Readers may be acquainted with the recent violence in Kashmir that followed the alleged rape of a three-year-old. People, not trusting the legal system, were out on the streets calling for justice. In 2018 too, the murder and alleged rape of an eight-year-old in Jammu had triggered demonstrations in the Valley.
“These incidents are shocking people into speaking as opposed to shocking them into silence,” said Essar Batool, a social worker and a gender rights activist, to Scroll.in.
Batool acknowledged that issues of sexual violence gain a further prickly edge when the perpetrators are locals as “It attacks our idea of the ideal society that we presume we are.” Such cases often tend to be hushed up.
This may not sound so strange to those living in close knit societies that depend on communal relations to secure and progress their collective and individual lives.
Journalist and activist working to end Child Sexual Abuse (CSA), Sonal Kellogg, speaks and writes extensively about CSA and how it affects children. Often abused by grandfathers, uncles or cousins (persons of authority in a family), survivors of CSA are unable to speak about their experience for years together. This is not just due to the inherent power imbalance but also because the child may not have been taught about the ‘good touch, bad touch and confusing touch’—that the latter two must be reported to parents, teachers or other trusted and responsible adults. When left unaddressed, CSA can lead to long term trauma in survivors, affecting their healthy development and the choices they make as adults.
It is just as important for adults to understand CSA, be wary and look out for ‘telltale signs’ in children, like changes in behavior, sleeping pattern or academic performance, among others. Children with disabilities are the most vulnerable to CSA and must be protected in a holistic manner. Complaints should never be brushed aside; adults should be aware that boy children are just as vulnerable as girl children.
While prevention is better than cure, the Indian legal system provides for cure through the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (Amended 2013). It defines various kinds of sexual offences, how to report the offence, the procedure to follow a child-friendly legal process, the punishment entailed and the care and protection that a CSA survivor must be accorded. It also enlists the duties of the State—both central and federal—to raise awareness about CSA so that such cases may be prevented in the future.
As Nagaland State, and its legal system, begins to tackle an increasing number of CSA cases, it is essential for schools, Montessori education institutions or healthcare institutions to raise awareness of children on personal safety and adults on child safety. Some private schools in Nagaland already impart education on ‘good, bad, confusing touch,’ a much needed step forward. It must be extended to government schools and the public space such that perpetrators stop basking in impunity, often accorded by family members, which is a driving force behind the increase in Child Sexual Abuse.
No child must ever be abused, or have to grow up silently, if abused, without being able to get justice.
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