Though too young to understand the nature or import of the brutal attack on a young physiotherapy student in a city bus recently, a 15-year-old girl on Thursday said “death penalty would be a cakewalk for such sinners; we should imprison them for life in isolation with zero privileges”.
She was one of several young boys and girls who spoke at a consultation organised by the Delhi Child Rights Club, a forum of children facilitated by Butterflies, to spread awareness about the issue of increasing sexual violence on girls and women.
In all about 45 children participated in the meet. It was called because such violence affects children as much as the grown up women. India has the dubious distinction of having the world’s largest number of sexually-abused children; with a child below 16 years raped every 155th minute, a child below 10 every 13th hour and one in every 10 children being sexually abused at some point of time.
A 12-year-old boy from Jhamgat had a few words of sane advice for the masses. “No one is born a monster, education starts from family. We are taught we are superior to women and hence might get away with anything. We need to condemn beliefs like these in schools and within our family to begin with,” the little boy said.
The South Delhi gang-rape case has also instilled a sense of fear and concern among the children. Some of them also narrated their own tales of horror. Giving voice to her inner feelings, a young girl said: “I feel afraid going to my parents and telling them I was teased by a group of boys and by a relative as the only reply I get is ‘you must have instigated them somehow…otherwise why would anyone tease you of all people’.”
Butterflies Director Rita Panicker spoke about the need to encourage our children to voice their concerns, unlock their thoughts and suggest a solution to the current situation.
To bring out their inner thoughts and fears, the 45 children present at the event were divided into groups and asked to discuss what kind of violence/ sexual violence do they face in their everyday routine; why do they think this happens and how does it affect them; and what are the possible solutions to stop such heinous acts.
The interaction revealed that fear and lack of trust was a primary reason why girls stepped back. This was also seen as a major cause of inequality and vulnerability within the family and society.
It was also stated that the condoning of violent and aggressive behaviour by parents, peers and school was a cause for concern as perhaps a number of such children need professional help. Similarly, the interaction called for having great sex education in schools to change mindsets.
The children also addressed letters to the President and the Prime Minister among others seeking stringent punishment for rapists, but not death as it would liberate them of the feeling of guilt and pain.