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ChildLine fielding calls against abuse

One in three callers seek protection from abuse and sexual violence

April 08, 2020 10:37 pm | Updated April 09, 2020 09:33 am IST - NEW DELHI

CHENNAI, 24/06/2009: Banner reading 'Help us find a missing child' put up by Childline in Chennai on June 24, 2009.
Photo: M. Karunakaran

CHENNAI, 24/06/2009: Banner reading 'Help us find a missing child' put up by Childline in Chennai on June 24, 2009. Photo: M. Karunakaran

One in every three calls made to the emergency helpline for children, ChildLine 1098, days before and during the nation-wide lockdown sought protection from abuse and sexual violence, according to a presentation made on Tuesday in the presence of Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani.

Also read: Govt. helpline receives 92,000 calls on child abuse and violence in 11 days

The Minister has been holding frequent video-conferences. On Wednesday, she held one on safety of women . She has already chaired virtual sessions on protection of children, with anganwadi workers as well as with field workers in her constituency, Amethi.

Between March 20 and March 31, the helpline recorded a total of 4.3 lakh calls — 50% more than the average. Nearly 30% reported instances of abuse and violence, either experienced first hand or on behalf of a child survivor, as lockdown leaves children confined to their homes, rendering them vulnerable to physical and sexual violence, a majority of which take place within homes and families.

Significantly, many who called the helpline also sought information related to availability of food and shelter. These calls were made for missing and runaway children, children stranded due to the lockdown as well as children of unemployed and migrant labourers who found themselves displaced.

Safety measures

The video-conference headed by Ms. Irani on Tuesday was to sensitise Child Welfare Committees, Child Care Institutions and District Child Protection Units, which primarily deal with orphaned, abandoned and missing children. Senior officials of the Ministry were also present during the virtual session held on Zoom as well as streamed live on YouTube.

Also read: Closure of schools due to COVID-19 may lead to online child sexual abuse, warns IJM

UNICEF’s child rights specialist Tanishtha Datta, psychiatrist from NIMHANS Shekhar Sheshadri and ChildLine India Foundation's Deputy Director Harleen Walia fielded questions on safety measures for children residing in shelters and measures for new entrants to these homes and those who may want to return to their families.

Appeal to NGOs

Ms. Irani urged all NGOs to share information about adolescent girls in temporary shelters provided for migrant labourers with District Collectors and Superintendents of Police to ensure safety and health measures, such as provision of sanitary napkins. She said her Ministry would work with the Ministry of Home Affairs to ensure district authorities were sensitised to the needs of adolescent girls who have been displaced due to the lockdown.

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