HYDERABAD: Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, who is gearing up for his Bharat Yatra from Kanyakumari to Delhi from September 11 to October 16 to campaign against child sexual abuse and trafficking, believes that it is time for a new law against child trafficking and the need for social and government accountability. Speaking with The New Indian Express, Satyarthi reiterates that accountability has to be brought at all levels. Excerpts from the interview:
You had undertaken a global march against child labour in 1998. How different will the Bharat Yatra be?
A The global march of 1998 was aimed at creating mass awareness against child labour. It was also for creating a culture of partnership and policy changes. Now, we want a strong movement on building partnerships with governments, non-governmental organisations and the corporate sector. We are demanding a law to stop human trafficking and child trafficking. Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 is against child sex abuse and we want its strict implementation. We need child-friendly courts and dedicated judges, fast-track courts and time-bound speedy trials.
How can the yatra help usher in a law?
It will help build a popular demand and when you build a popular demand, the politician listens. I have met the prime minister and the Union law minister on the issue. The minister agreed to the demand in principle. Law alone would not work as it is just a tool but we need the right hands and minds to use the tool. For this we need to create awareness in people.
Telangana ranks sixth in the incidence of rape of minors, according to NCRB data but the state does not even have a child rights commission. When a redressal system at ground level is lacking, how can another new law like POCSO Act succeed?
We are marching, we are demanding and creating an environment for effective enforcement of POCSO which is a good law. There was a 10-year-old report which says 53 per cent of Indian children face sexual abuse. It was a government report but in 2016 there were only 15,000 cases, this is minimal reporting. Then comes the disposal of those cases. The yatra aims to change the mindset of people and encourage them to report sexual assaults on children.
So, has POCSO failed?
I won't say POSCO has failed, we are not able to make our society capable of using many of the welfare laws. Look at the dowry law, child labour law, etc. We are not fully successful in stopping these practices. We need to hold government agencies accountable for this failure.
Do you think we have a system for accountability?
Accountability has to be brought at all levels. It's not just legal accountability, there is also a moral responsibility for society.