In the backdrop of the Bharat Yatra that was flagged off at Kanyakumari on Monday, Kailash Satyarthi opens up on critical issues plaguing the country, sharing his views on the controversial amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act which allows a minor to be tried as a major in case of heinous crimes, committed in an 'adult' mentality, and the reality behind the claim that crimes by and on children are on the rise.
Read on to see the part II of the interview.
How can we deal with the issue of rape pregnancies?
In a much talked about case in Chandigarh, the SC could not overstep the existing law. I am pinning my hopes on the recent judgment from the constitutional bench on the right to privacy, I hope many laws, including the one on abortions, will be amended in the same spirit.
Read part I of the interview: Bharat Yatra will attempt to break the dangerous silence on child abuse: Kailash Satyarthi
What kind of amendments are you suggesting?
I can't say, but I hope the expert committee with much higher competence in child issues and knowledge on the mental and physical health of children under duress, will make recommendations to the agencies who are working on the correction of the existing law, which has restrictions and allows the right to abortion only in some specific cases. We have to wait for that. But I am sure things will change, post the privacy verdict.
What compounds the problem is social taboo, it is reflective of our sick mentality that brand a raped girl impure. It is so prevalent in the society that the stigma extends even to the girl's parents. People might just point at a house and say this is the house of that girl who was raped. It becomes a stigma for life. That is what has to change.
The irony here is that the witnesses, survivors, parents and others endure pain and difficulty while the rapists and abusers roam free and fearless.
Who deserves to be fearless?
It is our boys, girls and ordinary people who deserve to live fearless. The entire purpose of this Yatra is to create such an environment where parents and the larger society are friendly with the children and there is free flowing communication.
For that, we are involving all sections of the society, including the political top brass, supreme court judges, judges of the high court, faith leaders, youth organizations, universities and colleges.
Incidentally, even elite parents do not spend quality time with their children. No amount of material appeasement can replace a safe and comfortable environment. Children, in such homes, end up living in mental suffocation, depression and face myriad other difficulties. Some of them even kill themselves.
In 60-70 percent cases, the abusers are known to the victim. They can be friends, relatives, teachers or anyone for that matter. We are trying to educate parents and others to change the mindset to brush things under the carpet. This dangerous environment of silence must be broken.
Will sex education help?
I have had a lengthy discussion with the minister for human resource development, and both of us agreed on the need for age-appropriate sex education in schools. I have promised to help the government in this regard. Maybe at three levels, upper primary, higher and secondary levels, we should introduce age-appropriate sex education.
How is involving faith leaders going to help?
We are engaging faith leaders. Also, young people from temples, mosques, churches and gurdwaras. An abuser could be threatened with a social boycott...being excommunicated is a serious social threat.
This will actually be effective because the immediate punishment will come from the religious leaders, even if the court punishes or not. This will act as a deterrent.
How far conducive is the socio-cultural and political system around us to make our children fearless?
A protective institutional mechanism that is conscious of guaranteeing fearless and safe childhoods could help prevent and reduce crimes, even if they cannot be abolished completely. If everything was in order, we needn't have organized this Yatra.
As I said many times before, children do not vote and their voices are thus powerless. That is where we need popular campaigns like Bharat Yatra.
Politicians understand pressure and ordinary people are going to build pressure for this demand, with the media as a strong partner in this. Then the message will get passed on with all seriousness to the enforcement agencies.
Will it be appropriate to say that the Yatra is seeking to put pressure on the political establishment through an alternative means?
No, not really; it is the opposite. We are seeking to partner with politicians. We have invited all chief ministers, have spoken and met more than a dozen of them, spoken to the president, the prime minister, central ministers and other important leaders. I have requested them to join us in this Yatra and most of them are joining.
What is important is that if they are shown speaking on the dais, then it will help break the silence of the masses. This is a two-pronged process. We are involving all sections of society and garnering support and galvanizing the demands of the masses.
You work in over 140 countries; how does the world deal with the issue of child pregnancies?
The worst face of this tragedy can be seen in Latin American countries. It is not just slavery and trafficking but teenage pregnancy is a common menace in most countries. In the US, some states have poor laws and some others have no laws at all to deal with child pregnancies and child marriages.
European countries have better laws, but instances of abuse are rising globally despite all this. Bullying in schools, sexual abuses, violence committed on and by children and young adults are all rising.
Is the crime statistics true? Are more and more children being attacked?
Interview with Kailash Satyarthi- 2015
Of course, crimes against children rose five times in last 10 years. We have failed in protecting and giving them security, care and protection. This points towards the utter failure of the existing JJ act. The law is not just punitive, it has specific provisions to protect and nurture children in need of care and protection. But this needs political will and adequate budgetary allocations from both center and state. Also, this money must be properly spent.
How should India's law on rape pregnancies look like?
I cannot suggest. The true and expert opinion must come from medical and financial experts, gynecologists and, social and child psychologists. I believe they are going to propose something when the amendment will be drafted. It cannot be in black and white. The legal amendments need holistic backup from these sections.
It is shameful that in the Chandigarh case, the mother concealed the abuse to protect her brother, who was preying on the 10-year-old. That mindset has to change. Attacks by fathers also go unreported for reasons of 'dignity'.
How can we respect our children?
Well, for this we need to see how we deal with children. If a child is poor, we use that poverty as an excuse to employ him in cheap labor to avoid him from 'slipping' into crime. But the reality is that this is simply an excuse to exploit vulnerable children.
Children fall prey to pornography and sexual assaults. In the case of upper middle-class and middle-class children, who are often sent to the most expensive schools and pampered with the most luxurious material comforts, care and love is a far cry.
Charity is another way we approach children. We intend to care for them by paying them or paying for them. What we miss at those times is what I call respect: trusting your child and learning from them.
What do you think about the surrogacy situation in India?
I wouldn't say anything. There is a law, but it shouldn't be misused. The provision for adoption was widely misused. This should not be repeated in the case of surrogacy.
How safe are boys from sexual assaults?
Male sexual abuse is worse. Let me give you an example: the Mumbai boy, son of an IAS couple, found dead at home had killed himself. He was being tormented by four people who sexually abused him. The boy's parents did not see the changes in the child and he killed himself, unable to live with the shame. He must have endured unimaginable mental pressure and tension. This is what needs to change.