|Students participate in the competition in Puducherry on Sunday|
School, college students give expression to thoughts at painting competition
Though the theme, ‘Protective Measures against Child Sexual Abuse,’ was not an easy one to convey through art, the children were able to portray their thoughts and concerns. A child scared for her safety was a recurring theme in many of the paintings, showing how children are already becoming aware of dangers at a young age.
The increasing number of child sexual abuse cases being reported prompted the government to come up with the competition, said R. Santhi, Deputy Director, Directorate of Social Welfare.
“It is distressing to note these cases. The increase might be because more children are aware of the evil and are reporting it. Or, it might also be that the incidence of child sexual abuse has increased. Either way, we felt we need to tackle this,” Ms. Santhi said.
“We wanted to know what the children feel are the best ways to deal with abuse as they are the victims. It would be good if ideas came from them,” she said.
A consolidated report released by Childline showed 13 cases of child sexual abuse in 2013-14, while Child Welfare Committee chairperson Vidyaa Ramkumar said there had been 11 cases of minor girls being lured by men and raped in the past few months. It's not clear to me if these statistics are for the city of Puducherry, or for a wider area. I would assume it's just for the city.
Ms. Ramkumar also said awareness of child sexual abuse among parents and children was dismally low in rural areas, so much so in quite a few cases it was only after six months of pregnancy that parents and the victim realised what had happened.
While many paintings did not shy away from depicting fear and dread, many also had ideas on how to combat child sexual abuse. Sangeerthana S., a student of Amalorpavam Higher Secondary School, depicted a set of Do’s and Don’ts in her painting which included teaching children some form of martial art. “I feel awareness can be brought about by using animation films or cartoons on abuse. Children are fond of cartoons and in this way, the message is conveyed as well,” she said.
P. Deepan, a student of Blessed Mother Teresa School, depicted awareness of ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch.’ He said his grandfather had taught him about it.
The paintings also revealed that children believed that staying at home or indoors increased their chances of being safe, while data worldwide has repeatedly shown that child sexual abuse is often committed by persons known to the child, even within their homes. Most of the paintings also depicted the girl child as being most vulnerable, with almost little awareness that boys are also subject to risk of abuse.
Around 500 students participated in the competition. Welfare Minister P. Rajavelu gave away participation certificates. The entries were judged by a three-member panel and the winners are expected to be announced shortly.
The wining entries would also be used as posters in schools and public places, along with entries received at a slogan writing competition held recently, said Ms. Santhi.
The UTPCPS is also planning to impart awareness among school teachers through workshops, which they hope would be passed on to students.
Good to see India taking this problem seriously and initiating programs, at least in spots. A good national program or two would be better.