9th July, New Delhi: The news story from Chitrakoot in Bundelkhand — and from numerous other vulnerable pockets in India — clearly highlights how children and poor families are susceptible to abuse and violence and how things are getting from bad to worse for children and families facing health, economic and psychosocial challenges at the same time. This case highlights how children are forced into work, face sexual exploitation and how this has exacerbated during COVID-19 times. There is an immediate need to provide not only economic support to the children and their family members but also psychological care and support for these girls, to overcome the trauma due to worst forms of abuse that they have experienced.
Some of the immediate set of actions Bal Raksha Bharat has been calling for include:
1. All districts in India should revisit their District Needs Assessment as part of district child protection programme to identify and support children who are vulnerable. Ensure that all households with vulnerable children get social protection access and children are receiving care and support. The provisions of direct benefit transfers, MGNREGS and PDS and livelihood support to families with vulnerable children need to be ensured.
2. Activate the watchdog and vigilance mechanism from the community level (e.g., village level child protection committee) to the district level authorities and law enforcement. They need to monitor and take actions on child rights violations.
3. All the contractors and employers in Chitrakoot who have been reported for sexual exploitation of children should be booked under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 and strict action must be taken against them immediately.
4. A fact finding team with child rights practitioners and preferably a Paediatric Psychologist should be visiting and talking to the children, their families and others involved and submit its report quickly and mention proper action points for care and protection for the children. It needs to be ensured that there is no coercion or pressure on this team and that they are truly independent.
There’s a long way to go in terms of supporting the healing of these children.
Note: Bal Raksha Bharat emphasises on an urgent need to ensure shared accountability at all levels – including government, judiciary, civil society, media, communities and individuals to end violence against children.
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