Ayushmann Khurrana Fights Child Abuse in IndiaViolence and abuse are harsh realities for millions of children in India. More than 40% of the country’s 440 million youth are unprotected and facing traumatic and dangerous situations. According to the Government of India, the frequency of all types of child abuse — physical, emotional and sexual — is exceptionally high. In 2018, the National Crime Records Bureau reported that 109 children face sexual abuse every day. The popular Indian actor Ayushmann Khurrana is working with UNICEF to fight against child abuse in India. 

Contributing Factors

Child abuse in India is often found among the poorer sectors of society, with domestic violence, drug addiction and illiteracy compounding the situation’s complexity. Injury, negligent care, incestuous exploitation and sexual abuse are all examples of child abuse. It can occur in various settings, including the home, schools, orphanages, the streets, the workplace or detention centers. 

More than 150 million girls and 73 million boys below 18 have been coerced into sexual activities, according to a 2007 report by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD). The abuse was most prevalent in the homes of children aged 5 to 12, where parents typically perpetrated it. Studies show prolonged exposure to child abuse increases the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), aggressiveness and emotional and mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

India’s Efforts to Combat Abuse

The Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) was enacted in 2012 due to a movement spearheaded by the MWCD to combat the threat of child sexual abuse in India. The act made many forms of child sexual abuse punishable by law. It also introduced provisions for the proper passage of justice. For example, authorities must record evidence within 30 days and conduct an investigation within three months. After that, a special court works on the case, usually reaching a judgment in less than two months.

Since the passage of the POCSO Act, the number of child abuse cases brought to trial has risen. This is largely attributed to an increased social awareness of the issue and because several actions are now considered offenses. However, a 2018 report from the National Crime Records Bureau found that abuse is still prevalent, where five cases of child sexual abuse were documented every hour in India.

Ayushmann Khurrana’s Passion to End Child Abuse

Ayushmann Khurrana is a multi-talented Indian actor revered as a generational icon. His work in films such as “Article 15” and “Andhadhun” inspired positive social dialogues. Khurrana is also a father to two children. Khurrana’s children have access to privileges that many Indian children can only hope to enjoy. This insight persuaded Khurrana to become an active voice against child abuse. The actor’s support for the fight against child abuse also derives from his belief that it is both immoral and stoppable.

Ayushmann Khurrana Speaks Out

Nearly one-third of India’s population lives below the poverty line. The poverty rate contributes to the increase in child labor because impoverished families are more likely to send children to work instead of school. And, in certain circumstances, desperate parents will sell children to child traffickers for supplemental income. Ayushmann Khurrana has been outspoken against child labor and encourages others to support a social protection plan for low-income families.

To help reduce child sexual abuse, Ayushmann Khurrana produced a video in endorsement of the POSCO Act. Khurrana’s video encourages people to recognize situations of child sexual abuse and report them to the appropriate authorities.

Ayushmann Khurrana has also been named the celebrity advocate for UNICEF India’s Ending Violence Against Children (EVAC) campaign. There are three main focuses of the EVAC campaign. The first focus of the campaign is to create an atmosphere that enables a multi-sectoral response. Next, the campaign will focus on the structural development of India’s law enforcement, government aid and health systems. Finally, the campaign strives to empower Indian adolescents through social and behavioral changes. UNICEF India anticipates that Khurrana’s involvement will offer empathy, enthusiasm and a prominent voice for every child in the eradication of violence against children.

Ending Child Abuse in India

With the increase in reported cases, India must now strive to reduce the frequency of child abuse. UNICEF India is aiding this with the establishment of child protection programs such as the End Violence Against Children campaign. Ayushmann Khurrana said, “With UNICEF, I look forward to supporting rights of the most vulnerable children, so that they grow up as happier, healthier, educated citizens in nurturing environments free from violence.”

– Tiara Tyson
Photo: Flickr

Project PrakashMore than one million children in developing countries are blind. The majority of these children live in rural India, where more than six million people are blind. However, most hospitals in India do not possess specialty care for children who are blind. For children who do have access to special services, transportation acts as a significant obstacle to getting treatment. Many rural children also often do not know that their condition is reversible and cannot afford treatment. Pawan Sinha, a professor at M.I.T. and a father himself, hypothesized that most of the children suffering could have their vision restored. He founded Project Prakash to make his idea into a reality.

Blindness and Poverty

In rural areas, a lack of knowledge about blindness means that blind children are often subject to lifelong stigma. Some people, for example, may believe that blind children possess demons. Parents often turn to someone who is not in the medical field to perform a ritual to rid them of their evil spirits.

Importantly, if children do not receive medical treatment early on, their condition can get worse with age. This deprives them of education and puts them at a higher risk of dying young. Furthermore, blind girls often face a high risk of sexual abuse. Blind children in rural India may also never have the opportunity to escape poverty, as they are unlikely to find future job opportunities if they reach adulthood.

Project Prakash: A Solution

Project Prakash provides free treatment to any child who needs it. It operates in many hospitals throughout India to provide non-surgical intervention for blind children. This type of treatment may include glasses or an eye patch. For children who do require surgical treatment, the organization works with the Charity Eye Hospital in Delhi to treat cataracts, congenital infections and misaligned eyes. Most importantly, the entire process of treatment, transportation, hospital stay, surgery and recovery costs nothing for the child or their family.

Project Prakash’s work also extends beyond treatment itself. Instead of letting children go after they receive medical intervention, the organization helps them throughout the recovery process. Sinha understands that blind children regaining vision do not immediately have perfect sight; much like a baby, it is a process. Children’s vision is often blurred at first, and it takes time to make out finer details.

Over 40 weeks, children learn how to use their new sense through a variety of tests. The full scale of the tests range from the sensitivity of vision, shape matching, identifying different colors, detection of facial features and recognizing objects. Once the child can process multiple pieces of visual information at once, their vision improves.

Research

The effects of Project Prakash’s work go beyond the children themselves. The hospital where children receive surgery also operates as a research facility to study neurology and vision. By providing such an intensive process for children to learn how to use their vision, the organization can learn a lot about the brain’s ability to learn and adapt.

The organization’s findings challenge the theory developed by David H. Hubel and Torsten N. Wiesel that the connection between brain stimulation and visual information forms during a particular developmental period. They theorized that if a child does not go through this stage, they will never be able to adapt later in life. However, Sinha proved that teenagers with various congenital conditions were able to recover their eyesight after never having seen before. He therefore determined that people learn to see through experience. This valuable information makes it more likely that other blind children can receive treatment, knowing that it will help them see no matter their age.

The Future of Project Prakash

Project Prakash’s mission may soon extend beyond blindness. Its research could provide insight into other developmental disorders caused by genetics or the harsh conditions of poverty. Overall, the organization’s findings open up the possibility that these factors’ negative effect on the brain may be reversible, like blindness.

So far, Project Prakash has treated 2,000 children in underserved communities in rural India. More than half have received surgical treatment to restore their vision. By doing so, the organization is helping children live longer, better lives with more opportunities for the future.

Zoe Schlagel
Photo: Flickr

Educating children in India
The new coronavirus pandemic has imposed previously unforeseen obstacles on education systems across the globe. This especially applies to those in low-income areas or rural communities. The responsibility to provide a sufficient alternative for the in-classroom education model has been placed on virtual resources. This is because online lessons keep children safe from exposure while learning. However, digital access may not be either adequate or equal in certain countries. The digital divide separates many people from the Internet. However, NGOs in India are working to provide children in India with the necessary tools to participate in virtual classes. Three NGOs in particular are taking care of vulnerable children who are unable to meet educational needs in India. Here are three NGOs educating children in India.

3 NGOs in India Facilitating Virtual Education

  1. The Miracle Foundation is a nonprofit organization with a focus on vulnerable children in orphanages. Furthermore, the foundation has a focus on vulnerable children in other institutions as well. Alongside the Child Care Institute (CCI), the Miracle Foundation is setting out to cover children’s COVID-era education, in vulnerable areas. Some activities facilitated by the duo include providing students with full use of CCI libraries. It also supplies teachers for remote lessons via video conference applications and hosts virtual Life Skills Education classes, among other things. CCI and the Miracle Foundation are operating successfully throughout seven states in India and they have shown no signs of slowing down.
  2. E-Vidyaloka, based in Bangalore, is an NGO that focuses on imparting education to students of rural, government schools in India. It does this through crowdsourcing volunteer teachers and connecting them to the rural government schools, using the power of information technology. The group creates digital classrooms for children in remote Indian villages. Consequently, this makes education more accessible to students during the current pandemic. The goal is to create a virtual learning environment that provides high-quality, e-learning for children in India. E-Vidyaloka has done just that by using technology for educating children in India.
  3. Magic Bus is one of the most prevalent poverty alleviation NGOs in India. The group helps more than 375,000 children in India, spanning across 22 states and 80 districts. Magic Bus supplies disadvantaged children in India from ages 12 to 18, with the necessary skills to overcome poverty into adulthood. In partnership with Classplus, Magic Bus provides an online, education platform to young students in India. The platform is called the Magic Bus Livelihood Programme. Classplus has enabled Magic Bus to engage in a virtual classroom setting while quarantined. According to the EdTechReview, Magic Bus’ expert staff is utilizing the platform to share assignments and broadcast messages. It is also utilizing it to deliver learning content and evaluate students’ performances, online. The application’s reach is incredible. The platform is projected to impact more than 2,000 children across 22 states in some of India’s most remote areas. These areas include Kurnool in Hyderabad, Ambadi and Shahpur in Mumbai and Thane.

An Educated Outlook

Overall, the upcoming school year will be an unprecedented event for students everywhere. It is far from likely that any parent could have prepared their child for education in this environment. Online education may soon become the new norm. Groups like the aforementioned NGOs are working to provide equal opportunities for children in vulnerable areas. With the beginning of the school year fast-approaching, educating children in India is under the care of notable organizations like the Miracle Foundation, E-Vidyaloka and Magic Bus. Students will now be enabled to study virtually, alongside other learners in any country.

Maxwell Karibian
Photo: Pixabay