Kerala moves to tackle rampant child abuse
Dramatic rise in cases prompts neighborhood watch committees
Shefeeq lies in the ICU of a hospital in Kattapana
An alarming increase in the number of child abuse cases in Kerala has prompted the state government to set up neighborhood vigilance committees and other measures to protect children.
The government took the step on July 19 after a five-year-old boy, allegedly tortured by his father and stepmother, slipped into coma.
Shefeeq, the victim, was admitted to a hospital in Kattapana with serious head injuries, a broken leg and more than 130 bodily wounds on July 16. He was allegedly beaten by his father and stepmother, who took him to hospital saying he slipped in the bathroom.
Shefeeq’s case is not an isolated one. Days earlier Adithi, a seven-year-old girl, was also allegedly tortured by her father and stepmother in Kozhikode. She died in hospital and her parents are charged with murder.
Yet another girl was allegedly beaten on Saturday, this time by her drunken father in Thiruvananthapuram, the Kerala capital. According to police, the father of the 17-year-old girl broke her right hand after beating her. He was arrested and remanded in custody.
Cases of abuse are increasing, said B Sandya, additional director general of police. “In 2010, there were 596 crimes reported against children. Last year 1,324 cases were reported.”
Most abusers are family members, she says.
“Based on our investigations, we have found that many children are at risk. In 2012-13 alone, 159 children were raped, 10 of them were murdered. Now the state has set up child helplines,” Sandya told ucanews.com.
“This increasing number of child abuses cases is shameful…. Vigilance committees and school officials now have the responsibility of monitoring the neighborhood on the status of children and to notify police if any suspected case of child abuse is found in their vicinity,” M K Muneer, state minister for social security and local self government, told ucanews.com.
He also said the government has constituted a special committee headed by K.M Abraham, the additional chief secretary, to recommend further steps to protect children from abuse.
The main reasons for increasing violence against children in Kerala are alcoholism and family problems, according to Tessy George from Childline in Idukki district.
Most cases are reported from low income families and estate workers who are not fully aware of child rights, she told ucanews.com.
“We have initiated awareness programs on child abuse in the district. Now cases of child abuse have started surfacing as teachers and school authorities counsel students,” she said.
Step-parents are the villains in most cases, she said.
“Most victims not knowing where to turn keep silent and their silence helps the abusers keep everything buried,” said George.
The government has issued directives to school authorities to monitor students, while teachers are encouraged to interact with them and get them to open up on problems at home, said the state secretary, K Ellangovan.
Child abuse cases elsewhere in India are also high. Around 60,000 children have been physically or sexually abused over the past decade, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
In 2011, 33,098 cases of crimes against children were reported nationwide, a 24 percent increase on 2010.
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