In India, every second child is sexually abused, and 90% of cases go unreported.
Children fail to identify abuse and speak up against the same. Any form of violence against them, such as sexual abuse, forced touch, wrong touch, and /or bullying, is considered a crime.
Looking at the previous records, there are up to 1 billion children who are between the age of 2-17 years have encountered several forms of violence, says the WHO.
Now, due to the COVID-19, children have nowhere to go but are bound to stay at home. The UNICEF global status report 2020 stated that, with the pandemic still around and social-distancing in effect, violence against children has surged manifold.
One way to free children from any form of violence is by educating them in deciphering the difference between good vs bad touch. Megha Bhatia, the Founder of Our Voix, a youth-led organisation working on child sexual abuse prevention, is educating children about sexual abuse through short animation films.
Our Voix conduct workshops, training, and build resources such as comic books, animated movies on child sexual abuse prevention, and advocate on breaking the silence on issues of child sexual violence. Until today, they have impacted 16,000+ children with their workshops. Also, their comic books on children's safety are available in school libraries of 9+ states.
Animation for a change
Most of the time children are scared to report instances of child sexual abuse to their parents. “Di, I won't share this with my mother, she will scold me,” a girl once said to Megha. Sometimes, they are afraid to share this with anyone and start believing that it’s their fault. They don’t have a safe space where they can share about abuse without hesitation or getting blamed.
“Children lack the right vocabulary to explain an instance of child sexual abuse. As they are not taught about body safety at their school, they hardly know the name of their private parts.”
They released several animated short films such as “Humare Super Buddies Humare Rakshak” to connect the real world with cartoons and get a better understanding of the big picture. They believe that animation is the language for children, which observed the need for child-friendly movies on prevention of child sexual abuse.
“I believe child sexual abuse is a scary thing, but talking about it should not be. While we used to conduct workshops for children at the grass-root level, we observed that children relate to cartoons such as Doraemon, Motu Patlu, and a few other cartoon characters."
“The idea of super-heroes makes it easier for them to distinguish between good and bad. The animated movies also take up two Super Buddies that have been carefully penned down in roles, where they share knowledge, facts about the powers and rights of children. Thus, children are learning about a sensitive issue of abuse with the help of super buddies.”
You can watch these movies on the Our Voix YouTube channel.
At the moment, it’s available in Hindi, but they are planning to translate them into multiple regional languages soon. All the movies cover a wide range of topics concerning sexual abuse violence, both contact-based and non-contact-based violence.
Some of the aspects covered in the movies are children’s power over their bodies, the power to say no, and the power to judge the touch, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, and child-friendly provisions under the act.
The films also cover self-defence techniques that can be adopted by the children to ensure safety and learn ways to protect themselves from strangers, understanding the early warning signs, and physical, behavioural, and psychological impact it can create on the child.
“The inspiration behind this is the stories of survivors that I have listened to in my life. The stories made us realise the importance of having a conversation on the issue. And the importance of building safe spaces for children where they can share their heart out without getting blamed or ashamed for the same.”
“A child once disclosed to me that she was getting touched inappropriately by her 27-year-old brother. It was later found that she was getting raped from last year.”
Most of the shared instances were related to non-contact abuse, such as people whistling at children while they are going home, a person showing them his private parts or masturbating in front of the child, etc.
So far, they have collaborated with several schools & NGOs across different states in India to spread the message.
All the animated movies aim to bust the myths around the issue of child sexual abuse. It is powerful enough to break the silence on the issues of child sexual abuse.
These movies also empower both parents and teachers to discuss such matters with children in a friendly manner, report sexual abuse cases without any fear, and raise their voices against the same.
“I showed this to my 6-year-old and she is loving it”
The animation movies made by Our Voix have got many responses from people across different states of India, including from the survivors who were abused in their past.
“I believe that people from big corporations should come forward and contribute to this cause to make a bigger impact. I feel that this is important for every child and we should raise our voice against it.” – A message from Kavita, Senior Vice President, CSR of Banswara Syntex Ltd.
All the images are sourced with permission from Megha Bhatia.