COVID-19: Lost Children Of A Lockdown

by Amitabh Joshi 1 year ago Views 1648

"Close your eyes
Have no fear
The monster's gone
He's on the run and your daddy's here."

These words from a John Lennon song are ones of reassurance to a child. In a world turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic, if there’s one thing our children need now, it is reassurance and protection.

Often, it seems as if we have forgotten they are there. Overwhelmed by the virus’ destruction of life, liberty and economy, children are the static of voices in the background as we speak to each other on the phone and ask how we’re coping in a quarantined world.

We are exasperated that the lockdown has been extended for another 19 days. But remember, kids aren’t going back to school for at least another two months. In New York, they’re not going to see a classroom until September.

Over 1.5 billion children and young people have been affected by school closures worldwide. While many are taking scattered and brief online classes, this is a far cry from being physically present in a school, in a classroom or on a playground, with your friends. And it’s an even further cry for children from poorer homes, who don’t have the luxury of such access and who are most vulnerable.

Child abuse cases have risen in India since the lockdown. Whether it’s in middle class homes, in shanties or in the shadows of our empty roads, it is happening and it is distressing.

Between March 20 and 31, there were over 92,000 calls to the Childline India helpline from children seeking protection against abuse and violence. The number of calls increased by 50% after the March 24 nationwide lockdown was announced.

Last week, a letter written to the CJI by two lawyers, Summer Sodhi and Aarzoo Aneja, also pointed out that during the lockdown incidents of abuse and violence faced by children have risen.

"Under normal circumstances, it is not considered safe for abused children to stay at home as it might result in further suffering at the hands of their own family members. However, during the lockdown, the danger to these children is exacerbated, as they are unable to leave their homes. The isolation has further shattered support networks, making it even more difficult for the victims to seek help or escape," the letter said.

Children in lockdown no longer have the safe space and support that schools provide and this includes access to teachers, who spend way much more time with them than busy and distracted parents often do.

A report by the India Child Protection Fund is even more disturbing. “The nationwide lockdown to contain the COVID-19 outbreak has exposed a dark underbelly of our society – millions of paedophiles, child rapists and child pornography addicts have increased their activities online, making the internet extremely unsafe for our children”, states the report titled Child Sexual Abuse Material in India.

It is an ugly side to human nature, which transcends borders, that abuse and violence against children has risen the world over, with a third of the global population in a COVID-19 lockdown.

According to an international campaign by the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, a combination of movement restrictions, loss of income, isolation, overcrowding and high levels of stress and anxiety are increasing the likelihood that children experience and observe physical, psychological and sexual abuse at home – particularly those children already living in violent or dysfunctional family situations.

“While online communities have become central to maintain many children’s learning, support and play, it is also increasing their exposure to cyberbullying, risky online behaviour and sexual exploitation”, the forum says.

It is often enough said that children are our future. In these hard times of the pandemic, they need to be our present.

Assuring them that ‘the monster’s on the run’.

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