It’s always heartening when a Bollywood actor steps away from the glamorous side of the business and invests in a special cause. And while there are several philanthropists in the industry who are associated with social causes, we really want to applaud actor and social activist Rahul Bose’s recent initiative against one of the worst problems plaguing India — child sexual abuse (CSA).
Bose is among the few who have been working towards this cause for about ten years. Now he has launched an NGO called HEAL (Help Eradicate Abuse through Learning). Given the sheer magnitude of child sexual abuse in India, there are only 31 organisations dedicated towards this cause.
According to statistics, 53 per cent of children in India experience some form of sexual abuse before they turn 18 years old. That is, over 200 million children or 10 times the population of Australia. The figures, undoubtedly, are alarming yet CSA is considered a taboo topic, which is often spoken about in hushed tones.
Supporting Bose in his initiative is feisty actress Vidya Balan, whose film Kahaani 2dealt with the issue of CSA. She has teamed up with Bose to spread awareness on the issue. Talking about the initiative, Bose at the launch of HEAL said, “This is one of the causes that we do not want to talk about but it is a very sensitive issue that needs to be addressed. And you would be surprised to know that our country is one of the largely affected countries. But what is more surprising is that this issues exists in European countries as well. So it has nothing to do with socio-economic background; it happens everywhere in the world.”
Balan confessed, “Being a student of sociology, I am aware of child sexual abuse but it is a difficult truth to stomach. I never wanted to accept the truth. I always thought it happens far away in villages or lower strata of the society. I know friends who have been through this and that scarred their life. I have reached a stage where I cannot trust anybody, which is very unfortunate.”
On her association with HEAL, the actress said, “When Rahul told me about HEAL, I said I would be more than happy to make any kind of contribution, to raise funds or anything to create awareness for the cause.”
She emphasised that it is every individual’s responsibility to fight CSA. “It is one of the least understood issues. Even today, people are not comfortable talking about it within their homes, schools and communities. Sexual abuse of children leaves a long-term and sometimes life-long impact. We, as adults, have the responsibility to prevent abuse from happening by first educating ourselves on the issue and then teaching our children personal safety. People need to talk about it and work towards the cause.” Rahul candidly revealed that Balan has donated a generous sum to the cause.
“Apart from conducting workshops in schools and training people to counsel and help victims of abuse, we have made four ad films for our digital campaign which will be going up on social media, supported by many colleagues from our fraternity. People like Karan Johar, Shabana Azmi, Atul Kasbekar, Vidya Balan, Kalki Koechlin, Konkona Sensharma, Sashi Tharoor, Anil Kumble among others will be part of the social media campaign,” revealed Bose.
HEAL Director, Nikita Patodia, who was also present at the launch, spoke about the NGO’s mission, “Sexual abuse of children offends their most basic right, that of freedom and security. When homes and communities are sites of abuse, children grow up injured, confused, frightened. At HEAL, we are committed to eradicating child sexual abuse through prevention, response and advocacy. This fight is at the intersection of child rights, gender equality and mental health care, and we must win it to claim any kind of social progress.”
HEAL, with its core team of 34 trainers, has trained over 35,000 individuals across schools, colleges and communities, equipping them to identify threats and signs of sexual abuse and teaching preventive behaviour.
More power to their ilk!
A Glance At The Rampant Problem Of Child Sexual Abuse In India: