Saturday, July 24, 2021

Conscience alert

Editorial 2

Another case of child abuse surfaces in Nagaland ~ it doesn’t matter where in Nagaland. What matters is that such abuses occur ~ perhaps at a more regular interval than we imagine. The race, religion, community, class, economic and educational backgrounds and all such differences of victims and perpetrators also doesn’t matter. What matters is that such domestic crimes against children continue to find fertile soil in our homes, in our communities. Yes, the Bible says: “spare the rod and spoil the child” but we have come a long way to know that there are other better ways to teach and discipline children. Besides, not sparing the rod is not supposed to mean the kind of violence that totally traumatizes children physically, mentally, psychologically and sexually. Moreover, it is contestable whether the dictum “spare the rod and spoil the child” means violence that negatively impact children’s bodies, minds and psyche. By now, we should be able to discern the literal from the metaphorical and understand the principles, guidelines teachings and the wisdom inherent in such aphorisms. These crimes against children that occur to child “house helps” are not biblically-based ~ there is nothing biblical in practically mutilating such children. Also, let us know for a fact that when rage overtakes an adult, who particularly doesn’t perceive a child or a house help or a woman, as an equal, the Bible or any biblical precept is the last thing s/he thinks about. Any form of violence is all about power and control ~ nothing biblical about them either. We know that economic situations and misfortunes compellingly situate children to be “adopted”, sold and employed ~ the pandemic has increased the number of such children, which has been alerted last year across the globe. The State therefore cannot abdicate its responsibility of protecting and providing for such children. Yes, our State Agencies related to children’s welfare, safety, security and protection have accelerated their vigilance and justice has been delivered to victims in a good number of reported cases, while some are still under judicial process. These State agencies’ commitment and dedication are unimpeachable. However, because it takes a village to bring up a child, society and State cannot shove off all responsibility of securing our children on these agencies alone. No doubt, our law-enforcing agencies are equally committed and vigilant regarding crimes against women and children however there is always more scope and space for more accelerated action. Perhaps, a specialized Unit for crimes against children including child labour at home, factories, mills and other industrial and commercial enterprises? Child abuse at home and child labour are constitutionally and legally impermissible but are rampant even in our State. Our Government needs to focus undivided attention to stop such constitutional and legal violations. Then there is the Right to Education. Our Government needs to create awareness and educate our people that no child below the age of 14 can be employed for domestic, industrial and commercial work. This actually is where our Government needs to co-opt NGOs, the Church and local authorities ~ right from the village level. Much can be done to prevent crimes against children, and women, if our Government initiates a movement to rid Nagaland of the scourge of crimes against women and children ~ if it can muster the political will. It doesn’t even need to spend money ~ it just needs the district civil and police administrations, as also the Department of Information and Publicity, to reach out to our people through influencers of various platforms ~ without any hype and hoopla. This initiative would be a major positive human development marker of Nagaland ~ anyway the Government’s job, not the job of NGOs working for women and children’s issues and welfare. Then we have the State Women Commission, which should ideally be the points-agency for this initiative. It is unconstitutional for the Government to enter the home or the bedroom but crimes committed inside them are the State/Government’s constitutional responsibility. Therefore, there are situations when the State must enter homes and bedrooms and “invade” privacy to address and redress crimes and constitutional violations. Article 371(A), allows the space and scope for numerous initiatives for human development ~ however, it doesn’t allow for crimes against women and children. Or, does it? If, just for once, our Government convenes a meeting with NGOs, the Church and local authorities to root out crimes against women and children, Nagaland’s face would be much cleaner and our conscience lighter.