Girl child abuse

Girl child abuse is a rampant phenomenon around the world. The girl child is abused sexually, physically and psychologically. Rape and violence against the girl child is very common in all societies around the world. In many parts of the world even before reaching the age of 12 the girl child gets raped and is infected with the HIV virus. The abuse of the girl child in many forms actually starts from family itself. The family and the home is also the seat of physical and psychological violence in many instances. Most of the times the sexual abuse of the girl child is perpetuated by someone in the immediate family or by someone close to the family. So the girl child gets sexually abused by the very people whom she might have actually trusted in the first place.

Girl child abuse: Sexual abuse of the girl child

As I said the girl child faces the maximum chance of sexual abuse from someone whom the girl child trusts. This person can be a close relative in the family, neighbours or someone in the school. Most of the times such sexual abuse is violent and forceful in nature and it shatters the emotional, physical and psychological self of the person completely. A sense of fear, anger and worthlessness sets in the victim in such cases and it remains as a permanent scar thereafter for the rest of the life of the girl child. This hampers the normal growth and development of the girl child. Sexual abuse against an innocent, immature girl child is one of the most heinous crimes that can be perpetuated against women and humanity. These kind of crimes against innocent kids are carried out by diseased individuals. In such circumstances the anguish and helplessness felt by the parents cannot be described. What should be the right justice for such crimes? The significance of punishment in such instances is not only to provide justice to the victim but it is also to serve as a deterrent against any potential girl child abuse incidents in the future.

Girl child abuse: Punishment for the culprit and justice for the victim

The state should formulate stringent laws to deal with culprits of child rape and girl child abuse. These crimes should be considered as the rarest of rare crimes against humanity and punishment should be awarded accordingly. Sexually abusing an innocent child most of the times violently and with force cannot be considered as a petty crime. In fact this is a crime which is committed with a full knowledge that the victim is not aware of what is happening and she is innocent and helpless. So a crime of such order becomes the most heinous in nature and requires suitable punishments. More than formulating new laws the state machinery should also focus on investigating a crime in a professional manner and enforcing the laws against girl child abuse and discrimination. This can be only done by taking the society into confidence and working in tandem with the various structures of the society to communicate and educate the people about the menace of sexual abuse and the various precautions and guidelines to prevent them. The justice for the victim not only involves punishing the guilty but it also involves taking care of the victim physically, emotionally and psychologically through medical aid other kind of support mechanisms from the society. Unless we try with our best efforts to reintegrate the victim back to the mainstream of the society the work cannot be said as complete. It is true that we may not be able to bring back the innocence of the child who is sexually abused but at least we can try to give the victim a protective environment and hope for a better future.

Girl child abuse: Crimes against innocent kids

Sexual abuse of innocent kids is one of the most heinous crimes against humanity. These crimes are violent and forceful in nature and they destroy the children completely. Other crimes against innocent kids and girl child include severe physical and psychological violence given as punishment. Forced labour and commercialization of the girl child is also a very serious crime needing strong prevention methods. Deliberate and motivated discrimination and bias against the girl child in the form of neglect in the matters of health, nutrition, recreation and education can be also classified as crime against the girl child. Forced early marriage of the girl child is also a very serious crime. Eradication of these crimes needs a two pronged approach. On the one hand strict laws needs to be formulated and enforced to deal with the culprits of girl child abuse and on the other hand a broader approach is needed to educate and train the family and the society to prevent these crimes from happening at the first instance.

Girl child abuse: Rape as rarest of rare crimes

As I said before, sexual abuse and rape of the girl child should be considered as the rarest of rare crimes and fitting punishment should be meted out against the culprits. This is necessary to spread a message in the society that these crimes against humanity will not be tolerated. These are crimes where we need to develop zero tolerance. No leverage should be given to the perpetuators of these crimes in any whichever way.

Girl child abuse: The emotional consequences of sexual abuse

The emotional consequences of sexual abuse of the girl child are unimaginable and cannot be described in words. The victim that is the girl child in most of the cases would have trusted the perpetuator in some way as he would have been a close relative, a neighbour or somebody from the school. Rape by somebody who was close to the girl child breaches the trust and faith that the victim had in the family and the society. It destroys the innocence and sows deep fear, anger and a feeling of helplessness and worthlessness in the victim. A permanent scar gets itched in the psyche of the victim which becomes a primary reason for a troubled adulthood. Rape of the girl child completely shatters her confidence and destroys her physical, emotional, psychological and intellectual self. In fact when sexual abuse has occurred, a child can develop a variety of distressing feelings, thoughts and behaviors. Sexually abused children end up becoming child abusers or prostitutes, or have other serious problems when they reach adulthood.

Girl child abuse: The alarming rate of increase in sexual abuse and violence against girl child

The sexual abuse and violence against the girl child is increasing exponentially in the developing world. The consequences of this are severe. Apart from the shattering of the physical self of the victim it is creating a healthcare nightmare with rapid spread of HIV and other STDs in the female child population of the world. It is also leading to sex trade and commercial exploitation of the girl child in numerous ways. Sexual abuse and violence against girl child is in fact shaking the very foundation of the society that is the family. Mostly the girl child abuse and violence happens inside the family or by someone who is close to the family or the child. The basic trust and protection offered by the family is in jeopardy and this can have profound effect on "family as a unit" in the coming times.

Girl child abuse: The terror of discrimination

The terror of discrimination against the girl child and women is spreading like wild fire. Apart from the age old customs, traditions and beliefs which are fuelling this discrimination now we can see newer forms of practices and beliefs which is causing increased violence and sexual abuse of the girl child and the women. Further discrimination against the girl child in obtaining the basic needs like education, nutrition, healthcare and employment still continues unabated.

If we analyze the situation in details we will find that the girl child often faces discrimination from the earliest stages of life, through childhood and into adulthood. Her low status is reflected in the denial of fundamental needs and rights and in such harmful attitudes and practices as a preference for sons, early marriage, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse, incest, sexual exploitation, discrimination, less food and less access to education. The irony is that the whole discrimination begins from the home environment which should have been ideally the primary protective and secure environment that the girl child got for her normal upbringing and growth.

The truth is that the home environment caters as the cradle for girl child abuse and discrimination which is then reinforced further in the society. Girls are often treated as inferior to boys, both within the home and by society-at-large. They are socialized to put themselves last, which in turn undermines their self-esteem and their ability to reach their full potential as human beings. When a girl is prevented from going to school or is too exhausted to pay attention in class because of her workload at home, she is being denied her right to education. When a girl carries the bulk of responsibility for the housework while her brother studies, plays or attends to his interests and hobbies, she is being discriminated against. If this is the condition at home then how can we think about a bright future for the girl child? This is a serious question to ponder upon.

Moreover many factors of girl child abuse and discrimination are rooted in various customs, beliefs and traditions. Factors like neglect, torture, mutilation of children in the forms of castration, circumcision or imposed painful beautification as prevalent in some societies, parental oppression, terrorisation of children for fun or fun-ensuring conformity, sodomy and other sexual abuses tell upon the child’s psychology and hinder their growth to complete humanness. There occurs a small crack within the individual self which happens quietly without anybody noticing it but it leads to catastrophic consequences impairing the development and growth of the child.

Girl child abuse: Violence against Girls

The most common violence against girls is seen in the form sexual abuse which is violent and forceful. Other type of violence includes violence in the name of punishments which is meted out against the girl child who are commercially exploited from a very young age or who are pushed into the household slavery at a very tender age. Apart from physical violence, psychological and emotional violence in the form threats, verbal abuse and denial of basic needs are used as tools to keep the girl child subdued and under constant fear. This is used as a way to control the girl child and women. When we study the nature of girl child abuse and violence in little more detail we will find that violence against girls as well as women remains a persistent problem that takes many forms, including sexual exploitation and abuse, rape, incest, prostitution, child pornography, trafficking, and harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation. Statistics reveal the urgent need for action. According to the United Nations Population Fund, it is estimated that between 85 and 114 million women and girls, most of whom live in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, have undergone female genital mutilation. Trafficking in women and children, most often for commercial sexual exploitation, is estimated to generate up to $8 billion each year according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Girl child abuse: Child abuse a social malaise

Girl child abuse originates from gender based discrimination and bias against women and girl child. This is prevalent in the society in the form regressive customs, traditions and beliefs in the society. Child abuse is a social malaise and unless we change the mindset of the society we cannot root it out completely.

Girl child abuse: International cooperation and collation against the girl child discrimination

International cooperation among the member states of the United Nations has led to the Beijing platform for action which has formulated broad guidelines and action plans to end the girl child abuse and discrimination against the girl child. The following is the paragraph 259 of the Beijing platform for action.

“The girl-child is discriminated against from the earliest stages of life, through her childhood and into adulthood. In some areas of the world, men outnumber women by 5 in every 100. The reasons for this discrepancy include harmful attitudes and practices, such as female genital mutilation, son preference . . . early marriage ...violence against women, sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, discrimination against girls in food allocation and other practices related to health and well-being. As a result, fewer girls than boys survive into adulthood.--Beijing Platform for Action, paragraph 259”

Beijing Platform for Action recommended that governments, agencies and the private sector: Eliminate all forms of discrimination against the girl-child; Eliminate negative cultural attitudes and practices against girls; Promote and protect the rights of the girl-child and increase awareness of her needs and potential; Eliminate discrimination against girls in education, skills development and training; Eliminate discrimination against girls in health and nutrition; Eliminate the economic exploitation of child labour and protect girls at work; Eradicate violence against the girl-child; Promote the girl-child's awareness of and participation in social, economic and political life; Strengthen the role of the family in improving the status of the girl-child.

Girl child abuse: Addressing the Needs of Adolescents

Special education and training is necessary for the adolescent girl child keeping in mind that they are entering puberty and they experience vast changes in their physical, emotional and psychological self. In this regard education related to the sexual and reproductive rights of the adolescent women and general sex education which covers the entire spectrum including safe sex, precautions against STDs and sexual abuse becomes paramount. This is especially necessary for ending girl child abuse and discrimination of the girl child. Further the special education should also focus on other aspects of the girl’s life which includes nutrition and healthcare, parenting, education and employment and knowledge of the laws and the policies of the state as regard to stopping gender discrimination and promoting gender equality. Initiatives that seek to meet the needs of adolescents and pays particular attention to the difficult position of girls needs to be supported. This includes information, education and communication activities that show adolescents, parents, teachers, local leaders and other relevant groups the importance of girls' education. Further activities recognizing the importance of socialization in gender issues, gender-sensitive family life education for young people needs to be supported in big way. Such programmes also offers special reproductive health services for adolescents.

Girl child abuse: Empowering Adolescents

As I said before, empowering the adolescent girl child population is especially necessary to prevent gender based discrimination, girl child abuse and violence. This also helps in building the confidence and self esteem of the adolescent girl child who is ready to take on the world. At this stage the adolescent girl child should be empowered in all possible manner which relates to every sphere of her life and through which she can make informed choice to a live a life of her choice. Especially this is a stage of life when the girl child is ready to be empowered in terms of her sexual as well as reproductive rights. This becomes doubly important keeping in mind the fact that the rights and health of girls, from a very young age, are at risk everywhere around the world. Therefore the need is to support the girl child’s access to reproductive and sexual health services and information, skills-building and other types of education and training, and scrupulously fight for the protection of their rights. Adolescents should be supported, nurtured, informed and given the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest, safely and responsibly.

Girl child abuse: Education for the girl child

Education for the girl child should be compulsory at the primary, secondary and senior secondary school levels. Further necessary incentives and concessions should be provided for the girl child to pursue her higher education at the college in every possible way. Education is one of the primary tools for self empowerment. It builds the character and confidence of the girl child and it helps her to grow into an assertive and self-sufficient woman who can provide a strong foundation to her future family. In fact by educating girls, societies stand to gain economically. In addition, educated mothers usually have smaller families, with healthier and better-educated children. But the actual scenario in terms of girl child education is grim. Overall, girls' school attendance still lags severely behind that of boys. One of the major reasons why so many girls do not attend school is because of their workload, both within and outside the household. Daughters are often kept at home to help the family because the social and economic value of educating girls is not recognized. It is a little known fact that among the worlds exploited child workers, girls outnumber boys. The irony is that without access to education, girls are denied the knowledge and skills needed to advance their status. There is an urgent need for grass root intervention as regards to girl child education if we want to stem the rout and prevent further girl child abuse and discrimination.

Girl child abuse: Health for girl child

Health for girl child is one of the basic and primary requirements for building a strong and healthy society as the health of the girl child is directly correlated to health of the family, the society, the nation and the world. If the health of the girl child suffers it in turn leads to poor health of the nation. Therefore it becomes the primary duty of the state including the society to guaranty affordable and quality healthcare to the girl child and women. Health is also dependent upon adequate food and nutrition and here again the role of the society and the state becomes paramount in terms of education and making available necessary food resources at affordable prize for the benefit of a healthy girl child. If we look at the scenario for a typical family we will find that in times of diminished food resources, girls and their mothers are often last to be fed, resulting in a diet low in calories and protein. An estimated 450 million adult women in developing countries are stunted as a result of childhood protein-energy malnutrition. Iodine and iron deficiencies also have significant consequences for pregnant women and their offspring. Further there has been an alarming increase in the number of girls infected with the HIV virus. Adolescent girls are at high risk of contracting HIV because their low social status often pressures them into situations where they are forced to have unprotected sexual intercourse with men which in fact amounts to girl child abuse. So we can see that as regards to the sexual and reproductive health of women we are sitting on a live time bomb in some parts of the world. To prevent a human catastrophe of immense magnitude the need is to provide information, guidance and services to adolescent girls with regard to sexually transmitted diseases, as well as reproductive and sexual health.

Girl child abuse: Equal Rights for Girls

The girl child should be allowed to live a life of dignity and equality. Equality and equal rights are applicable in all spheres of life. A girl child is entitled to equal rights in getting a caring and protective home environment. She has to get the basic healthcare and nutrition facilities, recreation and leisure time facilities, education and schooling facilities and a right to choose a life based on informed choice. She is also entitled to sexual and reproductive rights. She needs protection from sexual abuse and violence.

Girl child abuse: The social and cultural rights of the child

The social and cultural rights of the girl child include the rights to reasonable and affordable nutrition and healthcare, protection against violence and abuse of any nature, rights to recreation and leisure time and rights to education and training. To be more specific the social rights give them the benefit of health and access to medical services, protection from abduction and sexual exploitation and the regulation of adoption and under the cultural rights are grouped the right to education, access to appropriate recreation and leisure, and participation in artistic and cultural activities. These rights underscore the fact that children’s fundamental rights to survival, protection and development must be guarded by providing them with certain facilities. This is, in fact, adult responsibility and calls for urgent action if adults fail in providing these facilities to the girl child grouped under the social and cultural rights of the child.

Girl child abuse: The Indian context

The girl child abuse and discrimination in Indian society is widespread and it is hidden in the layers of caste, religion and social status of the family and the society. Irrespective of caste, religion and the social status the girl child suffers to no end. The maximum sufferings of any form emerging from the socioeconomic, cultural, political and religious problems are borne by the women and the girl child. Life of a girl child is a tough whether she is from a poor background or an affluent background. The unfortunate ones coming from poor backgrounds end up by being sexually abused. On the other hand discrimination and bias against the girl child and girl child abuse is openly practiced in the affluent class as well. This can be proven by the fact that the crimes of female foeticide are taking place in maximum numbers among the affluent in the society. The Indian society is compartmentalised into various sections and subsections and has different norms for different groups. In order to know the reality of a girl child’s life in this kind of scenario we need to carry out an in depth study keeping all these parameters in mind.

Childhood is a unique period when a person has intrinsic desires for spiritual health and life. Uncorrupted by the adult world, an unsuspecting child recognises the one reality that he/she lives. For him/her, the past or the future have no existence. His/her consciousness is not split between them but is rather free to discover them through love. A happy and healthy child is an asset to the grown-ups. Through his/her smile, the society learns to smile. The question to ask is whether we providing such a childhood to the girl child? Can the girl child think about a childhood which is full of bliss and learning? At present the answer to the first question is no. To at least address the second question we need to recognize the current facts and move towards a path of total empowerment of the girl chid.

The first and foremost step towards empowerment of the girl child is to end the discrimination and bias that exist against the girl child. Only then we can think about rooting out the demon of girl child abuse. For ending the discrimination and bias against the girl child we need eradicate the regressive customs, traditions and beliefs that exist in the society. A change in the mindset with a positive outlook towards the girl child can take us towards a society which is just and gender equitable. In this kind of scenario we can dream about true empowerment of the girl child and women.

Article by Sanjay Nair

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