Exploitation of children, physical and sexual abuse in particular, has reached such heights in Pune that the district has hit the nadir as far as child rights is concerned.
An organisation that works for the rescue and rehabilitation of children who are exploited has come out with some shocking data. Within a span of a year, from March 2014 to February 2015, there were 371 cases of child labour and 145 cases of children being forced to beg on the streets. What was most appalling was the fact that there were 174 cases of sexual exploitation of children, the report of non-governmental organisation Dnyana Devi Childline reveals.
The NGO’s report also states that the volunteers came across 31 cases of child marriage, 15 cases of juvenile delinquency, 8 cases of human trafficking, 3 cases of eve-teasing, 114 cases of physical/ sexual abuse, 139 cases of school/institutional abuse and 7 cases of substance addiction. There were 565 calls for help that were received. There were 34 cases of child labour, 122 cases of children being forced to beg on the streets and 26 cases Child of (physical/sexual) abuse that were registered as complaints to the police. (The number of children could be much higher than the cases. Each case may involve several children.)
The cases detected by the NGO and cases reported to the police could be the tip of the iceberg, say child rights experts.
“There cases were the ones we came across. Some cases were reported to police. Several cases were resolved by us. The age of sexually abused children who were rescued ranged from 8 months to 18 years. The abuser was usually the father ( includes thrashing, physical assault etc) or a school staff (teacher, van attendants/drivers, sports coach). They were subjected to physical abuse too,” said Anuradha Sahasrabudhe, the founder-director of Dnyana Devi Childline.
The NGO that completed 14 years in Pune last week works for underprivileged communities and focuses on children. It also runs a 24-hour toll-free, emergency phone line for children in distress. The NGO recently completed a child labour mapping pilot protect in the district that led to rehabilitation of 35 child labourers.
“Massive sexual and physical exploitation and child labour in Karjat shelter home had been exposed. The case went to the home ministry and child rights commission. The case is an eye-opener that points out glaring loopholes in the legal system and are a reason for further aggravating the plight of children in distress,” says Sahasrabudhe.
“The training programmes for child sexual abuse held for parents, teachers, superintendents of shelter homes, caretakers, ashram shala heads also brought out another shocking fact about sexual abuse of children. Going by reports collected from them, about 80 percent of these people too had experienced varying degrees of CSA (child sexual abuse) when they were children or adolescents. The number and the nature of abuse among men was more alarming. Some of them even called to say that revealing it after so many years has had a tremendous healing impact. The scars and the denial they lived with, had affected their personalities, their marital life and their family life,” said Sahasrabudhe.
As per Sahasrabudhe, the biggest eye-opener was “procedural victimisation” of victims of exploitation and he says it needs to be resolved. “Mental health of children needs attention as more and more aggression in children is leading to bullying, juvenile delinquency, sexual abuse of youngsters, suicidal thoughts and depression,” says Sahasrabudhe.
“Physical abuse of children is quite bizarre in nature. Burning the skin, beating, caning, thrashing with belt, removing clothes and beating to hurt private parts etc. are among the reported cases. Mothers/parents lead the list (in physical assault) followed by school/institution staff and employers. Intervention to prevent beggary has revealed an organised mafia at work. There is a growing number of children who are seen begging on the streets but no action is taken by the authorities despite repeated appeals from us,” added Sahasrabudhe.