Last year I visited Protsahan, a small, but innovative social enterprise in Delhi that helps young girls who are victims of abuse through arts education. Some of the girls, who live and work in the red-light district in one of Delhi’s poorest slums, are forced by their families to work in brothels to contribute to the family’s paltry income. The girls can be victims of drug abuse and some of the girls are also subject to physical and sexual abuse in their own homes. They live harsh lives in the poverty-ridden slum where the lives of girls are often dispensable.
Sadly, many children’s lives in India, especially girls, are fraught with violence in some form or another. In this regard the girls at Protsahan are not unique. That is why we are joining UNICEF India to spread the word about ending violence against girls. 1 in 5 adolescent girls in India have experienced physical violence since age 15. 4.5% of girls (15-19) suffered some form of sexual violence and 1 in 3 adolescent girls (15-19) married or in union have experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence by their husband or partner.
While violence against all children should never be tolerated, violence against girls in India is of particular importance to us because of how vulnerable they are to perpetual violence and living in silence when they are violated According to the National Crime Reports Bureau (NCRB), 12,363 cases of child rape were reported in the country in 2013. Many more cases go unreported.
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 makes it illegal for girls to marry under 18 years and for boys under 21 years.
Did you know child marriage is a punishable offence with a fine up to INR100,000, or up to two years of imprisonment, or both. It is a non-cognizable and non-bailable offence and that child marriage can be made void by the child, but within two years of becoming an adult.
Starting today through October 20 UNICEF India will make a big push against violence against children. Follow the conversation at #EndViolence and also at #ItStartsWithMe. They will share this campaign across social channels including Twitter, Facebook, Vine, and will launch a song, celebrity advocates, as well as PSAs and a microsite. There will be many ways to spread the word to your friends and followers.