Human Rights and violations of such rights are usually much talked about topics but we rarely consider Children and Child abuse in India as part of that package. The reason is that children are often considered dependants who are mentally incapable of learning and cannot think or decide for themselves and as such, their rights are limited to what their guardians see fit as their rights.
Introduction to Child abuse in India:
Children of India in general and Meghalaya, in particular, are still considered as people or individuals whose needs require constant care and protection and any shift from existing norms requires “correction”.
Every little action should supposedly be decided by a guardian under the pretence of caring and protecting the child from bad elements that might “influence” the kid to not behave like everybody else (since ‘being different is bad apparently).
In Meghalaya, Child Abuse is often a “hush” “hush” matter especially when it happens within the confines of the family home or by their own family circle or guardians. The fear of being a ‘social outcast’ or simply put being ‘looked down by neighbours’ exceeds the need to ensure that the rights of the child are not violated.
The only focus with regards to child abuse and Child abuse in India has generally been in the public domain with attention to child labour, prostitution, marriage, etc. but abuse within a child’s own home or in educational institutions or even in Government-funded homes is casually being ignored and at the most, might receive minimal attention if a case is serious or can’t be hidden from the public anymore.
Parenting in Meghalaya:
In Meghalaya, the structure of the society is also a factor that contributes to the ever-increasing abuse of children since, as mentioned above, children in Meghalaya are being looked at as nothing but dependants with no mental capacity to learn and adapt to their surroundings and who require constant supervision and “straightening” by the Guardians to ensure that they follow the rules of the land and maintain balance in society.
Family structure and Parenting in India are such that Children’s roles are pre-defined. In Meghalaya, it is the same.
The Patrilineal or Matrilineal aspect of societies has little impact when it comes to the role that the children have in the family structure. Children are often seen to be highly dependent on their parents and elders and would continue to have submissive and obedient roles towards their families even after they have moved out of their parental homes. In Meghalaya, this is the Expected norm.
Ensuring that strong Child Protection Laws and strategies are in place has proved difficult and perhaps the belief that parents and families are the sole caretakers of the child has had a negative effect on ensuring that the proper mechanism exists and is effective. Accurate numbers of cases of child abuse in the home are difficult to attain, simply because they go unreported.
However, the reason being that Child abuse in India goes unreported, is also a question of ‘What to Report?’.
Let’s take for example Physical Abuse. In Meghalaya, outdated and aggressive methods of parenting are still an accepted practice. Even if, A drunken parent comes home with a temper and physically beats the child for any “wrongdoing”, that is still accepted.
If a child secures low grades (because of our failed educational system that fails to identify children’s unique abilities) the most common response by the parent here is to march to find a ‘stick” (which sadly, is good news) or uses the ‘Hand’ (which becomes dangerous) and start hammering away until their own failures and disappointments are drowned by the tears of their own child.
Actions like these are still acceptable and those who would dare to interfere and speak Out would then feel the brunt of society rejecting this action as an invasion of privacy.
If, ‘spare the rod, spoil the child is a common and accepted form of parenting style then Child Abuse would continue to exist for eternity, as within the four walls, ‘No Law can Penetrate’.
Child abuse in India: Mental and Physical Abuse
It is a known fact that Abuse is of many different types and physical abuse is just one of them. Another type of abuse that a child has to endure is Verbal and Emotional Abuse. This refers to the language used by a parent or elder and to the psychological and social aspects of abuse.
In fact, In Meghalaya, this would be the most common form of abuse next to physical abuse. Parenting Styles are mostly a learned behaviour either from their own experience or through observational learning and as such, the majority of the parents in Meghalaya are always verbally and emotionally abusive without being violent or sexually abusive simply because that’s a learned behaviour and like a tradition has found its way from generation to generations.
Parents and elders that are abusive towards children are oriented toward fulfilling their own needs and goals, rather than those of their children. Their parenting styles would include intimidation, manipulation and emotional blackmail. All of which hampers the child’s overall growth as an independent and confident individual.
It is important to note also that Children who often faced such abusive behaviour as spanking often tend to be more aggressive and will definitely have issues that will hamper their mental health and well-being. But the sad part is that such children will also grow up believing that such behaviour is acceptable. In fact, It is the parents who suffer from depression or have a history of using themselves that will tend to use corporal punishment more as a form of discipline.
Statistics may show that states like Meghalaya have low child abuse cases but that can also mean that such stats do not reflect the true nature of what is actually happening. After all, we are after all still a community that accepts corporal punishment as part of the right way to Parent.
It is to be understood also that Child abuse in India and this type of abuse, in particular, is also usually seen in the many schools in Shillong by either teachers or other adults within the school to exert their position of power over the Child. Bullying is also a form of emotional and verbal abuse which usually is a learned behaviour from family structure and society.
In India, The Integrated Child Protection scheme exists to shield children from violence and abuse and apart from it, many other legislations have come up over the last few years but their powers and their functioning are still limited making them redundant and not exactly the concrete solutions needed to fight against child abuse.
Although many societal cases of abuse such as malnutrition, lack of education, poor health, and neglect are being recognised in various forms by the Indian legal system, there are still no such laws that can protect children against abuse in the home.
The only way out of this is for the newer generation to break the cycle of abuse. There are better ways to change behaviour and discipline a child. Paediatricians and Psychologists will always recommend non-violent methods that do not involve beating the child or abusive punishments that demeans the identity and safety of the child. The American Psychological Association says positive reinforcement is more effective than spanking.
Being a parent is not easy as there is no perfect way or method that fits all but one thing we are sure of is that abusive actions to correct behaviour or instilling discipline are not the way. Parenting is most difficult because it requires patience, love, understanding and making difficult life choices for those that are still dependent on your guidance. Honestly, as Parents, we are also still learning on the go but I recommend that we seek help and guidance if in doubt or feeling overwhelmed such that the decisions we make can have a positive impact on our children’s futures.
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