FOR WANT OF RESPECT FOR CHILDREN!

MEDIA WORKSHOP…be careful while reporting about crimes in which children are victims! Crimes against girl and boy children are almost on par, says Justice Sayanora Telles-Laad and the Children’s Court in Porvorim is already overburdened. Pictures shows Deepali Naik addressing media people and others on the dais are Bosco BF George (DIG), Emidio Pinto, GUJ President Rajtilak Naik and Sangeeta Porab.

CLEARLY we as a society are not thinking enough of what kind of a world we are creating for the children of lesser gods in the future! As a society we don’t respect children, seniors and the handicapped or so it seems to me. But even media people need to be sensitized to the vulnerability of children in homes where parents are on the warpath all the time — where violence is a way of life and the stress of bare survival to put a meal on the table and educate the children as they come alone, becoming more and more stressful, full of anxieties and with nameless fears and horrific trauma for messed up young minds.
It was very enlightening listening to two speakers at the workshop held at the Goa Union of Journalists media awareness seminar on Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012 and Goa Children’s Act 2003 on January 10, 2023. The speakers were namely Sayonara Telles-Laad, president (District Judge Cadre) and Children’s Court for the State of Goa and advocate Emidio Pinto, who’s associate director of Scan Goa, both spoke on the subject of achieving a “Child-Friendly State” in which both the print and perhaps even more so the electronic media which has an important role to play while reporting crimes to do with children – regardless of whether a crime was committed on them or even crimes committed by children.
Regardless of whether they come from well-to-do families or are children growing up in marginally poor income migrant homes – children are only too often at the mercy of both civil society as also police when cases are filed. Let us make Goa child-friendly, appealed Justice Sayonara Telles-Laad, for she and her team see children at the Children’s Court day in and day out and what kind of apprehensions they suffer in cases of parental child abuse, sexual abuse in the family or neighbourhood and other cases where children are more often than not victims of tragic situations or circumstances.
Appealing for more realistic and progressive media coverage she said that government, police and media have to be accountable and responsible in metering out fair justice to young victims within the parameters of the law; the Goa Children’s Court is a special court in the country and the media should be familiar with the Goa Children’s Act, 2003 which is unique. She said they see child witnesses as young as four years old sometimes who have been sexually abused and who do not even utter a word in court for they are so scared or intimidated. Sometimes students don’t even know what has been happening to them until there is a pregnancy and a teenager complains of “pain” – parents don’t know, teachers don’t know, even primary health centres don’t know! Teenage pregnancies are on the rise with disastrous consequences in India.
Also the general impression is that only the girl child is open to use and abuse most of the time, the truth is young boys too are subject to aggressive sexual acts and at the mercy of adults who think children are an easy target. In the eyes of the law a child is defined as a child as long as he or she is under the age of 18 years, and even here it is sometimes difficult to prove a child’s age when there is no certification proof as is often the case in low-income strata of society.
Many Goans have no conscience when it comes to hiring children to do their domestic chores, but in the eyes of the law it is an offence to hire children who are below 18 years of age. The age can also be fudged very often. There are also the children engaged in street work picking garbage who’re sometimes too young and have little resources to fall back on.
Incredibly, when it comes to the media reporting crimes to do with children, we are told that that some media persons actually think nothing of making a fast buck from parties who don’t want their names to appear in the reporting for a newspaper! With the electronic media photographic clips and videos are circulated which are vile – so yes, it is imperative that reporters and media editors are conscious of the fact that media too can be put on trial if someone files a case against it for vitiated reporting injurious to their reputation. Media people have to be sensitive when comes to reporting names of victims and those whose cases are still pending in court and to be wary of mentioning names of victims.
ADVOCATE Emidio Pinho of the State Victims Assistance Unit spoke of how crimes against children are on the rise with 263 offences registered in 2018 and 353 in 2021 and 269 in 2022. They’re having as many as 300 cases pending judgement in the Children’s Court with 60 registered under the POCSO (dealing with sexual offences), “The burden is huge in just one place! Female cases are 59% while male cases are 41 % to give you an idea and none are educated about the laws which deliver justice in cases of wrongdoing.
There are also some myths like children don’t get abused in “good” or “Goan families,” only uneducated people abuse their children, it’s always the child’s fault, children aren’t affected by domestic violence and so on and so forth. Only after the Nirbhaya case the anti-rape laws have been strengthened and now even non-touch sexual abuse like sending or showing vulgar images of a child invites stringent punishment. Social media has opened up a hornet’s nest of how youngsters are victimised, blackmailed and tortured sometimes into committing suicide. Most are to do with “love affairs” real or unreal.
It was indeed, a very eye-opening and useful workshop for the media and one may mention that earlier chief guest Bosco B F George (DIG-Crime & Range)/IG Prison) in his introductory comments shared a story of how in his own home his wife who is a teacher once roughed up her son and the son dared to answer back, “Mama I can report you to the police if I want to!” The annoyed mother retorted, “Go tell your father then!” Bosco George appealed to the media persons present for more co-operation between the police and media people in seeing that justice sees the light of day in crimes in which children are involved as victims.
The function commenced with a playing of Hindi bhajan songs “Hum ko man ki shakti dena, man vijay kare…” (from film `Guddi’) and “Itni shakti hume dena data…” and present for the seminar were Sangeeta Porob (joint director of Women & Child Development) and others engaged in redressing children’s woes in Goa. Clearly, with crimes against children on the rise it is time for everybody including media to be more concerned and sensitive while reporting stories pertaining to children – and also coming forward to testify to the truth if they have witnessed the crime personally.
This is to say may 2023 usher in a more equal playing field for the children of the poor in this country!

THE PURPLE FESTIVAL

purple festival for those with other abilities…a day long exhibition ended with a musical programme presented by the disabled and deafblind communiy, (right) Punjab National Bank has come out with an ATM with a voice app so that the blind may also avail of the special service.

FESTIVALS have been coming and going and one more called the Purple Festival was a special for a whole long week and this one was dedicated exclusively to the noble cause of bringing the physically handicapped and mentally challenged into mainstream society – we must increasingly become an inclusive society and not exclusive society! For a while I thought the color purple was my favourite color and wanted to associate it with senior citizens (now that I’m getting around to admitting that I am a senior citizen with painful joints handicapping me when I walk, old age can also be a handicap I’m learning).
But I guess the colour purple now goes to those who’re born or become handicapped in several ways, they’re more in need of a royal colour to represent them! Can’t help thinking that there’s one festival the government of Goa hasn’t celebrated exclusively or inclusively yet – and that is a senior citizens festival! Maybe one of these days it will happen.
I couldn’t make it to some of the events organized for the purple festival but have been taking pleasure in these pictures of floating wheelchair-bound persons getting their first pleasures of a dunking in the riverine beach of Miramar in capital city Panaji, and there was a cricket match for the blinddeaf too. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has promised to make public places more and more friendly for people with disabilities and chances are the purple festival is likely to become an annual event on Goa’s calendar of festivals.
At the INOX complex day out for the people with disabilities community there was this eye-opening spread of all the things now available to them to make life easier to live – models of wheelchairs and other useful equipment, all kinds of games, books in braille, and I was amazed to see the Punjab National Bank come up with a voice-over ATM which even the blinddeaf could use to draw money from their accounts…all they had to do was to listen to instructions, press the right buttons, and yo! Collect the cash! Bank representatives here gave me an impressive demonstration.
Honestly, one need not despair if one is stricken by deafness or blindness nowadays, the good lord forbid this however. Still let us try to unity in diversity in all forms and one of the forms is to welcome those with different abilities and make life worth living for them…in fact, many employers are even opening up job openings for the differently abled! Cheers to that on a warm winter’s day in January 2023.
ON that note it’s avjo, poiteverem, selamat datang, au revoir, arrivedecci, hasta la vista and vachun yeta here for now. I’m not making any new resolutions this year but hope our fortunes at the Goan Observer will take a turn for the better. Hope is evergreen, no?

—Mme Butterfly

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