Childhood Under Attack

According to a recent study undertaken by NGOs, children are being subjected to various forms of exploitation at two major tourist hotspots- Khajuraho and Ujjain, including child labour, physical violence, sexual exploitation and use of children in pornographic portrayal in photographs and videos among others. In  the temple towns of Khajuraho, girls from Bedia community are brought from neighbouring villages for sexual exploitation of tourists. Child labour is a major problem in Ujjain, one of the oldest and holiest cities in the country. As many as 588 children were found to be working in dangerous industries.

Child psychologist and author David Elkind in his book ‘The Hurried Child’ has said “childhood is the most basic human right of children.” Now a days for many young children, childhood has become a casualty of our troubled times. Times that we live in are dangerous for our children. It sort of feels like the world is falling apart for children. Children worldwide are subjected to multiple forms of abuse on a daily basis. Children are falling victim to various disasters perpetrated by human depravity- child trafficking, female foeticide and infanticide, paedophilia, child labour, deprivation and child sexual abuse, domestic violence and gender parity. For many children, childhood has been lost. Childhood dreams of thousands of children are shattered when they become victims of abuse. They are being attacked, assaulted, abused, humiliated and even killed. It occurs in places where children should be safe- their homes, schools and societies and generally 70% of these abused children never report the matter to anyone.

As per estimate of UNICEF about one billion children live in countries and territories affected by conflict where they are killed, maimed and subjected to untold horrors. There are reports of torture of children for association with a party to conflict, targeted sexual violence against children and deliberate attacks against schools and hospitals. Since the war in Syria broke out in March 2011, the United Nations estimates at least 10,000 children have been killed. Many armed groups are recruiting and using children for logistical support, handling ammunition, manning checkpoints and as combatants.

The children’s agency UNICEF recently released a report “Hidden in plain sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children”, an outcome of a study of demographic and health surveys conducted from 190 countries based on child abuse between 2005 and 2013. The report reveals that 1 in every 10 girls around the world – or about120 million girls, around the world have been raped or sexually abused before the age of 20. Other findings show that 6 out of every 10 children worldwide between the ages of 2 and 14 are subjected to physical punishment by their parents or guardians. 3 in 10 parents feel that physical punishment is necessary to raise children properly.  Around 70 million girls ages 15 to 19 (almost a quarter of the global total) report being victims of some form of physical violence, and almost half of these girls’ think, a husband is sometimes justified in beating his wife.

In India, crimes against the most vulnerable are on the rise, this includes children. We regularly encounter several news stories of brutality against the most tender and defenseless children-school guard raping girls, tutors kicking a kid, principals ruthlessly caning visually-challenged students. A report says 50% children face emotional abuse. Condition is so grave that parents are abusers in 83% cases and 48.4% of girls are wishing they were boys. We must remember that as per 2011 census, 40% of India’s population is under 18 years and 40% of these children need care and protection. They need to be loved and hugged.

Unicef, the UN’s children’s agency, says in a report titled “Ending Child Marriage – Progress and Prospects” that India has the sixth highest prevalence of child marriage in the world with one in every three child bride living in India.  Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children or before their 18th birthday. More than one in three, or some 250 million, got married before age 15. Recently Delhi court observed that child marriage is an evil worse than rape. There are too many girls around the world who crave to do the things little girls do, like playing with dolls, are being denied the freedom to control their bodies and their futures. They wish they could have their childhood back.

The report also discovered that more underage girls are married off than boys. Lack of education, rural backgroung and poor economic condition are some of the key factors of child marriage. Girls who marry before 18 years of age are more likely to live in poverty throughout their lives and are at an increased risk of domestic violence, sexual abuse and marital rape. Childhood marriage effectively ends a girl’s access to education or life skills. India passed a law in 2006 banning child marriages but are rarely reported to local authorities because of society’s acceptance of the practice.

UNICEF  Report also says that 65% school going children reported facing corporal punishment. Corporal punishment in schools of India is a traditional and accepted practice. Teachers physically and emotionally violate their students. In most cases, corporal punishment goes unreported as this kind of violence goes on unseen by anyone except the victim and persecutor.

Latest figures released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reveal chilling revelations. A total of 58,224 crimes against children were registered in 2013, out of which 12363 cases were reported of child rape. All India average of the incidence of crimes committed against children per one lakh child population was 13.2%. Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom has expressed his grief “had Mother Nature been a real parent, she would have been in jail for child abuse and murder.”

Isn’t surprising that 53.22% of children reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse. The younger children (5-12 years of age) have reported higher levels of abuse. 50% abusers are those known to the child or in a position of trust or responsibility. The more than 80% of child sexual abuse is by male perpetrators within the family, home or known person such as uncles, grandfathers, stepfathers. They become afflicted with intense feelings of frustation and insecurity.

According to the UNICEF  study, the perpetrator in the case of 6% of these girls was a relative, 4% a friend or an acquaintance, 3% a stranger and 0.4% said abuser was the father or the stepfather. This report also says that in India about 42% of Indian girls face sexual violence, before they reach their 19th birthday.

According to the UNICEF State of the World’s Children Report, India, Brazil, Mexico, Cambodia and Thailand are the main centers of child sex trafficking in the world. In Thailand, children make up 40% of the prostitutes. Similarly, in Cambodia, one-third of all prostitutes are girls under the age of 18. In India, one lakh minor girls are forced into prostitution every year. A US report on human trafficking states that India is one of the world’s main hubs for child sex trafficking. A girl is abducted every eight minutes in India. Parents are selling off their young daughters for money, sometimes for as little as Rs 250, specially in Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, between 2013 and 2014, at least 67,000 children in India went missing , of whom 45% were minors trafficked into prostitution. Last year in 2013, 1,224 cases were reported of minor girls being bought and sold.

Unconfirmed statistics report that there are more than 4,00,000 street children in India, essentially robbed of their childhood. It is difficult to imagine when children are forced to live on the streets just when the need all the love and protection, they deserve. They have no home or support system, for safety or counseling. Such children are easy target for predators eager to exploit them. They are sexually abused and are never reported. The abuse of these children is more difficult to detect and report. Many girls become mother while still in childhood—really, children themselves.

Nationwide there were 33,328 reported cases of child rape in 2013. Pending trials at the end of year 2013 were 28,171. Nearly 85 per cent cases of child rape continue to be pending in various courts across India. Only 15.3 per cent of all cases relating to sexual offences against children in 2013 saw completion of trials in that year and the conviction rate for such crimes was a low at 31.5 per cent.

Children  years, we spoke e curbe for vionet behavioursafety is the foremost part of a their development. In recent years, awareness has increased against the cases of children assault but a lot has to be done. The rise in the reporting of incidences of crimes against children could mean people are becoming aware and feel empowered. People’s anger and protest against “Nirbhaya” case was the milestone example for such brutal cases. Children are our future and we will have to save them. As Mahatma Gandhi said “If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.”

[author image=”” ]I am Ritvik Khare[/author]

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