Increase in the number of registered cases of child sexual abuse and child marriage over the past year in Assam has become a matter of concern. A total of 399 cases were registered from Guwahati in 2017 through the Childline phone outreach service 1098 which showcases the grave scenario.
“In the year 2017, child marriage cases were registered from various districts, especially Barpeta,” Guwahati Childline Centre Coordinator, Nirmal Deka told Northeast Now.
“So far, about 10-12 districts of Assam have Childline centres,” he added.
“There is an urgent need for rehabilitation centres at the block and village level so that close monitoring can be undertaken after rescuing the children,” Nirmal Deka said.
In its first year, Childline had rescued 13 children in 2001-02 while in 2015-16 it increased to 267. As part of their awareness programmes, the Childline centre has been sensitizing people and especially children in schools and NGOs about child sexual abuse.
They have also been raising awareness through the screening of a short movie titled Komal.
“The child labour issues have been on a rise. Yet it is to be noted that with the growing awareness among people, they now know whom to report to about such issues which has been a positive development,” Nirmal Deka said.
In most cases, under-aged boys are employed in commercial sectors like grill or steel making enterprises, restaurants and dhabas while girls are employed in the domestic sector for household chores.
The Childline 1098 service is run under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Women and Child Development. It links children in distress to long term rehabilitation and care.
After a case is registered, Childline reaches out to the children in need and provides them counseling and medical assistance. They work in tandem with both state and non-state actors to provide safety and security to children.
Under the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, those who employ children under the age of 14 years are punishable under law. But with the latest Child and Adolescent (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016, the principal Child Labour Act was updated to include adolescent labour within the age group of 14-18 years as well.
“After the amendment, people were mostly ignorant about the changes and they continued to employ adolescents,” Nirmal Deka noted.
“Children become easy targets because they are seen as low-paid workers which pose a serious threat,” he added.
Moreover, following the Delhi High Court’s decision to set up Childline centres in major railway stations in the country, there are twenty Railway Childline centres in the country at present. One such unit has been operating in Guwahati from Paltan Bazar railway station since June, 2015 under Indian Council for Child Welfare – Assam branch and Ministry of Women and Child Development.