Today’s dynamically changing, evolving global scenario, with modernization of lifestyles, culture, dress and habits changing on a daily basis also has a dark side – more and more children (both boys and girls) are falling victims to physical and sexual exploitation, apart from being habituated to alcohol and other psychotropic substances. The issue has become widespread due to an increasing economic divide, forcing the poor into selling their children, especially girls, for money and essentials. This, combined with low gender sensitivity and the view of young girls as ‘burdens’ to the family, the lure of a ‘good job’ and ‘quick money’ due to rising costs of living results in young girls being pushed into early labour or sex work. The resulting abuse – physical, mental, sexual, emotional and social – leaves deep scars that are not easily erased.
The statistics regarding children who are abused or trafficked is distressing. It is estimated that around 170 million or 40% of India’s children are vulnerable to or experience difficult circumstances. Trafficking of young girls for prostitution and labour is most common between the ages of 9 to 14 years; these girls are kidnapped or forced out of their homes due to abject poverty. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a girl is abducted every 8 minutes in India.
Through a collaborative venture with the Suraksha Project, APSA has been providing skill training, lifeskills and sexual health education to young girls residing at the Government Girls’ Homes in Bangalore city since July 2013. Through intensive intervention, counselling and rehabilitation support, APSA enables these girls to build confidence, self-worth and dignity, helping them look forward to a more hopeful future. Creative therapy through theatre workshops, exposure visits, participation in sports and cultural events also provide a vent for young girls in dealing with feelings of rejection, loneliness, anger, fear and uncertainty about the future.
The APSA-Suraksha project also liaises on a regular basis with government departments such as the Department of Women & Child Welfare (DWCW), District Child Protection Unit (DCPU), Karnataka State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR), state government-run state and district homes in rural and urban areas of the city, Child Welfare Committee (CWC), the Crime Investigation Department (CID) and the Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU). APSA also partners like-minded CBOs and civil society organizations on addressing child trafficking issues.
Since commencement of the project, APSA has been able to reach an estimated 250 young girls with sexual health and lifeskills education, skill training and awareness on child rights, child protection and gender rights, thereby enabling these girls to become their own agents for personal and social change.
APSA’s long-standing work experience has shown that children rescued from conflict or distress circumstances who are housed in a child-friendly, non-judgemental, receptive environment away from familiar peer groups, enables children to better receive assistance and care, instils discipline, and helps children work towards addressing their problems, while encouraging positive thinking. Towards this goal, APSA recently enabled extension of work with children rescued from trafficking through the inauguration of its Suraksha Centre for Disadvantaged Children in Kanakpura on 14th November 2014, a significant day as it was – along with being Children’s Day – the 25th anniversary of the ratification of the UN Child Rights Convention by the Government of India. The Centre is designed to cater to the needs of children rescued from trafficking and abuse, along with providing non-formal education to children from surrounding villages in Kanakpura and a venue for conducting de-addiction camps for children addicted to alcohol, tobacco and other psychotropic substances.