November 8th, 2013
The bonds of silence need to be broken: ‘India’s Forgotten Children’ are remembered
Last night (07/11/13) saw the premier of India’s Forgotten Children, a film by Pipe Village Trust, which portrays the widespread trafficking, persecution and oppression among the children and young people of India’s 300 million strong Dalit community. The film, which visits schools run by HART partner Operation Mercy India, explores how English medium education could be a key to transforming the lives of Dalit children, and as such the wider Dalit community.
Dalits, or ‘Untouchable’, exist below and outside the Indian caste system and are seen as ‘unclean’. Forced to work in the most menial jobs, such as manual scavenging (clearing human faeces by hand), sweeping and rag picking (sorting rubbish by hand), their status means that they are extremely vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and illness. Dalit children are particularly vulnerable to child labour, trafficking and sexual abuse.
Baroness Cox sat on the panel for the discussion which followed the film viewing. She stated that “People are suffering now, today. The bonds of silence need to be broken.”
“We must do what we can to help and make representations to the India government to ensure laws are enforced.”
Kumar Swamy, South India Human Rights Convenor, commented that policies and government schemes to assist Dalits “exist on paper but not in practice”. The caste system has become engrained in Indian society, meaning that those in positions of authority often subscribe to caste prejudices and will “put stumbling blocks in place” to prevent Dalits from accessing their rights.
Education is seen by many as a means of improving the lives of Dalits across India:
“A life of dignity is their dream. They say ‘We lived in ignorance, we lived in darkness, we lived in illiteracy, but we don’t want that for our children’”
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