Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Podcast attempts to address issues of youth


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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, March 16: Society often imposes taboos on issues concerning youth, making them uncomfortable to discuss openly but a podcast in the state is making an attempt to address this problem.
Hosted by the Health Department, the multimedia podcast, called “Adolescents Unfiltered”, intends to provide them with a platform where they can openly discuss topics that were previously deemed taboo.
A recent episode of the podcast focused on teenage pregnancy as the discussion turned to a critical topic “Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO)”.
While some school students were found educated about POCSO, many college students appeared to be unaware of its existence. This knowledge gap calls for an urgent need for widespread awareness and education on the child protection laws.
The POCSO Act was enacted by the central government in 2012.
Dr Shaibya Saldanha, a well-known gynaecologist and training consultant under the Meghalaya Health Systems Strengthening project, explained the importance of this legislation. She said laws earlier primarily focused on rape and sodomy, leaving many forms of sexual abuses unaddressed.
Highlighting the prevalence of sexual abuse in various forms, such as molestation and harassment, particularly among children, she emphasized that the absence of specific laws to address such instances perpetuated a culture of tolerance towards harassment.
POCSO categorizes offenses based on severity, ranging from rape and sodomy to non-penetrative acts. It also addresses non-contact offenses, such as showing pornography to children or taking inappropriate pictures.
Dr Saldanha shared an anecdote about a school principal caught showing pornography to students. She emphasised the Act’s relevance in addressing a wide range of offenses.
She said despite the protective measures outlined in POCSO, challenges persist in ensuring its effective implementation. Many cases of child sexual abuse go unreported due to societal pressure, particularly in rural communities where family honour often takes precedence over the child’s safety, she said.
She also said that creating a safe space for children begins with open and honest conversations about their bodies and boundaries.
Dr Saldanha stressed on teaching children about their bodies from a young age, normalizing discussions about sensitive topics such as private body parts. She said by instilling this awareness early on, parents and educators can empower children to recognize and report instances of abuse.
She said educators play a crucial role in imparting knowledge about safe sex and autonomy over one’s body. Teaching children to respect their bodies and those of others fosters a culture of consent and mutual respect. It is crucial to challenge harmful stereotypes and body shaming which can contribute to a toxic environment for children, she said.
She further stated that providing adequate support to victims of sexual abuse is essential for their well-being.
POCSO mandates child-friendly procedures, including special courts where children can testify without fear or intimidation. Healthcare providers are obligated to report cases of abuse while maintaining the victim’s anonymity, thus safeguarding their dignity, she added.


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