Child abuse is rampant in India. A helpline alone will not keep them safe | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Child abuse is rampant in India. A helpline alone will not keep them safe

Children under 18 account for 43% of India’s population (447 million) but the sad part is that nearly 40% (178 million) are marginalised thanks to poverty, abuse, exploitation, disease, illiteracy, malnourishment, disability, impairment, conflicts, calamities and neglect.

editorials Updated: Oct 31, 2016 21:39 IST
Children under 18 account for 43% of India’s population (447 million) but the sad part is that nearly 40% (178 million) are marginalised thanks to poverty, abuse, exploitation, disease etc
Children under 18 account for 43% of India’s population (447 million) but the sad part is that nearly 40% (178 million) are marginalised thanks to poverty, abuse, exploitation, disease etc

In two weeks’ time, India will celebrate Children’s Day. As it happens every year, there will be loads of programmes to increase awareness among people towards child rights, care and education. But maybe this year we should not celebrate but stop and take stock of the state of children in India. Children under 18 account for 43% of India’s population (447 million) but the sad part is that nearly 40% (178 million) are marginalised thanks to poverty, abuse, exploitation, disease, illiteracy, malnourishment, disability, impairment, conflicts, calamities and neglect. Despite being a trillion-dollar economy (and myriad challenges), we are stingy when it comes to spending on children: The government spends under 5% of its Union budget for children, which includes education, health, and development. Child protection --- a critical need --- receives just under 1% of the Budget.

Read: Child abuse: The birth of a damaged citizen

The lack of child protection is not the only challenge that children face. In an interview to a national daily, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson Stuti Kacker said there seems to be a conspiracy of silence around child sexual abuse in the country. This is borne by the fact that in two months, the commission’s online complaint system, known as the Posco e-box, has received 68 complaints, of which 11 cases are being investigated. The 2015 National Crime Record Bureau data shows that 19,767 cases of child sexual assault were registered, a jump of 5.3% from the 18,763 cases registered in 2014. Of these, in nearly 95% of the cases the person responsible for such acts was known to the victim.

Read: Poor parenting makes kids afraid of reporting sexual abuse, says study

The online complaint system that NCPCR has instituted is a step forward but the crux of the matter is in making sure that these complaints are acted on. In most cases, the families themselves are not supportive to the child on account of misplaced notions of family honour or that they have not taught the child to understand and then express any violations. While this is the duty of parents, it is also imperative that schools also keep counsellors to address such issues. This fight to protect our children has to be on several fronts from home to school to public places.