Childhood marred with sex and drugs
Saturday, December 22, 2007 (Dimpaur)
Street children in the north-east are trapped in a vicious circle of substance and sexual abuse. This street culture drives them to a life of theft.
AB’s (name protected) home are the streets of Dimapur, where he’s spent all his 17 years. Except the time he went to jail but that’s not his concern right now.
He is back and trying to fit back to the only life he has had, drugs, theft and unsafe sex.
”I live on the footpath, pick up scrap, take dendrite and drugs. We were told about HIV, through the injections that we take we know that HIV can be transmitted. Then I went to jail for drugs and theft, we were also told about condom use. Mom left and dad married someone else so he left. I am here in Dimpaur.”
A teenage girl is part of Bablu’s gang and a sex worker. For social workers Wapangla and Katia counselling these children is a near-impossible task.
Wapangla and Katia who work with street children said, ”Its very difficult to reach out to them because they were abandoned by their families. Their father-mother were drug addicts, drugs have been their strength so it’s very difficult to counsel them. Only in one or two we have seen a change.”
CD (name protected) is one of the lucky few who’s moved to rehabilitation after spending seven years on the streets. We met him at a pre-Christmas party hosted by his friends where they reminisced about old times.
Some children said, ”We would roam around the street steal and do drugs, that was a different life.”
Another kid, EF (name protected) has been 20 times to jail in his short life. There are many others like him. Christmas is the only day in the year when they have something to celebrate.
GH a 5-yr-old was molested a few weeks ago and others like her live through such indignities everyday.
Ela’s NGO, Prodigal Home was the only refuge in Nagaland but even this might soon close.
K Ela the Director for Prodigal Home said, ”We know that they are very vulnerable to be exploited sexually. They are vulnerable to drug abuse, they are vulnerable to sex work because we have during our interaction with the children in the past few years we have come across girls who are only 13- 14 years but are already into sex work.”
”Even boys of the same age indulge in sex. We have come across cases where we have tested children of 14-15 years and they are not injecting drug users but they are infected. So they are very much vulnerable,” he said.
Ela said that, ”They are vulnerable they have no access to any kind of information because they don’t go to school, they don’t go to any other centre where they can get any access to education, plus they don’t have access to health care system.”
Policy makers haven’t yet woken up to the plight of these children, so there have been no studies in the state.
In Dimapur alone two children were found to be HIV positive in a recent test by an NGO. They number of steet children has increased tremendously in past four years.
International surveys show 50 per cent of all new HIV infections occur in the 15-24-yr-old age group.
Ela said, ”NACO says let it be the responsibility of the social welfare department. Social welfare says that this is not their programme, so we really do not know what to do.”
NGOs are also handicapped in their efforts by the law since children can’t be counselled or tested unless accompanied by legal guardians. These children have none.
Dr Vizolie Suokhrie of National Rural Health Mission said, ”Street Children are a very vulnerable group. In Nagaland you also have school dropouts. What we need here is a composite programme where we take care of CSWs, IDUs, MSMs and identifying this group through this project.”
He said, ”Unfortunately this has been dropped but we can’t ignore this group anymore.”
Children have initiated spreading awareness themselves by staging a play on their pre-christmas party on HIV /AIDS.
But in the absence of policies to support street children and prevent spread of HIV/AIDS.”