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While many people are still trying to comprehend how we failed to protect our children, which resulted in 330 reported teenage pregnancies last year, a non-profit organisation dedicated for youth reached out to the 12-year-old girl in Samdrupjongkhar.

As an immediate response, Nazhoen Lamtoen has provided cash support for the girl and her parents to buy the necessities. Counsellors from the organisation and teachers of the girl are also providing counselling, which is the need for the hour. Both the organisation and school authorities ensured support for her to continue education.

The minor had also gone through physical and mental trauma. She is not alone. A 13-year-old girl referred to another non-profit organisation, RENEW, is expecting.

But going by the comments online when the news of the 12-year-old girl giving birth circulated on social media last month, we have become tolerant of sexual abuses against children.

Many netizens, instead of condemning the act of an elderly man abusing a child, congratulated her for the successful delivery, revealing our apathy towards sexual abuse cases against children. What is even worrying is that the numbers are increasing.

What have we reduced ourselves to and where is the nation’s duty of ensuring a safe haven for our children? We already have two unresolved rape and murder of minors.

It is believed that even if one child in the community is abused, that is too many; but 330 is a huge number in a small nation of 700,000 people. 

The sad reality in our case is that most of the victims are children from vulnerable families and the perpetrators are from within the family or someone known to the child. Our laws have not deterred the perpetrators from committing the crime.  

It is time we translated what are there in laws, policies, rules and regulations to ensure our children are safe and protected. Officials who are not committed to safeguarding the children should be made accountable.

Prevention is also better than punishment. It has to be a collective effort and not left to few individuals, organisations and agencies.

Family members, neighbours, teachers, health officials and law enforcement agencies have equal responsibilities like service providers to identify children in difficult circumstances and extend support. Judges should come down hard on perpetrators. Everyone has a stake in raising a child in a safe environment.

It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. It now takes a nation to save a child. It has become the moral duty of every citizen to protect children and report suspicious behaviours to authorities. It’s time we showed the nation’s commitment to save our children.

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