Rights of the Child

In New Delhi, seminar explores ending violence against children

NEW DELHI — Violence against children is a global problem, with the abuse and maltreatment of young people happening in every country.

That includes India, where its vast population gives the problem a special dimension. By one count, one in five children in the world live here.

Sadly, many of them experience some type of violence, said Dora Giusti, a child protection specialist with UNICEF in India. Two out of three children in India report some type of physical abuse, she said, and one in two have been sexually abused.

“The protection of children from violence is a priority for action,” she said. “The need is for a multi-faceted approach to build a protective environment for children.”

Ms. Giusti’s remarks came at a seminar on “Ending Violence against Children,” held at the Bahá’í House of Worship on 22 November 2012, which addressed topics such as corporal punishment, policies and processes for protection of children from violence, and the underlying causes of violence in society.

Sponsored by the Bahá’í community of India in association with the National Foundation for Communal Harmony, the North India Chapter of the Global Network of Religions for Children, and the India Alliance for Child Rights, participants included representatives of the government, non-governmental organizations, UNICEF, academicians, students, journalists, and families from violence- affected regions.

Dr. Shanta Sinha, Chairperson of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, emphasized the need to build a culture of non-violence as a long term solution, saying that the use of corporal punishment is rampant in homes, schools, orphanages, and work places, creating a norm for violence against children generally.

“Nowhere is the child to be insulted, humiliated, beaten up, scolded, or shown disrespect — because it hurts, it damages the psyche, and the child loses confidence. The child loses self-esteem and it can be of permanent damage to the child,” said Dr.

Sinha. “Where you condone violence, whether it is small or big, it is the first step towards something big that can happen.”

Vinay Srivastava, a professor of anthropology at Delhi University, also warned of the effect of corporal punishment and other forms of abuse often suffered by children, even at the hands of well-meaning parents or guardians. “The humiliation that children suffer in childhood stays with them throughout their lives,” said Prof.

Srivastava, suggesting there should be studies to examine the culture of violence in society.

Farida Vahedi, director of the Indian Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs, said one way to address violence against children is with a new concept of trusteeship, where “every child is born into this world as a trust of the whole of humanity.”

“Human beings are both spiritual and material beings and it is important to have an understanding of the human nature and to see and understand that we are all one,” said Ms. Vahedi, saying we are all “like the members of one human body and that our diversity is our strength and needs to be celebrated.”

Ms. Vahedi said it is only when children’s right to spiritual education, nutrition, health, shelter, security and safety are ensured that they can fulfill their responsibility towards the process of change and development.