The poll was taken by close of 9,500 volunteers from 24 universities and education institutions in Assam.
The U-Report poll was launched on 18 July 2022 by the Governor of Assam and was developed to support the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) campaign called Suraksha, which aims to raise public awareness on the forms of violence against children and redressal mechanism.
As part of the poll, 35 per cent shared experiencing corporal punishment at home, 25 per cent at school and 14 per cent at other spaces such as private tuitions and on sports grounds.
While 26 per cent experienced it in all three settings. The most common form of punishment was being hit or slapped on the hand, arm or leg (67 per cent), while 16 per cent followed with being shouted, screamed or yelled at. Close to 60 per cent of these young people said that it impacted their social relationships, for 24 per cent it led to stress, anxiety and fear, and 17 per cent reported physical injury.
Given the Government of Assam’s impetus on creating a conducive environment for young people to grow and thrive, UNICEF Assam has been working with young people in Assam, especially those from the most vulnerable communities. Between 2020-2021, our focus was to understand how COVID-19 had impacted their lives, said Dr. Madhulika Jonathan, Chief of UNICEF Assam.
In 2020-21, the Directorate of NSS for the Northeast Region and UNICEF Assam joined hands to work on the issue of child protection in all eight states as a mandate part of a national partnership between the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, and UNICEF India. Through a series of online workshops to understand the impact of COVID-19 on young people that were facilitated with civil society partner, We Are Young (WAY) Foundation, NSS volunteers pointed at corporal punishment and cyber bullying as two critical issues.
Currently, 19 per cent of Assams 3.1 crore population (Census 2011) is in the 15-24 years age group. The NSS cohort was an appropriate sample group to understand the issues of young people in the state, said Deepak Kumar, Director for the Northeast Region of NSS. Together with the volunteers, the Regional Directorate of NSS will be adopting a new calendar of activities incorporating child protection as a thematic area. In addition, volunteers have taken Social Action Plans at the university/ college level in the form of campaigns, street theatre, lecture series among others, to inform and influence their peers.
Incidentally, 68 per cent of the volunteers expressed awareness of redressal mechanisms, of which 57 per cent recognized Assam Police as the most popular support system available. Of them, only 18 per cent were aware of 1098, 11 per cent about the cyber cell, and 1 per cent about the Special Juvenile Police Unit.
According to 19 per cent of the young people, the redressal mechanisms were not easy at the time of reporting an incident, and 24 per cent expressed a lack of acknowledgement and discussion around these issues in schools, colleges and at home, due to the fear of social stigma.
About 60 per cent opined a critical role for parents to work with education institutions to create a safe protective environment to end this form of violence. While 94 per cent demanded for mass awareness on the issues stemming from cyber bullying especially among parents, community members and education institutions.
No matter what form of violence a child is exposed to, his or her experience may lead to serious and lifelong consequences. Violence only has a lifelong impact on young people, families and nations, but also carries serious social and economic costs (direct and indirect) in the form of lost potential and reduced productivity.