The UK government is planning to introduce a new law which they are currently calling the Cinderella Law. Under this law neglect of children can get offenders a jail term. This proposal sounds good but has an inbuilt flaw: who is going to complain? Neglect can happen right from the child’s birth. A little child is fully dependent on its parents. So it is hardly likely that the victim is in any position to complain.
Let’s say some relative, friend or neighbor complains. Can you really take a child’s parent/s away? The child knows no security other than its parents – and taking them away is in all likelihood going to cause more pain and harm to the child than the presence of even a bad parent does. On the off-chance that the parents are jailed or penalized, two further questions arise: Who will take the responsibility and care of the child? What is the guarantee that the parent will behave any differently once they return?
Child care and child protection are very tricky problems with no easy solutions.
Recently in Bombay, there was a report about a 15 year old. The school-going girl originally from Uttar Pradesh (UP) was living in Bombay with an older brother and two younger siblings (a brother and a sister). Their father was in their hometown in UP. There was a session about sexual abuse in the girl’s school. Subsequently she confided in a teacher that her older brother was abusing her sexually since she was 13! Wait! It gets worse – she had told this to her father during one of his infrequent visits and he did nothing! That is not all – her abusive brother was the only earning member in the family.
What happened next was that her brother was arrested. Such a demon should be arrested and left to rot in a dungeon. But what will happen to the girl and her two younger siblings? They may be sent to different shelters run by the government and by NGOs? But is that any safer or better? There are stories of physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse rampant in such shelters almost every single day.
Will this girl and her siblings get a better life or have they gone from the frying pan into the fire? While the older brother should doubtlessly be punished to the maximum extent provided in the legal framework, this girl and her siblings also deserve a life or love, respect and dignity. Who can assure that? Why were they here anyway when their parents were in UP? Should such parents even have a right to have children?
This is a question that needs an answer but has none.
There was that spine-chilling case of an Austrian father who imprisoned his 18 year old daughter in a small cell of a room for decades. In that cell he raped her repeatedly – and she had seven or eight children. Kids who were both, her children and her siblings. That father was more a monster than a father. Did he deserve to ever have a marriage – much less kids?
Can science or State ever promise or ensure the right to love, care, attention, health and security to any child? Any number of laws may be passed and any sort of framework may be established – but this gigantic problem has no answers – if it did, the world would be a much better place.