Open Letters – Open Letter 1
Open Letters – Open Letter 1
Emotionally, we can say that we live in a world of our children, but the fact is that children live in our world. They live in a world that is controlled and governed by us. Remember that we are responsible for their safety and wellbeing. After all, we have brought them into this world.
Women have special rights and laws to safeguard their interests. Our children, too, have special rights and laws for them. Just like women, children are also to be educated about their rights, gender equality, and abuse prevention – it is the need of the hour. Two important laws for the safety and wellbeing of our children, i.e., the POCSO Act and JJ Act, define a child as any person below the age of 18 years. This age is per the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child (UNCRC – 1989).
There are many reasons for a child not telling about the abuse. Fear is the most common. Children fear the abuser, as the abuser might be threatening to harm them or their loved ones if they tell anyone. Another reason is the fear of being blamed for the abuse or punished or scolded by the parents. Moreover, parents do not report because of the social stigma. The gender stereotype understanding that ‘Boys are supposed to be brave and protect girls’, so how come they can be abused, also discourages the boys from speaking up against the abuse. Because of all this, the abuser goes unpunished and gets prompted to become a repeat offender.
Let us have an evolutionary perspective on our attitude towards children. A baby deer on its own learns to stand and run as soon as it is born. Whereas our children are born half-baked and could not have survived without our support or if the world was full of abusers. Human evolution clearly shows that an overwhelming majority of people care for children. Then how come we have such a large number of child victims? It is because the abusers are repeat offenders. An abuser does not limit themselves to one child. People who are sexually attracted to children are called paedophiles.
Remember, a child abuser is a person who is economically, socially, physically and/or cognitively stronger than the child. In a given situation, any of these superiorities plays a crucial role in the abuse. The good news is that child sexual abuse is very much preventable. It can be curtailed to a great extent as abusers are a few, and child sexual abuse is not a crime because of any cultural practice or belief, poverty, class, or social divide. Moreover, child marriage cases have decreased drastically in the last 70 years. We cannot always be with our children, so the way forward is to empower them against abuse. What can be a better place for children’s empowerment than their schools?
Child sexual abuse in schools often becomes a topic of news and discussion because it is easy to expose abuse in schools. Whereas the fact is that most cases of child sexual abuse occur in the background of families, relatives and neighbourhoods. Our children are to be empowered against the menace of child sexual abuse through communities and schools. While both approaches are necessary, the school-driven approach is more effective as:
A school contains the largest collection of children in a place. It already has a structured and trained workforce to transact information to children in various subjects like life skills, moral science, computer science, social science and biology. Sexual reproduction is being taught to children from class 8 onwards. Besides, many children trust and share their feelings with their teachers more than they do with their parents. Remember, most teachers are also parents, and some are even grandparents. Some teachers even have their children studying in the same school.
It is also essential for us to acknowledge that sometimes our children do commit heinous crimes like rape or murder. However, the age-old saying that ‘children are innocent’ still holds. The reason for not rejecting this proverb is that our children, unlike us, cannot calculate or predict the long-term consequences of an action. Clinically speaking, their behaviour is primarily based on reflexive actions. They slowly and steadily learn about morals, values and ethics as they go through various cognitive moral development stages. We all know how our children behave when puberty starts or when they become adolescents or teenagers. The hormonal changes take our children on a roller coaster ride, and attraction towards the opposite sex in this age group is quite a normal behaviour. Our children’s hormonal and bodily changes, at times, hamper their decision-making capabilities, thus further complicating the matter. Remember, children sometimes commit heinous crimes. However, the age-old saying that ‘children are innocent’ still holds.
Late Sh. Puran Chand
Mentor – Project CACA
Fr. Chairperson Project CACA Committee
Fr. General Secretary – COBSE – Council of Boards of School Education
Fr. Joint Commissioner (Academics) – KVS – Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan