I have a thousand things to say to you and a thousand reasons not to…
Are many adults caught in the predicament most effectively summarized by the above quote? Should we talk, shouldn’t we, on unpleasant yet important subjects to our children? What is the right age to speak about the dangers of child trafficking, sexual abuse or sexual exploration and on other sensitive subjects? Would it lead to fear of the unknown or worse a fear psychosis? What if I too as an adult, am not comfortable dealing with the subject? All the above and more often work in our subconscious when it comes to communicating with our children on topics that are delicate or unhappy.
One memory that stands out from my childhood days is our family visit to the annual trade exhibition in Hyderabad during late 1960s and early 70s. Along with the amount that was ours to spend for the evening, my father used to draw our attention to the public address system and tell us that if we were “lost”, we should make our way to the help desk and not wander around. He assured us that he would find us. We never got lost but were happy that we knew where to go if we did.
When a 13-year-old child studying in one of the elite schools in Bengaluru walked out of her home ostensibly fearing her examination results and returned some four days later, I could not help wondering if the concept of “child trafficking” was alien to her?
According to the statistics available on the Railway Children website, every five minutes a child arrives alone on a platform in India. There are 11 million children living in stations or on streets.
According to National Crime Records Bureau data, over 130 children go missing every day, out of which, a minuscule number gets reunited with the parents. Most missing children are trafficked for labour, for sexual exploitation, abducted, or kidnapped to be pushed into crimes. With such staggering statistics, the girl, returning safely without any harm is a miracle in itself.
That begs a question, is she even aware of how foolhardy was her action? Do the adults in her life—both at home and school—work in tandem to educate her and sensitize other children on the possible consequences of her actions?
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