Children not safe from sexual abuse in both urban and rural areas- The New Indian Express | #childabuse | #children | #kids

Express News Service

KOLLAM: Salmath is a practising lawyer in Kollam. She recalls an old incident of one of her clients deciding to drop charges of sexual violence against her husband. The husband was charged with molesting his own daughter. Salmath said the mother withdrew the complaint because she was concerned about her daughter and that engaging in the long legal process would have wrecked her future.

“In Pocso cases, parents have also been identified accused. Children are most vulnerable in their own homes,” she said. She added that the cases of sexual atrocities are somewhat evenly distributed between the rural and urban regions of Kollam.

The Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act’s role has not changed or made a big difference in terms of making children more empowered or safer. However, because of the stringent provisions in laws like Pocso Act, awareness among parents has increased. In addition to spreading awareness, “we also need to give people the confidence to approach the authorities and report the occurrence”, Salmath stated.

According to the crime bureau records, 260 Pocso cases had been reported in Kollam district till September 30 this year. As many as 136 cases were reported from rural areas and 124 in Kollam city. In 2020, a total of 252 Pocso cases were reported in the district, with 145 cases being reported in Kollam rural and 107 others in Kollam city. Kollam’s rural areas reported 200 cases of sexual crimes against children in 2021, while the city reported 127 such incidents.

According to experts, the increase in sexual abuse cases against children in the rural areas is due to the prevalence of child marriages in tribal hamlets. Reni Antony, a member of the Kerala State Child Rights Commission, told TNIE that child marriages are common in Kollam’s rural areas. He stated that most cases of sexual violence against children take place in the eastern parts of the district, where the tribal population is more prevalent, such as in Kulathupuzha, Achankovil, Aryankavu and Mukhathala villages.

“We obtained this information from the district crime records. And we must also recognise that the majority of sexual assault cases are not being reported. As a result, the actual cases could be much higher,” Reni Antony explained.

District child welfare committee chairman Sanel Kumar claimed that the lockdown time was the worst time for children. He said because they were trapped inside their houses and had to deal with the abuse by their parents and other kin during the lockdown, the kids could not confide in others about such incidents.

The educational system gives children an outlet to talk about their issues with their teachers and friends. The lockdown had entirely cut off the kids’ interactions with their friends and teachers, which added to their mental stress and left them more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, he added.

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