Crimes against minors, particularly sexual abuse, have increased in Goa in recent years. Every child has a right to safety, and it is our collective duty to ensure that they are shielded from dangerous individuals and circumstances.
Goa has fared well in this regard because we have not just been concerned about our children but also made efforts to safeguard them from harm.
Although untoward incidences in schools, streets and beaches have opened our eyes, we didn’t leave a stone unturned to ensure awareness regarding child rights and protection, child abuse and cybercrimes, the vaping epidemic in the state, efforts to bring mental health into the classroom by appointing counsellors in schools, training in POCSO Act and taking stock of abandonment of children, especially girl child.
Goa State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (GSCPCR) has been instrumental in putting things in place concerning children’s safety, care and protection. Goa also observed Child Safety Week from November 14 to 20, 2023, endorsing the importance of speaking about the trauma that children undergo at various stages of their life.
On the rescue front at the beaches in Goa, 90+ children were rescued over the last few years and Drishti Marine’s lifesavers have shown incredible courage and grit in doing so. The lifesavers were referred to by Peter Borges (GSCPCR Chairperson) as “unsung heroes” as they exercise their duty of ensuring kids are safe and watching over them while they swim.
The lifesavers have shown immense commitment to providing a secure atmosphere for kids and reconnecting them with their parents. Along Goa’s beaches, the organisation has also located 264+ missing kids over three years.
CHILD RIGHTS AND PROTECTION
One is certain of how online gaming and social media have adverse effects on children, and that if left unattended, it can lead to having a drastic effect on them. Not just that, child abuse has also widely increased in Goa and therefore addressing these and many such issues is a necessity.
There have been several workshops and trainings conducted for children so that they may be made aware of their rights and privileges. Such workshops helped them stand up for their rights and empower themselves.
The workshops and training also made it clear that child rights can help embrace challenges and make their dreams come true. They are the citizens of today and not tomorrow and therefore, Goa ought to ensure that we give our children the best of today.
There have been discussions to place Lady PSIs as Child Welfare Officers at police stations with a high incidence of child crimes. To generate a secure atmosphere, a recommendation is made to create kids-friendly police stations. A support network is also advised in Goa for the offspring of foreign nationals serving jail sentences.
SUPPORTING CHILD ABUSE VICTIMS
Goa is also proud to have conducted workshops and trainings wherein representatives from the child protection system, including the police, juvenile justice board, child welfare committee and non-governmental organisations, attended. The different programmes were aimed at enhancing coping mechanisms for sudden emergencies and offering emotional support.
Sometimes it is not easy to handle trauma and unless we are trained we cannot really help the children. Thus, trainings such as these help institutional caretakers who lack professional training in handling signs of trauma, including depression, anxiety, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to gain abilities to observe signs of trauma and help treat them in the given circumstances.
Despite these efforts, the concern still continues due to the vulnerability of children. Thus, the effort must continue to avoid child sexual abuse and it will happen only if we make our protective mechanism adequate.
CURBING CYBER CRIME
Goa has also meditated upon a regulatory ban on online games as they have led children to engage in cybercrimes. A regulatory prohibition limited access to parents’ bank accounts and credit cards while emphasising the need for parents to keep an eye on their children’s online gaming and financial activities.
Children have been vulnerable online and therefore a child safety online desk has been created to provide 24x7 information and assistance to parents and children grappling with online abuse. Cyber porn is also escalating day by day and therefore Goa has taken stringent steps to curb the exchange of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM).
A mother in Goa successfully petitioned for Glanzmann Thrombasthenia, a rare disorder, to be recognized in the National Rare Disease Policy which allows her to claim aid under various disabled person schemes.
The GSCPCR also called for the recognition of other rare diseases and the inclusion of children with rare diseases in social protection benefits. The commission has asked the state government to create a registry of children with rare diseases and include other rare diseases not listed in the policy.
The commission has also recommended including children with rare diseases as a category for social protection benefits through the Dayanand Social Security Scheme.
Not just this, but promoting inclusion even in education, a certificate course on ‘Tools for Inclusive Practice’ was conducted. The course aimed to improve teaching and learning quality for children with disabilities in mainstream schools shifting mindsets towards a sense of belonging and community for people with disabilities.
Goa’s efforts to protect children are part of a wider strategy that addresses everything from internet safety to social program participation to physical safety.
A deliberate attempt to provide a more secure and welcoming atmosphere for children in the state is evident in the dedication to raising awareness, providing training and modifying policies. Hope we continue with the same spirit.