Children in rural areas face more physical abuse at home than those in cities and towns, stated an opinion poll.
The ‘Play It Safe’ opinion poll conducted by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), NINEISMINE and Mumbai Smiles to identify, record and track the violence children experience, states that three out of five students in rural areas were slapped, forced to stand outside their homes, locked or had their ears pulled as punishment. Two in five urban children faced these punishments.
While 42.68% of the urban children, who participated in poll, said they were slapped, 57.32% the of rural children faced the same punishment. About 34.29% of the urban children said they had ears pulled by elders, In comparison, 65.71% of the rural children were subjected to the same. While 45% of the urban children said they were locked in a room, 55% of the urban children were given the same punishment.
The opinion poll also revealed that children experienced more violence in joint families as opposed to the nuclear ones or those managed by single parents. As per the poll, children’s repeated exposure to violence in their homes is a cause of distress – 25.36% of the children have been slapped, 17.15% have been beaten, 8.35% have been hit with objects, 8.23% have had their ears pulled, 5.88% children have been kicked and 1.56% have been inflicted with burns. Reprimand for boys are more severe, stated the study.
Around 57.64% children from joint families said they face physical abuse, while the rest belonged to nuclear families, 28.99% lived in a nuclear family, more than 6% of the children have single-parent households and 1.94% children did not have a family. The study failed to provide ratio between the joint families, nuclear families or those headed by single parents.
“We usually believe that joint families are safer for children, but they have to bear the brunt of parental pressure,” said Sagar Mundada, psychiatrist and member of Maharashtra association of resident doctors (MARD). “Since there are more children in such families, there are more comparisons and expectations.”
The study also pointed out that teachers are the biggest perpetrators of violence in schools. Interestingly, even classmates and other children were listed as culprits. “Often children face violence and even sexual abuse from their peers. Children who are on the verge of puberty might abuse those younger to them,” said Mundada.
Violence in the form of slapping, pulling ears, making children stand outside the classroom, is prevalent in urban areas compared to rural, added the poll. Of the, the victims in such cases, were mostly from urban areas.
Despite the abuse, the cases reported are few, found the poll. While 34.66% of the children did inform other family members, friends or teachers about the abuse, 38.35% kept mum and 26.99% of them chose not to answer the question. Many children were asked to ignore the abuse (11.15%) or to keep it a secret (3.85%) and only in 3.51% cases, the police were informed
The poll recommends developing child sensitive mechanisms to reporting such cases encourage more children from speaking out.
“Policies to address socio-economic inequities, gender discrimination, and other forms of inequality are the need of the hour,” said Harish Shetty, senior psychiatrist, Hiranandani Foundation Hospital, Powai.