School children in India, who face abuse of any nature, will soon be able to drop complaints anonymously online. India's ministry of women and child development is working on an initiative called the 'ebox', an online complaints box where children can register complaints anonymously.
India's women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi had previously deliberated on the initiative on Twitter. Recently, she told a gathering of state officials during the review of the 'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao' scheme - a campaign initiated by the government to save and educate the girl child - that the scheme is on the anvil, and that they must personally inform the principals of schools about the project.
Speaking about a previous scheme where complaint boxes were put up in schools, she said the initiative did not have the desired outcome.
"In many cases, the child was abused by someone who was close to him or her – father, brother, neighbour, and in some cases, the same teacher who was responsible for dealing with complaints in the box," she told the officials.
Brushing off concerns that the internet may not be accessible to everyone, Gandhi said that it may not be available today, but will be available soon.
In a similar project initiated by the Delhi Police last year, called Nirbheek, boxes were put up in four schools in Delhi. The complaints in the boxes led to 80 first information reports (FIR), and four convictions. In one case, the accused was the child's father, in another, it was the child's mother, in another, a cousin, and in the fourth, the tenant of the child's family.
The facility, an online dropbox of sorts, will have a menu to choose from and sent across to a team in the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) via emails, said a Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry official. Once the complaints come in, the mechanism will be similar to that of Childline.
"Children need to be encouraged to report abuse. Most of them suffer in silence, and are ashamed to tell anyone. In many cases, the accused is either a parent or a close relative," Gandhi told dna.
In a survey of 1,25,000 children in thirteen states, carried out by the WCD ministry, it was found that over 53 per cent have undergone some form of abuse, with 20 per cent reporting severe sexual abuse.
Dr John Vijaysagar of the department of child and adolescent psychiatry at National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (NIMHANS) said that the initiative is a good one, but needs to be backed by mechanisms that have been deliberated upon.
"Most children who face abuse, humiliation, bullying and sex abuse are scared to speak. Many of them do not know who is a trustworthy adult to speak to, and almost all children are worried that they will be judged by peers or school authorities. So, discussions with stakeholders will lead to better mechanisms,” said Dr Vijaysagar.
(Amrita Madhukalya | DNA)