Human Rights and violation of such rights is usually a much talked but we rarely consider Children as part of that package. The reason is that children are often considered as 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.
Children of India in general and Meghalaya in particular are still considered as people or individuals who’s need require constant care and protection and any shift from existing norms require “correction”.
Every little action should supposedly be decided by a guardian under the pretence of caring and protecting the child from bad elements who 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 Home or by their own family circle or guardians. The fear of being ‘social outcast’ or simply put being ‘looked down by neighbours’ exceeds the need to ensure the right of the child is not violated.
The only focus with regards to child abuse 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 are 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.
In Meghalaya, the structure of the society is also a factor that contributes in the ever increasing abuse of children since, as mentioned above, children in Meghalaya are being looked at as nothing but dependants with no mental capability 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 in India is 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.
To ensure that strong Child Protection Laws and strategies are in placed has proved difficult and perhaps the belief that parents and family is the sole caretaker of the child has had its negative effect in ensuring that the proper mechanism exists and are effective. Accurate numbers of cases of child abuse in the home are difficult to attain, simply because they go unreported.
However, reason being that Abuse in Homes 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 secure 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.
Action 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 exists for eternity, as within the four walls, ‘No Law can Penetrate’.
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 aspect of abuse.
In fact, In Meghalaya, this would be the most common form of abuse next to physical abuse. Parenting Styles is mostly a learned behaviour either from their own experience or through observational learning and as such, 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 to 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 overall growth as an independent and confident individual.
It is to be understood also that such kind of abuse 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 exist to shield children from violence and abuse and apart from it, many other legislations has come up over the last few years but their powers and their functioning is still limited making them redundant and not exactly the concrete solutions needed to fight against child abuse.
Although many societal abuses such as malnutrition, lack of education, poor health, neglect are being recognised in various forms by the Indian legal system, yet the there is still no such laws that can protect children against abuse in the home.
Statistics has always shown Meghalaya to be in a good shape when it comes to Child abuse, but reason for this may also be because Meghalaya hides its stats under the carpet.