WHAT IS CHILD ABUSE?
It is often stated that children are the world's most valuable resources and assets, but their rights throughout the world are largely ignored often resulting in to tragic outcomes. This is because of the vulnerability of children. From infancy through childhood they are dependent on adults for safety and ongoing nurturing, and this puts them at risk of maltreatment in many forms.
The United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child the most widely ratified document (including by India) stresses respect and protection of children's rights as a starting point for the full development of every child's potential in an atmosphere of freedom, dignity and justice. Yet, disturbingly, information on and violations of the rights of children are growing. Recognising these most fundamental violations of children's human rights, Article 19 and Article 34 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in fact, deal specifically with child abuse.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) report in 1999 estimated that over 40 million children around the world suffer from abuse and maltreatment.
The report went on to define Child Abuse as "all forms of physical, and/or emotional treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual and potential harm to the child's right to health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power".
Alerting governments, civil society and concerned citizens to play a more active role in the promotion, respect and appreciation of the rights of the child and to contribute to the process for the emergence of a culture of prevention around the issue of child abuse, Women's World Summit Foundation (WWSF) launched in 2000 the World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse. It is commemorated every year on November 19 in synergy with the anniversary of the International Day for the Rights of the Child (November 20).
In India, sustained advocacy and activity is required in order to build societal commitments for child safety and protection. This is particularly because the focus is more on basic survival needs of health, nutrition and shelter with very little attention paid to the abuse of children and its impact.
Furthermore, Child Abuse in all its forms is far more prevalent than Indian society has been willing to admit; traditional factors such as the sanctity of the family, prerogatives of adult care givers, and children viewed as parental property have denied abused children and the offenders from intervention and inspection by society. This is compounded by social, economic and cultural structures allowing for abuse to remain underreported due to silence and denial usually and the discomfort it generates if acknowledged. Subsequently, and also due to the paucity of statistics, there is a lacuna in effectively responding to cases of child abuse.
It should be our mission, individually and collectively, to expand the process of reaching out to as many people to rally a collective stand of zero tolerance for child abuse and violence against children.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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