Features Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - 05:30
Sameera Ahmed | The News Minute | September 9, 2014 | 6. 11 pm IST It is a common sight in India – a parent beating up his kid because he scribbled on the walls; a teacher hitting her students’ knuckles with a wooden ruler because they didn’t do their homework. Some people stick by this approach and say it is right, some say it is wrong. But who decides what is right and what is wrong? Has anyone stopped and asked the children what they felt? A project, Agenda1 initiated by Integrated Development Education Association (IDEA), a non-governmental organization based in New Delhi and My Global Family, California USA has begun a study on understanding the drivers for child abuse in the country and an idea of the kind of boundaries that children set for themselves. The aim of the team is to first understand the increasing and pervasive problem of child abuse in India. Many countries have strict rules in place. For instance the US has its own Child Protective Services to oversee cases of child abuse and neglect. For India, however, the issue is more complicated. The idea of being beaten up at home or in school is still very much a grey area – of whether it crosses boundaries or not. Pattie Gonsalves, Research Associate and facilitator at Agency1, said that there is no denying the fact that beating up a child is a form of violence. Speaking to The News Minute she said, “ Any definition of violence includes all forms of physical abuse especially slapping in particular because it happens to be the most common one, are classified as violence”. The group has been aiming to first identify the problem and create a dialogue on issues of gender and violence on socially “uncomfortable” issues. “This need is entrenched within social, economic and cultural structures built on values of patriarchy, gender based discrimination, and a culture that silences abuse and violence against children and adolescents, “ reads their agenda. Even though corporeal punishment has been recently banned in schools, parents beating children have not gotten that much attention. “Parents can be penalized for hitting their children,” she said. The group has been researching to understand what children believe are boundaries that can or cannot be crossed. In a video released on August 22, Agency1 opens one’s eyes, especially those of parents to what runs through a child’s mind when he/she is beaten or slapped. One girl in the video talks about her experiencing slaps , “At that moment when I would get slapped, I used to feel horrible. It didn’t call for a slap. You could sit me down and talk to me,” she says.While some children understand and relate to what defines violence, others think it is justified. “Maybe it was right of my parents to slap me when I did something wrong, and maybe thats why I turned out the way that I did, ” said a child’s voice in the video. The girl raises a point in the video, “even if that child is four..he has that four years of experience on him.. he might know what is right or what is wrong. They should give that child a chance to figure it out himself.”                                                Talking about the difficulties in getting parents to open up , she said “There is a shroud of silence surrounding anything that happens at home. Parents don’t talk about it. For many kids it is taken as granted, that it will not be perceived as a form of violence”. The team hasn't just restrict itself to children and violence. It is trying to first break through and understand what people perceive to be right or wrong before embarking on campaigns to work on them. Pattie said “research is essential and there is no point doing a programme without knowing what they want which is why so much effort has gone into running this survey”  The reasons for starting this endeavour are plenty. The latest, most comprehensive study conducted to understand statistics of child abuse, a 2007 study by Ministry of Women and Child Welfare study, found that every second child in the country has faced some form of sexual abuse. Of these 72 per cent did not report the matter to anyone. During the dialogue in the aftermath of the Delhi rape case of 2012, the UN stated that 7,200 children are raped every year in India, and one in three rape victims is a child, according to the UN report. 

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