New Delhi, April 11: The Centre is searching for “out-of-the-box” — and potentially controversial — ideas to either catch or publicly shame those who abuse children.
The multi-pronged strategy being evolved by the government aims at removing the shroud of secrecy that surrounds child abuse, identified in a study by the women and child development ministry as the single biggest hurdle to fighting the curse.
“When you hear a child howling on being thrashed in the house next door, it is no longer a private matter, but becomes a public concern,” said Shanta Sinha, chairperson of the recently created National Commission for the Protection of Children (NCPC).
“We have identified child abuse at home, in schools and in shelters as three areas that need focused targeting,” a senior official told The Telegraph.
A box in school, in which children can drop anonymous complaints of physical battering at the hands of teachers, is an innovation the ministry is considering.
The box could be monitored by a team of parents and teachers that would present all complaints before a larger parent-teacher body. “Here they can screen complaints that are frivolous, made just to harass teachers. The teachers can present their case here,” the official said.
Involving teachers’ unions is another plan. “Getting the associations to actively oppose corporal punishment will help,” the official added.
The official conceded that curbing domestic violence against children would be more difficult. Initially, the government may introduce sensitisation programmes for its own employees.
But some ideas being considered by the ministry could stir controversy.
The officials are exploring the possibility of assigning NGOs to hold public discussions in residential areas, where people will be urged to speak about instances of child abuse they are aware of.
This idea will need some fine-tuning to prevent neighbours from spying on each other to settle scores.
A legislation being drafted — the Offences against Children Bill — will also make it mandatory for doctors, teachers and social workers interacting with children to report complaints of violence faced at home.
The ministry is also keen to appoint a local committee of citizens and the municipal councillor to supervise shelters. Public review meetings with residents in the neighbourhood are also planned.