Eastern Mirror Desk
Dimapur, March 29: The Nagaland chapter of Childline 1098 based in Dimapur was started in 2011 and since inception, it has intervened in 1457 cases pertaining to various “child protection risk areas” which include child abuse, trafficking, child labour, missing children, emotional support and guidance and various other distress situations children experience.
The centre coordinator for Dimapur district, Loza Kape told Eastern Mirror that the figures were alarming. According to Childline Dimapur data, child labour cases were highest from 2018 till date with 42 cases being registered in the district.
The number of cases involving unsheltered children is 31 in 2018-19 with the highest being 55 cases registered in 2013-14. For cases concerning ‘missing children’, the highest was recorded in 2013-14 with 57 cases; in 2018-19, 10 cases have been registered.
Sexual abuse cases were lower than the previous year’s with four cases registered compared to seven in 2017-18.
Kape narrated a story where a 16-year-old girl was repeatedly raped by her employer for a few years. She was brought to the centre from a neighbouring state five years ago through a missionary.
“The motive of bringing the girl was to educate her and later send her to a Bible school so that she can go back to her native place and start working as a missionary,” Kape said. The girl was admitted to a school and stayed with a Naga pastor who, again, raped her several times.
She was rescued and ‘restored to her biological parents.’ The case is still pending in court, Kape said.
In another case, a 15-year-old girl whose mother passed away while giving birth to her younger brother was sent to Dimapur to work as a domestic help by her father and stepmother. She was verbally and physically abused, tortured and assaulted by ‘her co-workers under the supervision of the employer’s daughter.’
As she could not bear the pain any longer, she decided to run away to her previous employer’s home who, in turn, took the girl to a hospital for treatment. “There was haemorrhage internally and bones were also broken, apart from swollen feet and blisters all over.”
The healing process, she said, is still going on and the child is undergoing physiotherapy treatment along with counselling for the trauma she endured.
Kape said that many children continue to suffer due to poverty, and ignorance of parents about their rights. “We cannot build a better society as long as a child on the other end of the line is calling out in distress and fear,” Kape said.
“This hostile environment for vulnerable children created by irresponsible adults is the biggest challenge to overcome in ensuring a child-friendly world.”
Childline Dimapur, according to Kape, constantly faces various hurdles, which restrict them from “effectively and conclusively tending to the cases of children.”
One of the major problems cited was the traditional practice of settling cases and disputes within the community members, thereby bypassing the administrative and legal process. “This is rampant and an ongoing custom within the state of Nagaland,” she said and maintained that when matters are taken up by community leaders, the police and administration have no say.
“Whenever Childline takes up cases concerning children, both the accused and the victim have already forwarded their cases to their respective communities, and in many instances, both parties are non cooperative towards Childline for fear of the community or stigma,” she said.
In some instances, she said, “national workers or factional groups that run parallel governments” have their own courts to handle disputes and cases, and in many instances, major as well as minor cases are taken up and disposed by them.
“In many instances, they are directly or indirectly involved when disputes and cases arise and their directives are hardly challenged,” Kape said.
Another challenge, she said, is the fear of discrimination and rejection from the society. She said that being a close-knitted society, information spreads easily—due to which people hardly open up or share cases for fear of discrimination or rejection from the community.
“The parents or guardians of the victim refuse to file cases and take it up with the authorities, either under pressure from the family members or from the community or due to the fear of antagonising the accused.”
Another major hurdle cited, interestingly, was the church’s role. The organisation was of the belief that the church is still in denial mode when it comes to children issues, and still believes and projects an environment where the society is child-friendly and families are healthy.
Chidline is a project supported by the union ministry of Women and Child Development and links state governments, NGOs, allied systems and the corporate sector. It is currently operational in over 492 cities across the country.
The Childline 1098 (toll free) service was started in Dimapur with Prodigals’ Home as its collaborative organisation and the service has now expanded to Kohima and Mokokchung.
The ministry aims to expand the service to all the districts by 2020.