In light of popular notions promoted by the media and traditional beliefs imbibed over generations, it’s time to bust misconceptions that have permeated big city minds for a long time.
Misconception #1: “Child abuse doesn’t happen in our kind of homes”
Child abuse cuts across class, caste, religion, economic status and occurs irrespective of the background of the abuser and the child. It is a real issue in many homes in India. A report by the Ministry of Women and Child Development uncovered that 50% abusers are persons known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility. We need to break the silence and start talking about Child Sexual Abuse. We need to begin with getting our blinders off, acknowledge that it exists and talk to our children on this issue.
Misconception #2: “Female foeticide happens only in villages, not in cities”
Urban child sex ratio is far worse than rural child sex ratio (0-6 years) – Census 2011 . “Ladki ghar ki laxmi hoti hai” (A girl is like the goddess Lakshmi in our homes), is what we like to say. Easy access to sex determination machines in urban areas allows for many families with a son preference to undergo abortions, illegal under The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition Of Sex Selection) Act.
Misconception #3: “Boys don’t need protection”
The male child preference doesn’t always work in his favour. Traditional roles of boys and men in India – being the bread earner, protector of the family and taking care of himself, adds significantly to this misconception. While we give more freedom to boys and rarely worry for their safety, we shouldn’t be oblivious to the fact that boys are as vulnerable to abuse, violation and exploitation.
Misconception #4: “Educated people care for their child domestic workers”
It is illegal to employ children below 14 years of age. Yet, well-to-do and even middle class families willingly engage children in domestic work knowing fullythat they are underage. People are often under the illusion that they are providing children who work in their homes with a better life. Instead, they are burdened with adult-like work- cooking, boiling water, using chemical cleaning fluids and looking after young children. Children are also at risk of being abused by their employers. This contradiction has to stop.
Misconception #5: “Children don’t need parks to play, they have videogames”
Despite the importance of play on a child’s health, cognitive development, self-esteem and life skills, it remains mostly a ‘forgotten’ right of the child. While videogames and the internet have provided increased options for children to engage themselves, there’s no substitute for outdoor play. Lack of safe play spaces and advents in technology result in the under-recognition of a child’s need for physical play.
Misconception #6: “Children sitting in the ‘backseat’ are safe”
We often talk of accidents that have happened to others and the increasing risks of traveling on Indian roads. The number of children and young people who die as a result of lack of road safety is enormous. Many parents are of the belief that placing a child in the back seat keeps a child safe. While there are multiple issues related to the road safety of children, the simple act of making a child wear a seat belt can save a life.
Misconception #7: “It is necessary to beat children to discipline them”
Beating a child amounts to physical abuse and violence. When children are physically abused it has serious long term effects. While the intention is to discipline children, parents, teachers and caretakers remain unaware of the psychological and cognitive effects that children carry forward into their adulthood. The act of physically beating a child amounts to the assertion of power by an adult over a child. We need to adopt positive means that help them grow into happy, healthy and mature adults.