April 24, 2011


Times of India


Childhood is the time to revel in the innocence of the age, with no adult concerns clouding the mind. But there's a big bad monster in this happy story of childhood. The monster that is CSA (Child Sexual Abuse). "The problem is that many parents are uneasy talking about it and this can damage the child," says socialite Kalyani Chawla.

Statistics show that boys are as vulnerable as girls to abuse. A 2006 study by TULIR, showed that 48 per cent of boys reported having been abused while the abuse amongst the girls surveyed was 39 per cent. Designer Rina Dhaka shares, " Children are soft targets. It's essential to create the right home environment, where you keep a dialogue open and build your child's trust."

However, amidst all this gloom, there may be some cause for cheer. The comprehensive law being tabled in the Rajya Sabha to deal with sexual offences against children, called the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill, 2011, might be soon passed as a legislation." The bill defines clearly what constitutes CSA, and the proposed law aims at protecting children against penetrative sexual assault, sexual harassment, pornography and also provides for the establishment of much-needed special courts for the speedy trial of CSA cases. The bill proposes stiffer punishment for offenders, going up to 10 years of imprisonment.

"Finally, we can look forward to a law that covers the entire range of offending sexual behaviours that constitute CSA," says Anuja Gupta, executive director of RAHI Foundation.

The other good news is that this generation of parents too is getting more aware about the real and immediate threat children face from sexual predators. Wardha Nadiadwala has security cameras installed in the kids' room to ensure they are monitored at all times. She says, "I never leave them alone." Mona Siddiqui made sure that her daughter Hana, now aged four, got lessons early on. Says she, "I've also shown her what kind of hugging and stroking is okay, and what is not." Anchor, model and actor Pooja Bedi began talking about this to her daughter Alia, now 13, when she was six. "I told her that she was to come and tell me if she was touched in places she was not comfortable with. I did the same with my son," she shares.

Actor Raveena Tandon says, "Parents should constantly monitor their child and be alert for any signs which point to abuse, and reassure the child that it is not their fault if something does happen." Parents also need to be 'nosy'. Says actor Renuka Shahane, "I always ask my two sons about how their day went if I haven't been home."

"We need to keep the lines of communication open with our children, trust the child and create a sense of security in the child," advises Bedi.

Tips for parents
- Teach your children about good/safe touch and bad/unsafe touch.
- Build a strong emotional bond with your children.
- Build open channels of communication with your children.
- Know the people your child spends time with.
- Avoid leaving your child unsupervised.
- Keep tabs on your children's activities.

Statistics on Child Sexual Abuse in India
- More than 53 per cent children report facing one or more forms of sexual abuse.
- Almost 22 per cent children faced severe sexual abuse, 6 per cent of the respondents were sexually assaulted.
- Fifty per cent of sexual offenders were known to the victim or were in positions of trust (family member, close relative, friend or neighbour).
- Children in the 5-12 years group faced higher levels of abuse, which go largely unreported.
- Boys are equally at risk as girls.
- The severest sexual abuse occurred in age group of 11-16 years.

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