‘Our Safety, Our Rights’: Empowering children to speak up against sexual abuse
Bengaluru/New Delhi: 17 August 2018 3:48 pm
Amnesty International India is launching a new campaign ‘Our Safety, Our Rights’, which aims to create awareness amongst children to help them understand and identify sexual abuse. The campaign seeks to empower children to speak up and report sexual abuse without fear.
In collaboration with Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS), People’s Action for Rural Awakening (PARA), Institute of Social Education (ISE), Amnesty International India will engage with children in 400 schools, across four Indian states. Through this campaign, an estimated 50,000 students, parents, teachers and other key stakeholders will be sensitized on the issue of child sexual abuse.
“At a time when there is an alarming increase in reports of child sexual abuse, it is critical to empower children to be aware of the issue and protect themselves. The need of the hour is for schools, in particular, to proactively help prevent child sexual abuse by educating children and enabling a safe environment for them,” said Rajakumari Michaelsamy, Programme Manager of the Human Rights Education programme at Amnesty International India.
The latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, published in 2016, revealed that incidents of child rape have increased by over 82% when compared to 2015. The data showed that over 19,000 cases of child rape were registered across the country under the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO); and, a total of around 36,000 cases of child sexual abuse, including other forms of sexual assault, were recorded under POCSO alone. However, these numbers only represent the tip of the iceberg as these are the cases that were reported to the authorities. Studies have shown that cases of child sexual abuse remain largely unreported.
“It is important to recognize that child sexual abuse is widespread across all sections of society, and hence, we must reach out to as many students as possible. We want to empower children to stand up and break the silence around child sexual abuse,” said Fr. Ignatius Vattigunta, Director of PARA.
The campaign will be taken up by schools in Amnesty International India’s Human Rights Education network in Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and will engage with teachers, parents, communities, institutions and state authorities. It will encourage these key stakeholders to commit to building safe environments for children. An activity module has been prepared which provides guidelines, primarily for schools, on how to create awareness and sensitize children and key stakeholders on the issue.
“Teachers need the adequate knowledge and support to be able to discuss the issue of child sexual abuse with their students and help them recognize the problem. In case of emergency, children should be able to seek help from a trusted adult. We hope that with the help of such trainings we will be able to better protect our students from harm,” said Rekha Jaykumar, teacher at Government ADW Middle School, Tamil Nadu.
The campaign is being launched on 16 August and will culminate on 11 October, International Day of the Girl Child. To promote the campaign, an inaugural event is being conducted by Amnesty International India in collaboration with the People’s Association for Rural Awakening, in Telangana on 16 August. Other similar events are scheduled on 25 August in Chennai, and in September in Bengaluru.
The Human Rights Education programme at Amnesty International India aims to create a rights-respecting society by promoting the values and principles of human rights among children and young people in educational spaces. The goal is to educate and empower children and young people to take action on human rights issues that are relevant and important to their lives and communities.