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.

In the name of God | Leher NGO in India | Child Rights Organization
A Shiite Muslim has his child gashed with a knife during a Muharram procession ahead of Ashoura. (Photo-Danish Siddiqui / Reuters)
Holy men step over children as a ritual to bless them during a religious procession to mark the Gajan festival. (Photo- Reuters)
Holy men step over children as a ritual to bless them during a religious procession to mark the Gajan festival. (Photo- Reuters)
In the name of God | Leher NGO in India | Child Rights Organization
An unhappy child with her mouths pierced waits for the religious processions to begin in worship of goddess Maha Mariamma- as a thanksgiving gesture in return for fulfilled wishes (Photo- Unknown)
An age old practice of sending very young children to Buddhist monastries for lifetime commitment to celibate monasticism, without their understanding or agreement of the same (Photo- Unknown)
An age old practice of sending very young children to Buddhist monasteries for lifetime commitment to celibate monasticism, without their understanding or agreement of the same (Photo- Unknown)
In the name of God | Leher NGO in India | Child Rights Organization
Despite the legal banning, every year, young girls are dedicated as Devadasis or `handmaidens to Goddess Yellamma, due to the desperation of parents to seek favors from the gods.. After being dedicated, the girls are auctioned to the highest bidder and enter the world of prostitution (Photo- Unknown)
In the name of God | Leher NGO in India | Child Rights Organization
A child compelled to take a dip in the Ganga, as a way to purify himself at the Maha Kumbh Mela (Photo- Kevin Frayer)
Despite the Bombay HC ban, children paicipate in dahi handi celebrations during Janmashtami on the higher tiers of the pyramid, with little or no safety measures, causing injury and the death of many. (Photo- Unknown)
Despite the Bombay HC ban, children participate in Dahi handi celebrations during Janmashtami on the higher tiers of the pyramid, with little or no safety measures, causing injury and the death of many. (Photo- Unknown)
In the name of God | Leher NGO in India | Child Rights Organization
A practice integral to Jainism, Bal Diksha or the induction of minors in monastic order, wherein the right to childhood conflicts with the right to religion. (Photo- Unknown)
For centuries, little Bohra girls have been made to undergo khatna – the ritual cutting of the clitoral prepuce – for reasons that are not even uniform across the community. (Photo- AFP)
For centuries, little Bohra girls have been made to undergo khatna – the ritual cutting of the clitoral prepuce – for reasons that are not even uniform across the community. (Photo- AFP)
Photo Credits : Alessandro Iovino

Words By : Leher

Leher

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