Recently in collaboration with DCPCR, Sambhavna CRACR&PD conducted ‘Mera Kanoon Mera Dost’ a series of legal awareness workshops across schools in Delhi. As I interacted with these 670 young individuals, all eager bright-eyed 16–17-year-old girls and boys, I wondered to myself what kind of a world are we bequeathing to them.
Wars rage rendering millions homeless and vulnerable to abuse. Theunethical use of natural resources is resulting in severe climatic changes impacting the world’s food and health indexes. Globally, it is estimated that every year not less than 1 billion children aged 2–17 years, experience physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect. The spurt in incidents of crime against children across India has raised serious concern with 53,874 cases registered in 2021 alone under the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, according to data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
According to the NCRB, overall, a total of 1,49,404 cases relating to crime against children were registered in 2021 against 1,28,531 cases in 2020, a rise of 16.2 percent. If statistics of the NCRB are an indication, every third crime against a child was registered under the POCSO Act. Socio-cultural stigma has encouraged the establishment of a culture of silence which further disenfranchises survivors of child abuse.
This is the state of the world.
Then come two very pertinent questions. A) Are we going to leave this mess to them without enabling them with knowledge and skill on how to clean it up (primarily because we don’t know how ourselves!) B) if we are going to change this situation, then who will take up this full-time job of enabling change?
Assuming that we are compassionate human beings who care deeply for our children, let’s look at the second question. Who has the power to bring about sustainable change?
Social workers? The development professionals? Currently, NGOs at large are gasping to merely survive due to the paucity of funding opportunities!
Law Enforcement Agencies? Too busy minding matters of jurisdiction.
Government officials? Stuck under the pile of files and orders.
Educators? Who will complete the syllabus if they get down to this?
As Shahrukh Khan said in his film Chennai Express “Meena-amma, don’t underestimate the power of the common man”. Revising the dialogue for gender parity “Don’t underestimate the power of the common person”!! what no one can do, the common person can do. And all we need to do is be a law-abiding citizen. I am not bringing in morals as the moral compass varies based on experiences and situations. But the law remains the same for one and all.
The law says child labor is illegal. Don’t hire a Chotu or Munni as a domestic help or office help with a warped misplaced sense of magnanimity that at least we are helping their family put food on the table! Put in a bit extra from your table and hire a capable adult. Don’t put Chotu or Munni in a life that you would see as a nightmare for your own child.
The law says child marriage is illegal. Don’t allow it in your own family. Don’t participate in it.
The law prohibits commercial sex and pornography. Don’t buy sex. Don’t go onto sites where human beings are violated and humiliated. If there is no demand, why would there be supply?
Rape and sexual harassment are a punishable offense. Don’t do it. Don’t be an animal and live on instincts.
It is illegal to cut down trees. Don’t.
Abetment to suicide is an offense. Be compassionate and don’t bully or harass a person so much that they have to end their very existence.
The law requires you to stop at red lights, wear a helmet, and follow traffic speed limits. Do it.
None of these require an individual to spend money or time. Nor does it require an individual to lead a revolution. All you need to do is follow the law. Do it for your children. They are watching and learning.
As Rabindranath Tagore famously wrote Jôdi Tor Dak Shune Keu Na Ase Tôbe Ekla Chôlo Re (“If no one responds to your call, then go your own way alone”). Don’t concern yourself if people around you are following the law. You do it. Use the power of the common person!