Society

Project Masoom comes to Madurai

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Just two days ago there was a news report about a nursery school student in Bengaluru sexually assaulted by the school security guard. The guard used to make her sit on his lap, hug her and often treated her with chocolates before misbehaving. In another case, nine-year-old, daughter of a daily wage labourer in Kanyakumari, was abused by her neighbour. After much coaxing, she revealed it all to her parents. Closer home in Madurai, a three-year-old girl was abused by a van driver who threatened to kill her parents if she informed them about the incident.

The rising number of child abuse cases reported in the media is a cause for alarm. And add to it the number of cases not reported due to lack of awareness or the fear of loss of reputation. “Often parents choose not to complain,” says K. Hari Thiagarajan, Chair, Young Indians (YI)-Madurai Chapter, “and also discourage their children from talking about it. This gives an undue advantage to the abusers.”

The YI has launched a nationwide Project Masoom against child sexual abuse to counter this. The Madurai chapter began working on it by campaigning at public places like cinema halls. “Our idea is to create better awareness about the issue and effectively spread the message”, says Hari.

The local chapter proposes to screen slides during the intervals in cinema halls. The campaign material lists ways to protect children from the abusers. Also it enlightens the spectators about The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act 2012, according to which a person who sexually offends a child will face severe punishment. “Given the reach, we have chosen cinema halls as the first option. Gradually we will expand the campaign across the city and once people start talking many more incidents will come to light,” he adds.

The project will also be introduced in schools to educate the parents, teachers and children about the issue. “We have a dedicated team of psychiatrists and counsellors to visit schools and conduct workshops on good touch and bad touch. Also the child will be encouraged to report any misbehaviour,” says Hari.

In many nuclear families where parents work and do not have the time to pick up and drop their children, the job is entrusted with unknown van or auto drivers. “Not many show inclination to understand the children’s world. There is no one to listen to what they say. It is the job of parents to listen to their children and observe their wards’ activities,” says Aruna M. Visvessvar, Senior Principal, Adhyapana School who released the Project Masoom slides at Mani Impala theatre and adds not many show the inclination to understand or listen to children. “It is the duty of every parent to listen to their children and observe their activities, behaviour and mood and also caution them about good and bad things.”

“Child sexual abuse is a pressing problem not only in big cities but also in places like Madurai. Not only girls, boys are also victims. Parents should understand the problem comes not only from outside but also from within the family, with close relatives, friends and neighbours exploiting the kids’ innocence,” she says.

According to Hari, Lakshmi School, Veerapanchan and Adhyapana School have showed interest in the programme and he hopes many more schools will follow suit.

Poornima Venkatesh, Chair – Project Masoom, explained some of the preventive measures that the parents should teach their children when they are away from them and she insisted parents to spend more time with kids for a happy and safe living.

Tidbits:

*One in every six male and one in every four female children under 18 years fall victim to sexual abuse.

*Close relatives are the main culprits in 89 per cent of the cases.

*Parents/family members are unaware of the incident in 70 per cent of the cases.

*Call Childline 1098 to report child sexual abuse.

(From Delhi Psychiatry Journal Vol 15, No.2)

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 4:29:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/project-masoom-comes-to-madurai/article7503352.ece

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