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7-Year-Old Afsana's Ordeal At The Hands Of Her Father

New Delhi: Child sexual abuse and rape is a national crisis. It knows no caste, class or economic barriers 3 children are raped and 5 children sexually assaulted every hour in India. Child victims and their families are usually not aware of their right to access mental health support, financial compensation, and rehabilitation leading them to feel frustrated and harassed.

7-year-old Afsana was leading a normal life. She went to school every day, played with her friends and had a happy childhood, or so her mother thought. When she spotted Afsana touching her private parts, her mother sat down with her to understand what was she doing. Initially hesitant, Afsana opened up to her mother to narrate her harrowing ordeal.

Afsana's father would lure her with chocolates. When his wife would step out of the house to complete household chores like buying vegetables, he would get naked in front of Afsana and teach her how to touch her privates.

Afsana's mother told NDTV the horrifying details.

One day when I stepped out of the washroom, I found her lying on the bed masturbating. I asked her to explain in detail. She narrated this to me..she said "When you used to go to mandi, papa used to remove his lungi and flash at me and put his hand into my privates. He used to kiss me all over my body. He told me to do this myself and taught me how to do it when I am alone. She was 6.5 years at the time when I found out. My daughter told me it has been happening for a while, for around 6 months.

Furious, Afsana's mother confronted her husband. He not only denied all allegations but accused their daughter of making up stories and began to physically abuse the wife. Afsana's mother decided to lodge a complaint. She told NDTV,

He locked me up inside the bathroom and beat me badly. He said things like 'if you say these things to anyone outside, I will beat you. I will pour petrol on you and burn you

Battered, bruised and scared of losing her daughters forever, Afsana's mother withdrew her complaint but was determined to seek justice for her daughter. She spent many days trying to understand who she could approach when a local religious leader came to her aid. He introduced her to a member of the child rights committee who finally helped her register a complaint again.

If it wasn't for her mother's determination, Afsana would have continued suffering in silence. The aftermath of the incident had an immeasurable impact on her mental health and education. Her grades have fallen drastically. She is struggling to return to her regular life even as her mother continues to fight the battle against in court. In child sexual abuse cases, over 90% of the times the perpetrators are known to the child. Our children are not safe in their own homes.

Sampurna Behura, Legal Expert, Bachpan Bachao Andolan says,

Although home is supposed to be the most safe and secure place but the rate at which cases are increasing children in our country are still not safe in their own homes, when the mother tried to raise her voice for her daughter, the father physically assaulted the mother, but I would like to give full credit to the mother for coming forward and showing her courage to file a case against the father who was not only the head of the family but also a very influential member in the community. He had an influence on the police, initially the police was not willing to register a case, still, that did not deter the courage of the mother.

Top legal and child rights' experts have reiterated that child abuse and sexual assault is not limited to just one section of the society, certainly not limited by any caste, class or economic background.

It's been a long and hard fight for Afsana's mother. After a wait of 350 days, the accused – the father of her child is now behind bars. Bachpan Bachao Andolan, an NGO has intervened in the case providing Afsana and her family with rehabilitation and legal advice.

Sampurna Behura, Legal Expert, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) says,

BBA believes in providing time bound justice. We have helped the victim (Afsana) in re-locating, helped with her education, also monetary compensation and legal assistance

India must save her children. Child sexual abuse is everywhere. Speak up. Don't look away.

'Justice For Every Child' is a national campaign that will ensure victims of child sexual abuse and rape get rehabilitation, support, mental health and compensation to enable them to heal, continue their lives with dignity and freedom.

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