from the State Crime Bureau, this year till March there have been 159 incidents of rape against children, 10 cases of murder, 33 cases of kidnapping and abduction. Other cases against children are 270. Till March this year, about 480 cases of crime against children have been recorded in the State of Kerala.
WHY SO? WHY THE MADNESS AGAINST INNOCENT CHILDREN?
This is the question asked by people everywhere. From our experience of dealing with cases of children, we have the following observations to make.
1. Increasing number of family Breakups: Kerala is named the divorce capital of Asia with highest number of divorces. The ultimate sufferer of a divorce is always the child. The child has to bear up with the mental tensions created by the quarreling of parents, will have to adjust to step parents who will often show discrimination towards children not their own.
2. Working Parents: In vast number of families both parents are working to support the family and children often move from tuition – school – tuition routine without possibility for interaction with the parents. The parents think that providing provisions and satisfying the material needs of children are sufficient. There is ever increasing mental tension among children due to the fact that they are unable to feel the love and care of parents. Such children’s mental health suffer and they become future misfit parents of the society.
3. Deteriorating Mental Health of the Society: Studying the cases of last four months intervened by CHILDLINE, we find that one of the biggest problems faced by children in families is due to deteriorating mental health of parents or siblings. In our State, there are very good hospitals and treatments for all physical illnesses but the all important mental health issues of people are often not treated and the repercussion of the same is much more long lasting and damaging than that of physical sicknesses. Only those with personality disorders and psychological illnesses can unleash such mindless violence towards innocent children.
4. Uncontrolled onslaught of and access to media: There is a generation gap between parents and children especially in the case of usage of technological devices such as mobile, T.V and other media accessories (a digital divide). This leads to unwanted usage of the same without the knowledge of parents especially among the lower middle class and the poorer sections of society. There is bombardment of false information and sexually explicit content. Access to sexually explicit contents among children is much more than in the previous generation. From childhood onward children are exposed to violence and sex in movies, video games etc. Children become unable to distinguish between real world and the virtual world. When they grow up this turns into abnormalities. Previous generation’s abused kids are sure to turn into abusers in the present time. The present children need to be guided well to form sane future parents.
5. Alcoholism and Drug Abuse: Kerala society consumes highest amount liquor every year. Drunkards and Drug addicts cannot behave normally. Domestic violence and victimization of children take place due to increased alcoholism prevalent in the present Kerala Society. Children of alcoholic parents follow the example and there are cases of use of alcohol even among upper primary school children.
6. Laxity in implementation of Laws: India has laws to provide care and protection for children. Many of these laws are based on international standards and the latest law to stop sexual violence against children is also good. Our Problem is the proper implementation of the same, the lack of awareness of the laws among enforcement and implementing agencies and the fact that the systems provided in the laws have not been set up. Because of this the accused often go unpunished and victim does not get immediate justice and justice delayed is justice denied.
How to STOP It?
1. Care for children of litigating parents
As soon as family problems crop up the children will be pulled to their side by each parent and constant fights and tensions will negatively affect the mental health of children. As soon as the divorce litigation process commences there should be an intervention to separate the children from the parents with possibility to interact with both parents separately. Once the process is completed, though not the best situation, the children can be restored to the either father or mother as per court orders with possibility to meet the other parent occasionally. This will protect children from the trauma of constant quarrel and consistent persuasion to join sides and a healthy relation can be maintained with both parents separately.
2. Caring Teachers:
Schools need to take the role of parents considering the present social situation of Kerala. Mere syllabus based education needs to be changed to a life oriented education. The mental, psychological, behavioral issues of children needs to be spotted by the teachers and life skills and mentoring should be provided by teachers to create a healthy student population. For this, a drastic change in curriculum with proper training to teachers is required. The fact that the children are in school for most part of the day should be used by teachers to provide integral education to children. Parent teacher communication and involving parents and letting them know the child’s needs and improvement is important. A file for each child recording his/her progress in all the aspects of life is a must. A new teacher must study the file and know the child before interacting with a particular student.
3. Psychological Health:
Children with behavioral or psychological issues should be assessed by a clinical psychologist in schools and by involving the parents. Proper guidance and medical assistance should be provided to those who require it. When the child grows with the knowledge of his problem and ways to deal with it, he/she can grow into maturity knowing full well how to handle him/her. This will make him/her to adjust to a family life in the future. Lack of knowledge of psychological issues produce family issues and the children too will grow up retarded.
4. Media Education and laws:
Proper Media education and filtered and monitored media access should be provided to children. Most of the movies that children watch in TVs and Movie houses are unfit for them. Children who are over exposed to violence and sex in TV programmes, Video Games, and Cartoons turn out to be delinquent as they will form a conscience which is indifferent to feelings as the impressions in small age retain in the mind without much rational thinking. Very interesting and age appropriate media access should be provided to children. For this proper law making banning age inappropriate materials to children is necessary. New educative and engaging video games can be created using advanced technology. The digital divide can be overcome through education in schools and also training for parents in schools.
5. Preventive Education:
Alcoholism and drug abuse needs to be controlled among children. For this proper awareness classes and monitoring in the school campus is a necessity. Proper observation of children in classes with the help of child rights clubs formed in classes can prevent such issues. Children themselves can monitor and identify children who need help for overcoming such issues.
6. Laws for Children:
Proper implementation of law and some amended and new laws to protect children in Kerala are the need of the hour. Special Juvenile Police Units, a requirement under JJ act have not been established in Kerala. The child Rights Commission is not fully functional in Kerala. The Juvenile Justice act though provides many protections for children there are still some loop holes. Children who are physically abused have very little respite in the JJ Act. Maximum punishment as per section 23 for a physical abuse is six months. Though we can argue that there is IPC, there are still problems. Children are defenseless and vulnerable unlike adults. IPC would consider children below 7 as ‘doli incapax’ (incapable of committing a crime) and a crime against such a child does not require to consider the principle of natural justice ie; ‘hear the other party’ and hence needs to be treated at a much graver level.
In order to reduce the juvenile crime rates it is important to sustain the children in School till they complete the age of 18. As the financial status of families in Kerala is better compared to that of other states, we should ban all child labour up to 18 years. Free and compulsory education of children up to 18 years, banning of all child labour until 18 years and special courts for immediate justice to children are important considerations the state must look into. For this a new law is required.
Let us join hands for a child friendly Kerala where their rights are protected and they can grow in responsible freedom!