In the name of God.
The death of a 13-year-old Jain girl who fasted for 68 days brings back the focus on the harmful effects of religious zeal on the well being of children. For those who celebrated her death, she was hailed the ‘bal tapasvi’ who sacrificed her life for a larger cause, and for others who mourned her untimely demise this incident reeks of religious and cultural relativism that often trumps all logic and rationality. This may have been an extreme example; however away from the spotlight many kinds of child abuse – beatings, dangerous diets, forced marriages, slavery, exorcism, sexual exploitation, genital mutilation, and medical neglect continue to thrive under the guise of religious practice. Many children continue to suffer in silence. Religion shapes social behaviour and plays a dominant role in the everyday lives of children. It comprises of rules, stories, symbols, and a preselected way of life by families in society, seamlessly passed on to the next generation. Often the profound influence that religion can have on children’s development and socialization offers the potential to reinforce protective influences and promote resilience. The beliefs, practices, social networks and resources of religion can strengthen children by instilling hope, by giving meaning to difficult experiences and by providing emotional, physical and spiritual support. Yet, many a times, children become victims of controversial and dangerous religious practices, they are compelled to meet conventional demands of their religion guided by blind faith and they remain bereft of the freedom of choice. Consequently, childhood is influenced in more ways than one; while some religions discriminate against the girl child, others believe in the sacrifice of children, the study of religious texts over formal education, participation of children in harmful rituals, often against a child’s will. The following images reflect the atrocities faced by our children in the name of religious beliefs. It brings into focus the issues that have become blurred by dint of their everydayness and ubiquity. It also raises questions about children’s rights and proposes changes in societal attitudes and improved legislation to protect children from increased exploitation, violence and the abuse of children in the name of God. Let us all raise our consciousness, and the consciousness of society because the abuse of children must never be justified or tolerated.
Photo Credits : Alessandro Iovino
Words By : Leher