Posts Tagged ‘Sexual Abuse’

In 2007, India let its children down : UNICEF Report

December 12, 2007

New Delhi: Exactly a year ago, the chopped remains of some children of daily wage earners and migrants were recovered from a drain in Nithari, a village on the outskirts of the Indian capital.

For a country with a child population of over 445 million, of whom 126 million are less than five years old, the unearthing of 20 dismembered bodies of missing kids at the fag end of 2006 was a shocking revelation of how India neglects its children. Most of children had been sexually abused and mutilated.

One year later, India continues to be among the worst performers in the world in terms of ensuring that children have the basic right to survive, even though policies and processes for their protection and development are in place.

As per Unicef’s Progress for Children report released in December 2007, an estimated 2.1 million children in India died before their fifth birthday in one year. Of these, one million deaths were of neonates, or less than 29-day-old infants, from preventable causes. Globally, this means a quarter of all neo-natal deaths in the world occurred in India.

Among the surviving infants, 8.3 million infants were low weight babies (less than 2,500 grams), who got a disadvantaged start in life. Nearly 50 per cent of these low weight babies died before their fifth birthday. In fact, about one-third of less-than-five-year-old underweight children in the world are in India.

The country has made significant advances towards eradication of polio but the programme suffered setbacks in 2007 with the virus continuing to circulate and resurface in some states like Bihar.

Quoting from the report, a Unicef advocacy and partnership official, said: “India has the largest number of children in the world who have not been vaccinated.”

The country, however, is doing well with respect to providing safe drinking water, the key factor in ensuring child survival. It is estimated that 84.5 per cent rural and 95 per cent urban populations have sustainable access to safe drinking water.

But poor hygiene leading to diarrhoea and other diseases continues to take its toll on India’s children. In 2004, an estimated 700 million people in India were not using improved sanitation facilities. According to the National Family Health Survey data (2005-06), only 45 per cent of households in the country had access to improved sanitation.

On the education front, the news is mixed. Globally, the number of dropouts has declined significantly – from 115 million in 2002 to 93 million in 2005-06. Considering that six to 10 is the primary school age in India, 84 per cent of children are attending school.

Gender parity in education is a challenge for India. For 100 boys in primary school, there are 96 girls and for 100 boys in secondary school, there are only 80 girls. Nearly all children out of school are engaged in different forms of labour.

It is estimated that while globally 158 million children aged between 5 and 14 work as labourers, India accounts for 18 percent of the world’s burden – approximately 29 million.

Said a Unicef spokesperson: “Much like the public outcry that ensued following the discovery of children’s remains in Nithari, a similar alacrity is needed to ensure that India’s children get their due. To make India fit for children, a social movement is the need of the hour.”

The Nithari case is still in court while the accused – Moninder Singh Pandher and his domestic help Surinder Koli – are in police custody.

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17 million children in India work out of compulsion

November 14, 2007

Children’s Day under the shadow of the rape of childhood

We observe November 14, the birthday of the first Prime Minister of India, Chacha Nehru as Children’s Day. But a look at the condition of children in India makes one question the significance of November 14?  Do we really cherish our future citizens?

THE DEFINITION OF a ‘child’ in the Indian legal and policy framework is someone below 18 years. Our laws are neither child friendly nor child oriented. Here are few figures:

* Less than half of India’s children between the age of six and 14 go to school.
* Only 38 per cent of children below two years are immunized.
* Over 50 per cent children are malnourished.
* One out of every six girls does not live to see her 15th birthday.
* Of 12 million girls born, one million do not see their first birthday.
* Females are victimized far more than males in their childhood.
* 53 per cent of girls in the age group of five to nine years are illiterate.
* There are two million child commercial sex workers between the age of five and 15 years.
* 17 million children in India work out of compulsion, not out of choice.

The child is the future of a nation. But children are a neglected lot in India, which is evident from the distressing statistics of infant mortality, child morbidity, child malnutrition, childhood disability, child abuse, child labour, child prostitution, street children, child beggary, child marriage, juvenile delinquency, drug addiction and illiteracy.

Trafficking in humans, including children, is a violation of the fundamental rights of human beings. International estimates indicate that at least 1.2 million children are trafficked each year, many of them subjected to prostitution, forced into marriage or unpaid labour, or are recruited into armed groups. Child labour is, generally speaking, work undertaken by children that harm them or exploit them in some way (physically, mentally, morally, or by blocking access to education). 40 per cent of India’s population is below 18 years of age. At 400 million, we have the world’s largest child population. At 17 million, we have the ‘distinction’ of being home to world’s largest population of child labourers. These are official figures; activists say that the real number is even larger.

Constitutions of most countries, including India, have provisions forbidding child labour. Its elimination is one of the millennium development goals adopted unanimously by the United Nations.

Children should not have to work for a living. Childhood is when a person needs nurturing, schooling, time to play and explore, and opportunity to grow, both emotionally and physically. When a child is forced to work, it hampers his growth, stunts his psychological and intellectual development, and prevents him from realising his full potential.

Child labour is an unmitigated evil and any society that suffers from it should be grossly ashamed of that fact. Child labour, trafficking are symptoms, not the problem. The problem lies elsewhere and unless the problem itself is addressed, merely addressing the symptoms makes the situation immensely worse for the victim children.

In India, children’s vulnerabilities and exposure to violations of their protection rights remains spread and multiple in nature. There are a wide range of issues that adversely impact on children in India, making them especially vulnerable. With such future citizens in large numbers, the future of our country is bleak.

Rishabh Srivastava, MeriNews.COM, 13 November 2007, Tuesday

55 percent women anaemic, 40 percent kids underweight: NFHSreport

October 11, 2007

More than half the women in India  are anaemic and one in three child is underweight.

‘Anaemia is disturbingly common among adults. 55 percent of women in India are anaemic and 43 percent of kids below the age of three are underweight,’ reveals the final report of the National Family Health Survey – III (NFHS-3), released Thursday.

‘Anaemia among pregnant women during that period has also increased. Even though men are much less likely than women to be anaemic, anaemia levels in men are at around 24 percent,’ the NFHS survey revealed.

The findings showed that malnutrition continues to be a significant health problem for children and adults in India.

‘There has been very marginal change in the percentage of children who are underweight. From 43 percent underweight children in 1998-99 to 40 percent in 2006.’

NFHS-3 also found high prevalence of anaemia – 70 percent in children aged 6-59 months. Anaemia is primarily linked to poor nutrition.

‘Women and men suffer a dual burden of over nutrition and under nutrition. More than one third of women are too thin, while 13 percent are overweight.

‘One-third of men are too thin, and 9 percent are overweight or obese. The states with the largest percentage of overweight women and men are in Punjab, Kerala, and Delhi, especially among the more educated,’ the survey pointed out.

Betis As Bombs – Exploding The Borders Of Caste And Community

April 14, 2007

In every house there is a live bomb that can erupt at any time. Do you know who that is? Daughters are the honour of the family and the community, and to protect that is our Hindu duty and Hindu culture… . Come, and let’s unite to save bombs… I don’t believe in love marriage. We have to marry within our own community. These girls go to college, make friends with some lafanga [loafer], roam with them on their bikes, fall in love, and then run off and get married…We bring them back and convince them that they are ruining their future. They stay with me for a while and then return to their parents.” – Babu Bajrangi, Frontline, Dec 16-29 2006

Bajrangi is the VHP leader who gained notoriety recently for being the unofficial censor for the film Parzania in Ahmedabad. Less known in the fact that he boasts of having ‘rescued’ (kidnapped) no less than 918 women from his Kadwa Patel community who eloped to marry men outside the community – 70% of whom were Muslim or Christian men, and the rest were from other sub-castes.

The Gujarat genocide was marked by the rape of Muslim women and mutilation of their bodies by the Sangh Parivar. Such rapes were celebrated as acts of nationalism. Bajrangi’s acts of ‘rescue’ of Hindu women from marriages with ‘other’ men are also projected as acts of nationalism. The borders of caste and (religious) community need to be policed for infiltration from the enemy with as much vigilant surveillance as the borders of the nation. In fact, the border of each community (and family within it) is the border of nation in microcosm. The difference is that the borders of the family and community are lined with explosive from within. They are forever vulnerable because the sexuality of their own daughters has the potential to explode those boundaries and call into question the very foundation of racial purity on which the cultural nationalism of the Hindu Rashtra rests.

There are many who hold Hindutva’s violent codes to be a kind of Talibanic aberration and appeal to Hindus to distinguish it from the essentially liberal soul of Hinduism. See for instance Sitaram Yechury’s piece written in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition, titled Pseudo-Hinduism Exposed: The Reality of the Saffron Brigade’s Myths. This piece explicitly contrasts liberal Hinduism to the impostor – ‘pseudo-Hinduism’ or Hindutva. Typically, this piece attributes India’s democracy to the choice in favour of secular democracy made by its Hindu majority and contrasts it with intolerant Islamic theocracies (implying that those theocracies are attributable to the choice made by intolerant Islamic majority?). As an extension of this thesis, Yechury observes, “The rabid intolerance of other religions (in Islamic theocracies) is matched by ruthlessly suppressive laws that deny elementary democratic rights especially to women.” The implication is that India in contrast assures those democratic rights to its women.

But it would be a mistake to imagine that this aspect of Hindutva – Bajrangi’s brand of violent policing of women, or the Bajrang Dal’s threat issued a few years back, that Hindu women who married Muslims would have their noses cut off, or its periodic threats against women wearing jeans or couples celebrating Valentine’s Day – marks a rupture with a gentler and more benign Hinduism. Communal fascism of the Hindutva variety draws sustenance from the widely prevailing anxiety of Hindu caste communities about breaching of patriarchal codes, caste and community boundaries – and the resultant threat to property relations and status. These anxieties are not the unique preserve of ‘backward’ rural communities; Prem Chowdhry shows us how modern phenomena like granting of legal inheritance rights to women and the social consequences of urbanisation in Haryana intensify these anxieties and the resultant violence against those who disobey marriage codes. (‘Enforcing Cultural Codes: Gender and Violence in Northern India’, A Question of Silence: The Sexual Economies of Modern India, ed. Mary John and Janaki Nair, 1998)

Uma Chakravarti has remarked how brahminical patriarchy has for long regarded women of upper castes as ‘gateways’ or points of breach into the caste system – requiring careful surveillance to preserve upper caste purity – and this “obsessive concern with policing female sexuality” has become a stubborn feature across caste groups (Uma Chakravarti, Gendering Caste: Through a Feminist Lens, 2003, pp 35-36). She notes that there is “widespread ‘consent’, in the sense that Gramsci outlines it, within civil society to regard choice, particularly when articulated by a woman as disruptive of the whole social order…and ‘with free choice of partners involving women, the whole social fabric seems to suffer a terrible tear’.” (Chakravarti, pp152-53) It is the existence of such consent for obsessive control of women’s sexual choice, such widespread fear of a ‘terrible’ tear inflicted by women’s free choice, that sustains and ‘naturalises’ Bajrangi’s mass abduction spree as a patriotic act. Bajrangi’s mass abductions are able to masquerade as a grotesque version of a more common ideology and practice of ‘guardianship’ (brother as guardian of sister’s honour) celebrated by popular cinema and serials and normalised by the festival of Raksha Bandhan. Adult women are legally beyond the scope and control of ‘guardianship’. Yet the ideology of guardianship (closely tied up with control of female sexuality, reproduction and labour) and its twin, the ideology that makes women the repositories of izzat or honour of the community/nation is perpetuated. The ‘honour’ killings decreed by caste panchayats for lovers who transgress codes of caste and community and Bajrangi’s abductions thus breathe the same ideological oxygen.

This leads us to ask: can Left movements and women’s movements challenge communal fascist violence against women without also challenging the ideology of guardianship and izzat? In the case of agrarian labour communities, usually dalit or extremely backward, there is tremendous resistance to the sexual exploitation of women by upper caste men, and Chakravarti notes that the “issue of izzat is central to peasant movements in Bihar under various Marxist-Leninist formations and in dalit movements” (Chakravarti, p 169). While resistance to sexual violence will continue to be a powerful mobilisational issue, these movements need to be alert to the dangers of the connotations and implications of izzat. These movements must guard against bearing the baggage of resentment against the upper caste taunts that lower caste women have no izzat to begin with or that lower caste men are ‘unable’ to ‘protect’ ‘their’ women. In other words, such radical political mobilisation must assert the autonomy and freedom of women who are dalit agrarian labourers – and must guard against framing the struggle in terms of asserting the ‘ability’ of lower caste men to ‘protect’ the ‘izzat’ of women and of their community. This means asserting the sexual freedom and autonomy of women within the community as much as against the oppressor without.

We need to recognise the links between Babu Bajrangi’s assaults on women’s freedom, and those structures and practices that we tend to take as normative, natural and acceptable – such as the practice of arranging marriages within one’s caste and community, disapproving of independent relationships forged by one’s sisters or daughters, holding oneself to be the ‘guardian’ of one’s sisters or daughters, and so on. Often, as long as overt coercion or violence is not involved, we tend to view anxiety about controlling sexual behaviour of daughters, as quite natural. Women’s movements and Left movements must confront and challenge the ideology of guardianship and izzat even where overt coercion is not flaunted – as part of their struggle against the structures of class and caste, and against communal fascism.

By Kavita Krishnan, 12 April, 2007, Countercurrents.org

Two out of every three children in India are physically abused

April 10, 2007

Two out of every three children in India are physically abused, according to a landmark government study.

Commissioned by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the study says 53% of the surveyed children reported one or more forms of sexual abuse.

This is the first time the government has done such an exhaustive survey on the controversial issue of child abuse. Abuse of children, particularly sexual abuse, is rarely admitted in India and activists have welcomed the study. Releasing the report at a press conference in the capital, Delhi, Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury said: “In India there’s a tradition of denying child abuse. It doesn’t happen here is what we normally say.

“But by remaining silent, we have aided and abetted the abuse of children.”

Thousands quizzed

Describing the findings of the study as “disturbing”, Ms Chowdhury called for an end to the “conspiracy of silence”.

The issue of child abuse has been raised in the past by non-governmental organisations, but this is the first time an attempt has been made by the government to document the scale of the problem.

The study took two years to complete, and covered 13 states where 12,247 children (between five and 12) and 2,324 young adults (over the age of 12) were quizzed.

Dr Loveleen Kacker, the official in charge of child welfare in the ministry, compiled the report.

She said the study had revealed that contrary to the general belief that only girls were abused, boys were equally at risk, if not more.

She said a substantial number of the abusers were “persons in trust and care-givers” who included parents, relatives and school teachers.

Dr Kacker said a disturbing finding of the study had been that 70% had not reported the abuse to anyone.

Besides surveying physical and sexual abuse, the study also collected statistics on emotional abuse and neglect of girls.

The study called for efforts to make society aware of the rights of children and officials say the data will help them formulate better policies to protect children.

‘One too many’

The report has been welcomed by child rights activists who say such a study was sorely needed in India.

Roland Angerer, country director of Plan International, told BBC News it was “very important that the government has finally taken up the issue”.

“It doesn’t matter what statistics say. Whether the percentage of abused children is 75 or whether it is 58 is unimportant. Each child that is abused is one too many,” he said.

“It’s important that parents and adults must learn that children are not property, that they have rights too.”

In India, parents are often reluctant to admit child abuse and sexual abuse of children involving family members is almost always hushed up.

Perhaps that is why – as the study shows – more than 50% of the young adults surveyed wanted the matter of abuse to remain within the family.

Only 17% of the abused young adults wanted harsh punishment for the abusers.

Officials and activists say the biggest challenge for the authorities and society is to ensure that children are encouraged to report abuse.

India is home to almost 19% of the world’s children. More than one-third of the country’s population – 440m people – is made up of children below 18 years of age.

According to one study, at least 40% of these children are in need of care and protection.

The country has millions of child workers.

Many are employed in hazardous industries and also in homes and small restaurants, which makes them vulnerable to violence and exploitation.

Last year the government banned children under 14 from being employed in homes and at restaurants to avoid their exploitation and abuse, but millions of children continue to work in these sectors.

India is a signatory to various international laws on the protection of children, but implementation of these laws is often lax.

BBC NEWS , Geeta Pandey, 9 April 2007,

45 % of the women feels unsafe in Delhi : Study

February 12, 2006

NEW DELHI: With crime against women in the national capital increasing, around 45 percent of women in the city do not feel they are safe at their workplace. The findings are made in the first Human Development Report of Delhi. The report was released on Thursday. According to it, 45 percent of the women felt that they were not at all safe at work place while 43 percent felt that they were somewhat secure at the workplace. Not surprisingly, Delhi leads the four metro cities for crime against women. The report said for every 10,000 people, 14 cases of crime against women were reported while Chennai stood at seven and Mumbai and Kolkata at five.

“Delhi has emerged as quite an unsafe city for women,” said Sheila Dikshit, chief minister of Delhi. Public safety had emerged as one of the grave concerns after reading the report, she said.

The chief minister said the report indicated that only six percent of the women felt safe at workplace despite Delhi being the national capital. Around 19 percent people interviewed felt the city was unsafe, she said.

“One-third of the people in the survey have confessed personal safety in the city was poor,” said Dikshit. Opinion of half of the people that the city was unsafe for women is another concern, she added.

However, the chief minister said since Delhi Police was not under her control there was little she could do.

“Since many different agencies are involved in the city, there is duplicity of work which has caused lack of accountability,” said Dikshit.

According to the study, only 24 percent people felt Delhi Police was doing a good job in terms public safety.