Mohammad Ibrar | TNN |
NEW DELHI: "When I was young, I used to be a rag picker. I also begged on the streets near the old Delhi railway station. There were many children there who used to do drugs. Staying with them, I too became an addict. In that state I was unaware of my surroundings and what people were doing to me," testified a 16-year old girl, who has since been rehabilitated and now teaches other impoverished children to fight sexual abuse.
She recalled her experiences on a video released by NGO Chetna, and like her, many other similarly placed children have welcomed the five-day child sexual abuse awareness campaign titled 'Jagruk Raho, Chuppi Todo' being currently run by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).The youngsters believe that this would be reason for many street children to celebrate this Diwali.
The commission proposed to sensitise people at several places by way of street plays about children who face sexual abuse. Children once living on the streets and now empowered through NGOs believe, as one girl says, "these plays should be put up on a regular basis for lasting impact on the society".
The child victims have bitter memories. "I used to sell cucumber at railway stations and bus stops as my father was unable to raise us with his meagre income as a daily labourer," said a 17-year-old boy who came to Delhi in 2008. "The situation at the stations was terrible because children would become victims of men who offered them money for sexual favours."
A 24-year-old girl, who now teaches children at Chetna Foundation, remembered how on the road they lived on, people made lewd comments or tried to show them pornographic materials. "They also approached us to be sexually involved with them," she said.
Children have no voice
In such conditions, children are often unable to voice their concerns because they are under severe stress. "Many girls are scared to speak out for fear that their parents will only blame them instead. In fact, many parents themselves are abusers," rued a 22-year old girl who had to fight with their parents to go to various workshops to learn a number of crafts. She now mentors young girls on how to respond to such incidents.
According to Sanjay Gupta, director of Chetna, a comprehensive survey on the number of street children in the city is required. "If the government has data on children living on the streets, they could then find it easier to formulate a plan for them," he said. The victims themselves suggested that the government should sensitise policemen to the issue of child sex abuse — they claimed that children are wary of approaching policemen who almost always rebuff them.