Keep the fire alive, let’s not move on

According to the latest available figure from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) the number of registered rape cases stands at 19,765 in India. (DH file photo)

“The smallest coffins are the heaviest,” the recent incidents in Kathua reminded us of this saying. The incident reflects the disturbing decadence of humanity our society is going through.

Although the incident is an example of the atrocities inflicted on girls in our country, let’s not get complacent. Let us hold on to the fire in the belly. Let us introspect.

We need to constantly remind ourselves that there are parents who are grappling with an irreversible loss. We need to knock our collective conscience and come together, because tomorrow, this can be us.

According to the latest available figure from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) the number of registered rape cases stands at 19,765 in India. According to the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), the number of sex offences registered has increased by more than 300% over the last five years, with sexual offences accounting to one-third of all crimes against children in India. The young child in Jammu was one of them.

Grief unites people. It is time we work cohesively to bring about changes that matter. Most of the policy provisions and schemes are highly reactive in nature, meaning, they come to effect once the damage is done.

What we really need is a robust preventive mechanism to ensure that the crime does not happen in the first place. Faster judicial processes and zero tolerance to any crime against children should set the tone for that. Her rights to education, to protection, to health and nutrition should be implemented universally with necessary amendments to plug-in the current loopholes in the policies. Child centrality should be at the heart of our decision-making and we should settle for nothing less.

What cuts the deepest here was the nature of the crime and the use of religion to cover it up. The subsequent layers of politics and justifications from a few corners and most importantly the alleged involvement of police personnel makes this incident particularly heinous. Let us not politicise crime against children.

The first step should be at the individual level where the gender attitude at large needs to change. No law, policy or its amendment can bring in this aspect of societal transformation. The need for the right kind of sensitivity and training for teachers, policemen, judges and anyone with a defined social responsibility is important. Also, having a committed task force at every level – school, home, neighborhood and community which shoulders the responsibility in this transformation is necessary to instill a culture of holistic child protection.

Charity begins at home

In this long journey, transformation should begin at home, in school and in communities to ensure a fundamental cultural shift to bring children to the centre stage. Value building and perceptional shifts in attitudes are critical in revolutionising a change of our thought process about those who will shape our future and that of our nation. Children are our most valuable assets and each one of us must do everything in our capacity to ensure that they develop to their full potential.

However, there is a threat associated with the knee-jerk reactions to these incidents. For instance, capital punishment to perpetrators of such atrocities is not a long-term solution.

While the judicial process will take its own course and we are hopeful that the girl and her family would be served the justice they rightly deserve, it is important to note that death penalty might not be the answer in all the cases and has indeed not been a historical deterrent against crime.

Community clashes, protecting the perpetrators, bringing children into the worldly wars of caste, class and power have brought out the worst face of humanity. Nothing can be more worrying than this misuse of power.

Using children as a tool to settle disputes shows how grievously we have failed in ensuring children’s rights and our duties to protect and nurture them. A change in mindsets, a robust system, and a deep sense of accountability would be the key factors to drive a sustained transition in our society. It is time we change ourselves.

As you read this piece, a child in Surat has been raped and killed with 86 injury marks in the body and another eight-year old child raped and strangulated in Uttar Pradesh. The candle shall forever burn silently, if we don’t wake up now. Let us not move on.

(The writer is CEO, Child Rights and You)

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