Help child survivors fight back: Unicef official – The Hindu

“A large number of cases registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, even abduction, are related to elopement. It is not really sexual abuse in the traditional sense, but a boy and girl in ‘romantic’ relationship taking flight, which gets booked under POCSO. Is the law criminalising the sexual behaviour of the adolescents? It is a question we must be asking ourselves. Can we find other mechanisms to protect these adolescents,” asks Javier Aguilar, Chief of Child Protection in Unicef India.

It is far worse if such a thing occurs in a family environment. The priority, therefore, should be to create a system of support around the victim(s) which is not always the case, says Mr. Aguilar, now in Kochi to take part in the southern region round table on the Juvenile Justice Act and POCSO.

In a conversation with The Hindu, he said while there was no silver bullet, or magic solution, to address the complexity of these issues, especially when they happen within a family, priority should be given to help the survivor fight back.

“Regardless of the legal implications of the issue, the focus should be on helping the victim. What you are missing is a system that will support the survivor with counselling, medical services, etc., to limit the damage to him/her”.

Rehabilitation

Mr. Aguilar said rehabilitation services for survivors of sexual violence are not always as good as they should be. “Prosecution is just a part, but the real work involves preparing the survivors to bounce back and to have access to service and compensation. But then many stakeholders have mentioned that their families have to be rehabilitated as well because in some cases even if the child copes with the problem, the parents are perpetrating the stigma, which does not help”.

Long procedures in the delivery of justice add to the problem, as they take years to complete.

Many cases of sexual violence are preventable, but children do not necessarily have the skills or understanding to prevent them. “Maybe they have been raised in such a way that they could be under the impression that what is happening to them is normal,” he said, adding that figures suggested that most abuses occurred either in the family environment or from involving people known to the victim.

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