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Must Prevent Drug & Alcohol Abuse Inside Schools: Convenor Dr Chhaya

The scar left in my psyche, of being slapped by my aunt for wishing that, after two girls, the third child of my expectant mother should also be a girl child, hurts even today. That’s how a girl child is unfortunately still treated in Indian society, as unwanted, neglected, persecuted secondary members of the family, a fact which needs to be erased from our patriarchal minds if we really want an equitable and progressive society.

This frank admission of having been discriminated against as a girl child, coming from a noted pediatrician Dr Rekha Harish from Jammu, echoed in the minds of male and female paediatricians gathered at the launch of the women’s wing of the Chandigarh Chapter of Indian Academy of Pediatrics on Thursday.

Must Prevent Drug & Alcohol Abuse Inside Schools: Convenor Dr Chhaya, Lifeinchd

Photos By : Life In Chandigarh

Dr Chhaya Prasad, well known developmental and behavioural pediatrician as well as adolescent health expert, who runs a counselling and guidance clinic for adolescents and parental skills, was installed as Convenor. The other core committee members installed were Dr Veena Parmar, Dr Inderjit Kaur, Dr Bhavneet Bharati, Dr Gunjan Baweja, Dr Jyoti Chawla, Dr Prabhdeep Kaur and Dr Shakuntla Lavasa. Three male pediatricians, Dr Rajiv Arya, Dr Jatinder Sharma and Dr Rahul Garg, were also included in the core committee of the women’s wing.

National Girl Child Day was chosen for the installation of the women’s wing to send across a strong message that the women’s wing will play an anchor’s role in sensitising the society, the establishment and even doctors towards the rights of children, especially the girl child, and initiating direct action to check their exploitation.

Must Prevent Drug & Alcohol Abuse Inside Schools: Convenor Dr Chhaya, Lifeinchd

Dr Chhaya had her thoughts for possible inclusion in the action plan for the women’s wing ready. She told that her priorities included prevention of drug and alcohol abuse among children as young as 9-10 years inside schools. Without taking names of schools for obvious reasons, she said it was in her knowledge that this was happening even in some of the most reputed schools. We have to break the nexus behind such activities in school, she asserted.

Another focus area for her was training of pediatricians in forensic medico legal formalities for reporting cases of sexual or other criminal abuse of children. She observed that currently knowledge about required examination, documentation and reporting of such cases was woefully lacking among pediatricians.

A third area which needed urgent attention was training of parents and teachers in positive parenting and teaching skills so that the children grew up with a balanced mental health. They must realise that authoritarian behaviour on their part adversely affected the mental health of children, Dr Chhaya emphasised.

Finally, she would like the women’s wing to work on health promoting programmes for children and prevention of neurological and behavioural disorders among them.

Mohali ASP Ashwini Gotyal, who was invited for the installation to sensitise the pediatricians on the salient requirement from them while dealing with cases under the POSCO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, acknowledged that there was a general lack of awareness among the doctor fraternity regarding the provisions of the act. Reporting of crimes under the POSCO Act to the police is mandatory for all citizens, including doctors, when such cases come to their notice. Failure to report the matter is a punishable offence, she added.

Must Prevent Drug & Alcohol Abuse Inside Schools: Convenor Dr Chhaya, Lifeinchd

The first duty of doctors when a case of suspected sexual assault against a girl child is brought before them is to provide them emergency care. In case of girls, examination or treatment is to be done by a lady doctor after taking consent of the victim. If victim is below 18 years of age, then consent of parent or guardian has to be taken. Reporting to the police has to be done just as in any other medico legal case. Clarifications can be taken by calling child helpline No. 1098.

If a girl child has reached maturity, the doctors have to ascertain whether the sexual assault can result in pregnancy, in which case immediate contraceptive measures are to be taken. Tests are also to be done for HIV infection. DNA profiling is also mandatory for which a standard format is available. 

While reporting the matter to the police, the attending doctors also need to clearly mention in detail whether the sexual assault had led to penetration or not and the health condition of the victim.

Regarding measures for prevention of drug abuse among vulnerable sections, including children, ASP Ashwini informed the gathering that the Punjab government in association with the Punjab Police had launched the drug abuse prevention officers (DAPO) scheme in March 2018 under which thousands of members of civil society had voluntarily registered as DAPOs and taken oath to do everything under their command to help rehabilitate addicts and motivate vulnerable youth to stay away from drugs.

Dr Rekha Harish, whose contribution in court ordered ban on sale of junk food in an around school across the country is well known, while hailing the launch of the women’s wing of the Chandigarh chapter of IPA expressed confidence that it will make a huge contribution in protecting the rights of children and safeguarding them against various forms of abuse.

Quoting figures to press home the point that female child continued to be discriminated not only among the less privileged sections of society but even the so called high society, she said the skewed sex ratio in South West Delhi was a case in point.

Countrywide, on an average only 14% of girls were able to complete their 12th standard. A recent study had shown that there were 2.10 crore unwanted girls in the country, which ranked a dismal 127th in the world in the gender equality index. Two-thirds of the children trafficked in the county were girls and 90% of the female children still did not have access to sanitary napkins.

Dr Rekha said her decades of experience in dealing with child patients had shown that of all the critically ill children admitted to hospitals, a vast majority were girls because of their prolonged neglect and undernourishment.

Harjinder Kaur, chairperson of the Chandigarh Commission for Protection of Chid Rights (CCPCR), who was the chief guest, assured the commission’s full support to the efforts of the women’s wing. 

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