Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime. Scars heal but the pain never goes away. And yet child abuse is on the rise. Recent studies show that there has been a 50% rise in the crime against children rate. Increased urbanisation seems to be a contributing factor. We are talking of children akin to those who come to Project Why everyday. Rape of children have become ‘epidemic’ in India’s capital city. Recently a mentally challenged 13 year old was brutally raped and left to die. She battles for her life.
A 8 year old was raped, she escaped death by pretending to be dead. She had seen this happen in a TV serial! One never thought one would give a thumbs up to serial viewing by kids!
Another report states that over 300 000 children across India are drugged, beaten and forced to beg.
The list is endless, each child being one too many, each one making one’s blood go cold.
At Project Why we are aware of this reality.
The first programme Project Why launched was aimed at children begging. The idea was if people gave biscuits instead of coins, the supply-demand equation could be turned on its head. Sadly it did not meet with success. However the plight of beggar children is still one of the most disturbing ones, a deafening Why that remains unanswered.
The case of the mentally challenged child who was abused once again brings to mind Planet Why. The first and most important reason for its existence was to provide safe haven to souls just like this little one. That too remained unachieved.
Project Why has always been, remains and always will be child centric. We are aware that these children are always at risk as they live in harsh conditions. Okhla is a drug haven and children are preferred targets. Teachers keep an extra eye on each child for tell tale signs, ready to intervene when needed.
Child abuse is most often perpetrated within the four walls of home, and thus a well-hidden secret tinged in guilt. Project Why staff is conscious of this and keeps a quiet watch, looking for imperceptible evidence.
Moreover, regular workshops are held for staff and children and ‘good touch’ ‘bad touch’ is an intrinsic part of our curriculum.
We have sadly had some cases. They are far and few between but in the case of a child, one is too many!
A child rights activist rightly said that “Stringent punishment provisions are not just enough. The changing social fabric needs to be studied to take appropriate measures to make systemic changes.” This is long haul. Till then we need to keep our children safe.