Video of children being forcibly sent to reception home emerges

A disturbing video of two petrified, wailing children forcibly separated from their mother by the district Child Welfare Committee (CWC) with the help of the uniformed policemen and sent away to a reception home in the time of COVID-19 has emerged a day after the incident. The mother and the children were facing “official action” after the local media featured the two children selling dry ginger tea to help out their struggling, widowed mother, while their schools remained shut due to the pandemic.

On Tuesday, Rehmat Banu’s 13-year-old third-born girl and her youngest seven-year-old son had caught media attention, while they were selling tea on a small cycle mounted with a tea drum.

Ms. Banu had cropped her girl’s hair to a boy-cut, and dressed her up in a loose fitting full sleeved shirt, and trousers before sending them out with well-prepared home made dry ginger tea. The girl was dressed as a boy to ward off unsolicited male gaze, which made the family’s struggle, particularly poignant.

The two children, entering classes 8 and 2 respectively were helping out their mother during COVID-19 times Ms. Banu’s struggle began years ago, when her husband died in an accident, while she was pregnant with her son.

The media coverage, instead of fetching help for the family, led to the breaking up of the family, with the CWC forcibly moving the children to a reception home, 80 km away at Thoppur in Dharmapuri.

Ms. Banu was summoned to the district Child Welfare Committee office on Wednesday. By then, some people arrived at her home in a vehicle and asked them to get into it. “I said, I have a two-wheeler and I’ll bring my children. They refused. They behaved like my children and I were criminals. All my children did was sell tea to help me out when their school was closed,” says Ms. Banu.

At the CWC, they asked, why did I bring them to the streets. “Where can I leave my children behind, when everyday I read news about child rape by a neighbour, or a grandfather,” asks Ms. Banu. She was given a written sheet that claimed she was willingly sending her children to a home.

“After reading through, I refused to sign, but was forced. They took my children to talk n private. My little son was heard wailing and I knew he was hit. That’s when I ran out of the CWC office and sat on a dharna asking them to let me see my children.” There is a CCTV camera in the CWC office. It should be examined, she says.

The news report was seen by a judge of the Madras High Court and the same was passed to a local judge to take action, an official source said. The children were hence being moved to a home.

Asked why the other option of getting a written undertaking from the mother that she would not send out her children was not explored, considering, even children in stopped child marriages were left behind with their families, the official said, this was only a “temporary arrangement” pending a detailed inquiry.

The action has been slammed as ‘disproportionate” and an “overreach” by activists.

“It is disproportionate to what the situation warranted. What does ‘care and protection of the child’ imply without understanding the context. This smacks of economic and class discrimination,” says Vidya Reddy of Tulir, that works with children of abuse.

Geetha Ramaseshan, High Court advocate says, the authorities had missed the nuance in the struggle of a single woman, trying to take care of her children independently.

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2020 1:37:51 PM |

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