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Violence Against Children Rampant in India's Kerala

The southwestern Indian state of Kerala is smarting from a yet another case of child abuse among a spate of violent child abuse cases registered in the state, where the victims are tortured physically by none other than parents themselves.

Five-year-old Shafiq is currently fighting for his life with extensive damage to his brain and lungs, broken limbs and first-degree burns in a hospital in Kerala. Doctors are predicting only a 25 percent chance of survival for the boy. He was tortured by his biological father Sheriff and his father's new wife, who were arrested later by police after authorities were informed of the abuse.

Shafiq is from Kumily, an agrarian region in the Idukki district of Kerala. The Hindu newspaper reports that Shafiq’s is not an isolated case and records from the ChildLine, India’s only and most widespread round-the-clock free emergency telephone helpline and outreach service for children in distress, shows that the child abuse is rampant in the region and abuses were regularly reported among families in the estate areas.

By Thorsten Vieth from Bangalore, India [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Thorsten Vieth from Bangalore, India [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Earlier, seven-year-old Aditi was brutally tortured and starved to death by her biological father and his wife in Kerala. The case made waves around Kerala.

Five years ago, the case of Aromal, a young child who was chained in the courtyard of his home and forced to share food with a dog, shocked the society still lingers in the minds of people as to the extent of the cruelty parents are capable of to their own children.

And there have been several sexual exploitation cases by fathers themselves that shook Kerala and India recently.

In response to a rash of abuse and sexual abuse cases against children, the state's Minister for Social Welfare M.K Muneer has formed ”children watch committees” that are supposed to play a more stringent role in notifying and reporting such incidents directly to appropriate authorities. As an immediate step, the government of Kerala has also directed all schools to report any such incidents of torture at any place, for which, counseling measures would be initiated. Also, hospitals have been asked to examine children in detail if they suspected ill-treatment and torture.

Many in India are unaware of children’s rights, and many biological parents seem to have the impression they have complete ownership rights over their own children. Many Indians were hence shocked when Norway convicted parents of Indian origin of child abuse last year for burning and hitting their seven-year-old with a belt.

India is a party to the UN declaration on the Rights of the Child 1959 and is also a signatory to the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of children. India also adopted a National Policy on Children in 1974, which reaffirms the constitutional provisions for adequate services for children, both before and after birth and through the period of growth to ensure their full physical, mental and social development. There also are appropriate monitoring procedures to assess the progress in implementing the laws.

However as a patriarchal society, the attitude towards children despite these platitudes is that parents are the sole owners of their biological children. Though corporal punishment is banned from schools in India, a 2009 study by Clinical Epidemiology Research and Training Centre in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala shows that 50 percent of parents in Kerala still use severe physical methods to discipline children.

On social media, however, users have starting questioning this attitude.

Rejesh O P asked the quintessential question on his Facebook page about the right to ownership as parents, a general attitude of many Indian parents:

കുട്ടികൾ മാതാപിതാക്കളുടെ സ്വകാര്യ സ്വത്താണോ ? എന്റെ മക്കളെ ഞാൻ തല്ലും കൊല്ലും നീയാരാ ചോദിക്കാൻ ഈ ചോദ്യത്തിന് ഒരു കുഴപ്പമുള്ളതായി സമൂഹത്തിനു ബോധ്യപെടാത്തിടത്തോളം ‘ഷഫീക്’ ആവർത്തിക്കപെടും

Are children private property of the parents? If the attitude is I will kill or torture my children, who are you to ask, then kids like Shafiq will be tortured.

Sonia Elizabeth Padamadan wrote on her Google Plus:

തനിക്കു താഴെ ഉള്ളവർ തന്നെ പോലെ തന്നെ ജീവിക്കാൻ അവകാശം ഉള്ളവർ ആണ്. തനിക്കു തോന്നും പോലെ എടുത്തു പെരുമാറാൻ ഉള്ളതല്ല എന്ന് ആണ്, തന്നെ പോലെ തന്നെ എല്ലാ അവകാശങ്ങൾ ഉള്ളവർ ആണെന്ന് നമ്മൾ എന്ന് മനസ്സിലാക്കും ആവോ ?

When will people realize that everybody has an equal right to live their life, even children who are taken care of by their parents?

Entrepreneur Boaz Chacko (@boazbchacko) tweeted his support for more laws to prevent child abuse:

Retired police inspector general Ramesh Chandra (@amoli09) called for the arrest of the parents who abuse their children:

Founder of the Go India Foundation, an NGO that promotes the welfare of urban and rural youth, Alka Lamba (@alkalambaaicc) asked the question which is now on everybody’s mind:

User Pavan (@pavankajhonka) mocked the much celebrated high literacy rates of Kerala:

These horrendous examples of children being tortured to death show the urgent need for education and a change in the attitude towards children. If violence is used to nurture children in a society, what does that say about that society?

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