An Open Letter To Prime Minister Modi on Child Sexual Abuse
Dear Prime Minister Shri Modi,
Child Molestation and Child Sexual Abuse are rampant in society in general, and in India in particular. The reason it is so rampant in India is because vulnerable children are often left in unguarded situations by busy or ignorant parents, and in India sadly, the practice touching and cuddling of our children by our relatives is laughingly viewed as ‘natural display of affection’. And child molesters, or child predators as they are known, are usually people who know well how children can be easily lured into accompanying them to secluded spots, where they then ravage the poor innocent souls in body and spirit, leaving them – if they are at all left alive – scarred for life.
Like many others, I appreciate your ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ initiative as one holding much promise for the future. It is at least the start of a good thing. And one that should blossom into a vista of possibilities for our betis. We have hardly stopped celebrating how our girl athletes have excelled in the recently concluded Olympic Games, despite the many odds they encounter.
But such initiatives are, in essence, long term measures. Child sexual abuse on the other hand is something that needs immediate attention. As a result of some recent (widely reported) incidents in schools in Bengaluru and Chennai, many schools have begun taken measures such as installing CCTV cameras on the school premises. But these are things that could be worked around by determined criminal elements, and the child would still be vulnerable once he/she is outside the coverage of such cameras. Then there are also other places like our neighbourhoods, the children’s own homes even, in fact just about anywhere, where they are still vulnerable.
Therefore, it is necessary that children themselves learn certain basic rules of safety, such as to totally avoid accompanying strangers, without exception. Also, to strictly disallow anyone – except immediate family – to touch or have any sort of physical contact with them. Some people have expressed reservations about this measure, but we cannot ignore the established fact that people indulging in molesting children are almost always those who are known to the child and his/her family, including relatives like uncles, aunts, elder cousins, the ‘friendly’ neighbour, etc. So drawing a line for who can touch the child, even at home and even in the presence of the child’s own family members, is no unnecessary precaution. After all, it then becomes easier for such people, if they have such designs, to gain the child’s confidence and obedience, and use what would be viewed by the child as normal behaviour, by touching or cuddling them even when members of immediate family are not present. The accompanying screen grab from a tweet on Twitter, of 28th August 2016, is just the latest example of this fact.
We can just not afford to forget that precaution is not just the best, but the only option available to save the child. There is no total cure for an abuse victim once subjected to the brutality and trauma of molestation or rape.
With this in mind I have written a short 10-line poem, The Safety Song, which can be introduced and taught in schools even at the pre-primary level. When it is taught as a song, it makes it fun and easy to learn. Simple but invaluable suggestions are conveyed in this poem, such as never going out with any stranger, and if some outsider tries to take them by force, to react by screaming, yelling, and running away towards wherever other people are, so help can be sought by bringing the matter to their attention.
The poem is free for all to use, to spread far and wide, free of charge, subject to it not being traded in commercially. I would request you to consider it for use at all our schools, even translating in other languages where possible. Here is the media:
I have been in touch with your Ministry of Human Resources Development since October 2014, to urge them to consider introducing this at least as an introductory measure. I have even written to you yourself, through Twitter, Facebook, and Mygov.in, but there has been no response. The only response ever, were a few dozen false promises made by an Additional P.S. to the previous Minister of HRD.
On the other hand, I am glad that when I requested a few very prominent personalities on Twitter, to simply re-tweet the poem for free use by all, it was willingly done by many, the first among them being the ever-willing-for-a-good-cause advertising professional and gentleman, Mr.Suhel Seth. However, some others didn’t respond. I don’t know why.
But maybe they felt they had nothing to gain, being private individuals unconcerned with such matters. But you, as a responsible Prime Minister, will hopefully see the immense benefit from using this poem. And so, for the sake of the safety of our children, I hope you will take notice of this freely available measure and initiate steps for the immediate use of it for overall benefit of society.
From a writer and above all, a concerned parent,