iDiya: God’s Own Children

I always thought children are cute and gullible and it was the reason why I loved them, till one day, when I saw that infant ailing alone at Andheri station without enough clothes to beat the cold . It was then that I realized “I love children, but not when they cry- for then someone used to take them away”.

Today, I sit down with this piece of prose, questioning the realities of existence of  “God’s own children” and what happens to them when they cry, not philosophically but rationally, supporting it with a few facts and depiction of the ground reality.

Child Abuse

Over a period of time different jurisdictions all around the world have developed their own perceptions of what constitutes child abuse, some refer to it as an act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, and for some of these eminent organizations only serious physical, emotional  and sexual exploitation characterizes the term.

Flamboyant speeches by political leaders on Child Welfare have been their reason of power in the House of Commons. Statisticians have had their careers build upon surveying it, Professors of Ethics have added countless doctorates to their resumes on this theme and in this never-ending race of making the mare go, novelists and essayists have taken their fair share as well.

Wikipedia cites 116 references and 22 related full-fledged related articles that match “Child Abuse”, Google search result, generate 471,000,000 web-links on the term. But the real question remains where it was, even five decades after coining of the term. What is being done to protect the “Bright future of our Nation” from abuse ?

The Ground Reality

42 percent of the total population of second most populated country is below 18 years of age and is roughly about 20 percent of the world’s children. A study conducted by the UNICEF and Save the Children in 2007 brought out some staggering facts about the grave reality that no political leader or so called “Justice Seekers”, accept. According to the study, two out of every three children are physically abused. Over 53 per cent of children, reported having faced some form of sexual abuse and in most of the cases, the abuse was perpetrated by someone known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility. But these stats are termed null and void, because of its potential to ruin several prominent careers across various industries.

The Indian Penal Code does not spell out the definition of child abuse as a specific offense. The few IPC laws which are laid down, are rarely interpreted to cover the range of child sexual abuse; the law relating to terms “sodomy” or “rape” are too specific and do not apply to acts like fondling, kissing, filming children for pornographic purposes, etc.

Provisions of Juvenile Justice Act are weak enough for defense lawyers to take advantage of legal loopholes to facilitate their client’s escape from punishment. Even for those convicted, the maximum imprisonment is two years.

Real Solution

This problem, had one and only one solution and that was to come forward and do something for it at an individual level. This post is dedicated to such an effort which later on evolved to become– Childline India Foundation.

childlinelogoWhat is CHILDLINE ?

CHILDLINE is India’s first 24-hour, free, emergency phone service for children in need of aid and assistance. A concerned adult or a child, can dial 1098, the toll free number to access their services. They not only respond to the emergency needs of children, but also link them to services for their long-term care and rehabilitation.

How does CHILDLINE work?

CHILDLINE in each city operates through a structured network of street and community youth, non-profit organizations, institutions, and concerned individuals. Each call center has a team of trained youth who man the telephone lines 24 hours a day. Within 60 minutes (at most) of receiving a call the team rushes to the child and attends to the crisis at hand. It may involve going to a police station, the Juvenile Welfare Board or a hospital. There is a regular follow up till the child tides through the crisis, after which options for long term rehabilitation are presented to the child.
How did CHILDLINE start ?

Ms Jeroo Billimoria always found time to interact with children staying on railway stations or at  night shelters. Children started calling her in crisis at her residence at any point of day and night.
The seeds of CHILDLINE were sown by the urgency of such calls and the fact that all of these were late in the night; after all other voluntary services were closed for the day. Each time, Jeroo had to rush out to take these children to hospitals, police stations, shelters, anywhere to get help. The need of the hour was a day-night emergency service that these children could call at any time for help. The service had to be widespread and round the clock, keeping in mind that the street children are a mobile unit and that help might be needed at any time of the day.

Mission: Childline India Foundation

They work for the protection of the rights of all children in general, with special focus is on all children in need of care and protection, especially the more vulnerable sections, which include:

  • Street children and youth living alone on the streets
  • Child laborers working in the un-organised and organized sectors
  • Domestic help, especially girl domestics
  • Children affected by physical / sexual / emotional abuse in family, schools or institutions.
  • Children who need emotional support and guidance
  • Children of commercial sex workers
  • Child victims of the flesh trade
  • Victims of child trafficking
  • Children abandoned by parents or guardians
  • Missing children
  • Run away children
  • Children who are victims of substance abuse
  • Differently-abled children
  • Children in conflict with the law
  • Children in institutions
  • Mentally challenged children
  • HIV/ AIDS infected children
  • Children affected by conflict and disaster
  • Child political refugees
  • Children whose families are in crises

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This is written as a part of  ISB’s iDiya, which is a National Social Venture Competition that aims to stimulate, enable and develop high-impact, self-sustaining social businesses in India. http://www.isb.edu/idiya/

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