NEW DELHI, August 22, 2013 – Violence against children is all too often unseen, unheard and underreported, said UNICEF India today, announcing an initiative that urges citizens, lawmakers and governments in India to speak out more forcefully to fight violence against children, with a special focus on sexual violence against girls, as part of UNICEFs campaign ‘End Violence against Children’.
The global initiative ‘End Violence Against Children’ builds on growing popular outrage that erupted following horrific attacks against children, such as the October 2012 shooting of then 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan, the fatal shooting of 26 pupils and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012 and gang rapes of girls in India and in South Africa in 2013.
Speaking at the occasion, Caroline Den Dulk, Chief Advocacy and Communications said, “UNICEF India is marking the launch of ‘Time to Sound the Red Siren’ by placing a special focus on sexual violence against girls. While violence affects both boys and girls in India in different forms, this special focus is associated with the fact that girls are among the most vulnerable in society and they face multiple forms of discrimination and violence.”
The initiative was unveiled at the Press Club of India with a powerful video narrated by UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and a leading voice on this issue, Amitabh Bachchan, who takes the viewer through a series of scenes depicting invisible violence.
“This is a 15-year-old girl being gang raped,” he says as the camera pans across an abandoned lot. “This teacher is beating a boy for talking back in class, while the rest of the class watches,” he says as new scenes unfold.
“Just because you can’t see violence against children doesn’t mean it isn’t there,” Amitabh Bachchan says. “Make the invisible visible. Help us make violence against children disappear. Join us. Speak out.”
The need to take urgent collective action is underlined even by the limited statistics available, which point to the scale and extent of violence. For example, reports of rapes in India have increased by 336% in the last ten years. In 2011, one third of the victims of rape consisted of girls below 18 years of age for a total of 7,112 cases . Many more are the cases of sexual abuse that go unreported as the fear of stigma pushes girls to hide their pain.
Violence inflicts not only physical wounds but leaves mental scars on children. It affects their physical and mental health, compromises their ability to learn and socialize and undermines their development.
The social media campaign titled “Time to Sound the Red Siren” launched on 19 July will share messages – using the #ENDviolence - to inform about the issue of sexual violence and the potential solutions including the protective environment needed to prevent girls from sexual abuse through Facebook (www.facebook.com/unicefindia), Twitter (www.twitter.com/UNICEFIndia) and Tumblr (http://unicefindia.tumblr.com/). UNICEF India will also try to engage people into action and will give information on how to speak out to break the silence.
Protecting children is at the heart of UNICEF’s mandate. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that every child everywhere has the right to be protected from all forms of violence.
UNICEF works with Government and civil society organisations to strengthen the capacities of child protection agencies (police, child welfare committees, judiciary, homes etc.) to enforce the law and offer adequate protection services to children. Preventive efforts are promoted by supporting community protection committees that raise awareness at the community level, and by fostering the empowerment of girls, their life skills and their knowledge on how to protect themselves.
The launch of the Red Siren (#ENDviolence) initiative is the first in the series of activities that UNICEF will implement in partnership with the Press Club of India in order to facilitate positive and meaningful media discourse on issues concerning women and children in India.