What does children’s safety hinge on?

In a society that claims to be cultured and evolved, there seems to be no dearth of ghastly stories concerning violence against children that make your skin crawl. So the question is what does children’s safety hinge on?

Whether it is a six-year old caught unawares by a sexual predator in a supposedly safe environment like a school or a child thrashed mercilessly by his own parents or a physically impaired child beaten black and blue by his teachers, the ugly truth of child abuse is a matter more complex than the maze of flimsy policing of rules and regulations at the hands of schools and media debates on laws protecting children. More importantly, it exists beyond the social and economic realities that we often relegate perpetrators of such acts to. For instance, the accused in some of the recent crimes against children were all educated. Even in societies we consider more developed and progressive, such acts are not quite the anomaly we think they might be.

Through this space, let’s try to deconstruct the psyche behind crimes against children. Because only when we understand the state of mind that goes to the extent of hurting someone as helpless and innocent as a child, can we begin to arrive at solutions.

Children are hurt and harmed because of a mind-set that betrays sadism. The person who visits violence upon children is someone who believes there is nothing wrong with their violence or that s/he can get away with it. Their personal ethical code does not seem to be at odds with something like this. This, perhaps, boils down to the mental conditioning and/or bitter personal experiences being carried forward. Studies hint that every child violated will likely grow into an unstable adult, carrying deep emotional scars into adulthood that impede their lives.

But the solution to this is not limited to stricter rules for schools and school buses. What is required is a deep sensitization amongst individuals and groups responsible for bringing up and educating children. The onus is on educators, educational organisations and change agents to conceive and implement mandatory programmes for counseling teachers, parents as well as children. It is essential that teachers and parents are trained to deal with children thoughtfully and sensitively.

Children deserve to be protected, nurtured and treated gently. A shift in our perception of our roles as teachers and care-givers is one of the many steps in this direction. Recognising that children are their own people, complete entities in themselves is the key to providing them with a healthy childhood. Because when it comes to children, it’s about them, not us.

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