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Our kids are abused by family, then silenced, says Kailash Satyarthi

BENGALURU: Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi highlighted the need to talk openly about child sexual abuse and proved his point by speaking in front of an audience of children here on Saturday. Satyarthi and his large contingent reached the city today, continuing the Bharat Yatra - a journey from Kanyakumari to Kashmir to highlight child abuse and trafficking. The activist visited Bal Bhavan within Cubbon Park, where he inaugurated an initiative to release 52 one-minute films on child sexual abuse. The initiative is a project by NGO Young Indians with support from other agencies working for child rights.

Speaking at Bal Bhavan, Satyarthi brought up the incident of the sexual abuse of a 4-year-old girl at a city school here. He said, “Our children, parents and citizens live in fear because of centuries-old mindset. Children are sexually abused by members of their close family, and then are made to be quiet about it.” He said a registry of sexual offenders should be prepared, and the identities of such offenders should be made well-known in society so that they are boycotted by all sections. He also interacted with children at the venue.

Satyarthi also termed the practice of linking the family’s honour with a girl’s sexual abuse as ‘nonsense’. “I’m very angry with this sick mindset of the society,” he said. Satyarthi also spoke later in the evening at a hotel in the presence of members of the state’s Commission for Child Rights, including Chief Secretary Subash Chandra Khuntia. He said that 53 per cent of India’s children were sexually abused before the age of 18, as per a 2001 government survey.

Speaking of the way ahead, he said a culture of child rights needed to be fostered in the country to overcome ‘an age-old mindset of keeping children silent that eclipses judicial and legal benefits.’ “I have looked into the eyes of those children who have been traumatised and could not speak  because their parents taught them not to.” He termed the ‘yatra’ a way to bring about about much-needed changes and said, “I call upon all of you to join this war. We can’t let India’s conscience die in childhood.”

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