Saturday, June 27, 2009

Forum to end scourge of child abuse set up

Prachi Rege/DNA

Mumbai: Child sexual abuse (CSA) is probably the one social evil that is overlooked the most in India, a crime that people consistently turn a blind eye to, pretending it does not exist. To help spread awareness about CSA and find ways to curb it, the Forum Against Child Sexual Exploitation (Facse) held its first networking meeting in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working on the issue were present at the meeting, as were members of the special cell for women and children set up by the Maharashtra Police.

"These meetings are going to serve as a platform to create a network of people who are tackling the serious issue of CSA," said Ketki Doshi of Facse. "One doesn't have to belong to a social organisation. You just need to be willing to offer support to the cause. We will meet once every two months and discuss the kind of cases that we have handled and how we solved them.

"Following this practice will help us to create new awareness modules and address this problem which is rampant in our society but is fairly ignored," she said. The discussion began after the screening of two films showcasing the problem of child sexual abuse, made by Sahil, an NGO from Pakistan. Yeh Hamara Kal Hai is a 12-minute film about young Mintoo living in the shanties of Islamabad. His desire to play a video game makes him fall prey to an abuser.

The Other Side of Childhood is a 20-minute animated film which shows the evil trade of child sexual workers taking place at city hotels in Pakistan. It also portrays the evil cycle of the abused turning into abusers themselves.

"Both films depicted the scenario that children, especially from vulnerable backgrounds, fall into and succumb to child abusers," said Roshni Nair, member of Facse and assistant professor at the Centre for Criminology and Justice, School of Social Work.

"In our society we need to first acknowledge the existence of child abuse and then move on to make children and their parents understand this problem," Nair said. "Facse organises training sessions in which we show them how to identify child abusers and bring them to the fore."

The special cell members present at the meeting stressed the need for legislation to book child abusers and protect the victims. According to them, many cases go unreported as the families fear social stigma, as a result of which the abusers are free to continue with their depredations.

Pradeep Bhavnur, a lawyer at the Bombay High Court, said, "Two years ago a Delhi-based NGO had filed a petition with the Supreme Court to define child sexual abuse. But due to the absence of appropriate legislation in this regard, a definition could not be framed."

The network decided that all social groups would get together, share case studies and solutions, and provide training modules that will help people to tackle this unspoken, unspeakable crime.

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