Assam police stations set to be child-friendly

Assam police stations set to be child-friendly

 Child-friendly police kits released by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in Guwahati on Thursday. Photo credit: Unicef, Assam.

Police matim neki? (shall I call the police?)

Many parents in Assam takes police's name to scare their toddlers refusing to take food or sleep early. 

This, according to child rights activists, has inflicted a sense of fear among children about the police force.

The Assam Police now wants to bring in a change by turning the police station child-friendly through its Sihsu Mitra programme, which was launched by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal here on Thursday. 

The programme is a joint initiative of the Assam Police, Unicef and UTSAH, an NGO working for children here.

Each police station will have a corner for children and facilities to make the kids feel at ease when they visit them as a victim. A child-friendly kit for police persons, prescribed under the Protection of Childre, from Sexual Offences Act 2012 (Pocso) was also released on the occasion. 

"The POCSO Act 2012, mandates the police to not wear their uniform while recording the statement of children. However, due to paucity of time and other practical constraints, these procedural provisions are often overlooked. The newly launched jackets have a child-friendly colour that would help in altering the mood and behaviour of children when they meet the police. The child welfare police officer or any other police personnel going to meet a child will have to wear this jacket and use the kit," Unicef said in a statement.

A large number of children in the state are vulnerable to exploitation, labour, trafficking, early marriage and sexual abuse. Director-General of Assam Police, Kuladhar Saikia said, “Every child needs a proper atmosphere to develop. Most of the times the police is not aware of the procedures of interacting and dealing with children. We hope Sishu Mitra programme will make a difference." 

Unicef India Country Representative, Dr Yasmin Ali Haque said, “The social and emotional development of children, whether survivors of violence, be it emotional, physical or sexual, or in conflict with the law, gets undermined. The affected children need legal and economic support, along with access to accommodation, education and medical aid to help them rebuild their lives. Having child-friendly police forces will go a long way towards establishing procedures as prescribed by the law. This requires an additional skill set, capacity, and familiarity of child-friendly approaches with an emphasis on understanding child psychology.”   

Executive director of UTSAH, Miguel Queah Das introduced the concept of “Child Friendly Police”, and said, “To make the police child friendly, police station infrastructure needs to be transformed, police officials need to be sensitised, and their wellbeing needs to be considered to ensure they can adequately deal and interact with children.”