Why Child Abuse in Reality Shows Remains India’s Ugly Spectre
Unregulated social media has digressed the real issue, ie, safety of our children in reality shows.
Unregulated social media has digressed the real issue, ie, safety of our children in reality shows.(Photo: Erum Gour/The Quint)

Why Child Abuse in Reality Shows Remains India’s Ugly Spectre

The other day, my mother called me up to enquire if I was coming home this spring for Bihu, a festival in Assam. Unlike her usual enthusiasm to see her daughter home, she suggested with a feeble voice, “Don’t come this time, people might try to harm you.”

Her fear for her daughter is not unfounded. The turn of events, after I filed a complaint against singer Angarag Papon Mahanta for abusing a minor on a live video, left my mother anxious and perturbed. The aftermath of the complaint reflected how a large section of our society is still engulfed with misogyny.

I was attacked on social media with sexual slurs and even with threats of rape in public.

Though on a personal level, this kind of virtual hooliganism did not affect me, it, however, raises a serious concern as to why a woman who stands up after seeing something socially objectionable is disgraced with sexual rants.

This phenomenon, mostly confined to unregulated social media, has digressed the real issue, ie, safety of our children in reality shows.

Nevertheless, this incident in a reality show where the singer judge was abusing a minor while it was going live on social media for the entire world to see and the subsequent nonchalant attitude that came from none other than the minor’s parent in their persistent effort to defend the perpetrator, only pave the way for an unsafe land for our children full of wolves within our society.

Child Sexual Abuse Neglect in Modern India

Reliable statistics show 70 percent of children in our country do not disclose the abuse to anyone for varied reasons.

Confusion as to what to say, fear psychosis of not getting enough support, public shaming, character assassination, etc, are a few to mention.

The reluctance on the part of the victim not to confide to anyone is a major reason for the perpetrator roaming free to do it again with another child.

To aggravate it to the worst, family of the victim mostly chooses to keep mum not wanting to confront the perpetrator; he/she being in power position or related to the family. Moreover, the stigma tagged with victim-shaming leads to unending stories of child abuse being locked away in the dusty attics of childhood, untouched and unfathomed.

Nevertheless, the victim lives with the trauma for the entire life with the face of the perpetrator haunting him/her in every walk of his/her life.

Thus, it becomes our utmost duty to give our children a favourable social milieu sans any undue fear so that children do not hesitate to speak about any such incident.

Parental Alienation

Parents need to understand that by not addressing the issues of child abuse at the right time and not comforting the child with the confidence of speaking out on abuses, they are ruining the emotional and mental health of their own child. This kind of a mortified silence around child abuse will only create a generation of lone fighters without voice and recourse.

It is also very important to imbibe a child with what is ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’, and parents are the first in line for this initiation of imbibing a child with the first lesson of existence of such perpetrators in our society.

The worldwide campaign of #Metoo on social media by women coming from various walks of life gives testimony of the fact that they were either denied justice, or not comforted and encouraged to speak out loud and clear against sexual abuses.

The gloomy picture of child abuse and the deafening silence around it make us realise that child protection cannot be a job that is relegated to only an authority, be it the police, social services, or a school.

Child protection is everyone’s responsibility. That is primarily why the Protection of Children from Sexual Offence Act, 2012, was enacted with the idea of making public a stakeholder, thereby making it mandatory for every citizen to report cases of sexual offences against children under Section 19 of the Act.

Now, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights is all set to revise its guideline enacted in 2011 to regulate child participation in TV serials, reality shows and TV commercials.

The apex body will formulate new guidelines keeping in mind the POCSO Act 2012, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, and the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2016.

Moreover, the National Crime Record Bureau has started collating data on online child abuse. The NCRB was directed to do so after Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs expressed anguish on severe under-reporting of crimes related to child abuse occurring online.

Focusing on the triggering video, though the fate of the singer will be decided in the courts of law, the concern remains as to how safe our kids are in the hands of those seniors /mentors on whom they repose their faith and trust.

What if the unseen scenes behind the camera of those reality shows are more gloomy and scary?

There has to be a concerted effort from everyone to create a safe and secure environment for these kids, so that in later years of their life, they are not left with just a #Metoo campaign to vent out their anger and frustration.

And for the said social media hooligans, they know the police are incapacitated to catch them. Cyber crime is still a new phenomenon in the country. A stringent law to regulate the online monsters and further sophistication within the police force is the need of the hour for a better tomorrow.

(The story has been written by Runa Bhuyan, an advocate in the Supreme Court. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same)

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