The Delhi gangrape case in 2012 will go down in India’s history for dramatically changing anti-rape laws. The year also witnessed Bollywood star Aamir Khan’s television reality show debut.
The two unlinked events had a unified impact — sudden rise in reporting of child abuse cases. More than doubling of number of calls received by national child helpline — Childline — in 2012.
“At Childline we saw two key triggers for enhanced reporting of the child abuse cases,” said Nishit Kumar, communication head of the government commissioned social organisation.
First was in May 2013 when Satyamev Jayate’s second episode on child abuse was broadcast. “That day, post the show, we received one lakh calls from adults, wanting to speak of sexual abuse during their childhood,” he said. The second was after the public hue and cry over Delhi gangrape.
Such was its impact that child bride Guddi (name changed) mustered courage to inform authorities about the attempt of her parents to marry her at an age of 14. A seventh standard drop-out was being married by her poverty-struck parents against her wish. Timely intervention by local police averted the marriage.
Thousands of kilometers away in Tamil Nadu, a six-year-old visually impaired girl was being sexually abused by her 51-year-old teacher. She confided about her trauma to parents who called child helpline number — 1098. The accused was arrested but it took months for the girl to recover from the mental and physical pain.
For 15-year-old Sunita, resident of Uttar Pradesh, sexual abuse by her father was a regular affair. A chance to watch Aamir Khan on television not only gave her the helpline number but also courage to make the call. And it helped. She was rescued, counseled for months and sent to safe custody in a woman protection home.
These are some 12,000 child abuse cases reported with Childline Foundation in 2012 as against 6,316 reported in 2011 and 4,227 in 2010. The most number of complaints were about physical, emotional and sexual abuses and in about half of the cases family members and relatives were the alleged culprits. Then come teachers and institutional staff.
Child psychologist Shelja Sen wants parents to educate their children when it comes to protecting oneself from abuse. “The kind of attention such topics are getting from media has forced parents and children to talk about it. Gone are the days when children undergoing abuse were hushed by their parents,” she said.
This new found awareness thanks to programmes such as Satyamav Jayate and Gumrah — focusing on teenager crimes — has helped the younger ones fight for their rights.