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In COVID-19 Pandemic, Re – Imagining the Mission of the Police
Team SoOLEGAL 11 Jan 2022

In COVID-19 Pandemic, Re – Imagining the Mission of the Police

During this unfortunate pandemic, Indian police performed a critical role in avoiding child rights violations, unethical tactics, and violence.

The establishment of a Centre for the Protection of Children's Rights is a significant victory for children in India. This statement occurred on the eve of the National Police Academy's 'Child protection during COVID-19' webinar, which was held on May 12, 2020, in conjunction with UNICEF.

Mr. Atul Karwal, IPS, Director, National Police Academy, announced the plan to establish a dedicated Centre for the Protection of Children's Rights, saying, "The police, in collaboration with the community, can act as a force multiplier to enhance the effectiveness with which they support children during COVID-19."

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the conditions in which children grow and develop. Disruptions to families, friendships, daily routines, and the broader community can have a detrimental effect on children's well-being, development, and safety.

Furthermore, efforts aimed at preventing and limit the spread of COVID-19 can put children at danger. Quarantine and isolation measures implemented at home, at facilities, and in zones can all have a detrimental influence on children and their families. There is also evidence that domestic violence is on the rise.

For example, during the last several weeks of the lockdown, CHILDLINE, a children's emergency helpline, recorded a 50% spike in calls from distressed youngsters. Families may also resort to negative coping techniques such as child labour or child marriage during COVID-19. The Minister of Women and Child Development of the Government of India recently revealed that CHILDLINE's actions had prevented 898 child weddings since the lockdown began.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an increased risk of violence towards children.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have resulted in significant changes for many children and their families, not only as a result of the lockdown, restricted measures, social isolation, changing demographics, and a reduction in available health services, but also as a result of a sudden and possibly long-term increase in child poverty and family uncertainty. Through a cascading cascade of factors that might drive, trigger, or amplify potential stressors, the pandemic constitutes a crisis not only for our health and economy, but also for family well-being. There are few precedents for the circumstances caused by COVID-19, but we can build on previous work in crisis or emergency situations where scenarios of quickly escalating stress are followed by abrupt changes to earlier conditions.

Individual development consequences of disasters and mass violence can be defined in terms of the exposure dose or cumulative hazards that represent major threats or disturbances to individuals, families, or communities. Thus, the COVID-19 pandemic has been viewed as a multisystem cascading worldwide calamity that has significantly impacted the lives of children on many levels and for which our society were unprepared. Indeed, research on COVID-19 is beginning to indicate the harmful consequences of the lockdown and the limits imposed, as well as the effects of social pressures on family members, emphasising the need for long-term monitoring of children's and teenagers' mental health. Emerging data on both healthy parenting and child and adolescent mental health emphasises that the amount of the influence is dependent on vulnerability variables such as developmental age, past mental health disorders, educational and socioeconomic position, or being confined.

 

Through the prism of criminological theories, there is an increased likelihood of violence.

Criminological theories explore the various factors that contribute to family violence and child abuse, as well as why there is a higher likelihood of violence in critical situations. One of the frequent assumptions in the literature is the intergenerational transmission of violence, which is summed up in the phrase "violence begets violence": that childhood violence and/or neglect increases the likelihood of perpetrating violence later in life. Our understanding of intergenerational transmission of violence is still restricted due to the concept's complexities. Several theories, including social learning theories, social information processing theory, attachment theory, and social control theory, have attempted to explain the mechanisms involved.

An overemphasis on child maltreatment events, on the other hand, may turn out to be static or limited, or may even interpret subsequent outcomes as a direct result of the early exposures. Similarly, the impact of heredity on aggressive conduct may be mitigated by contextual factors. As a result, nature and nurture should be viewed not as distinct and separate variables in human behaviour, but as part of the same process in the violence done against children in times of crisis.

Through the lens of socio-ecological models, there is an increased likelihood of violence.

Socio-ecological explanations can provide a broad framework for understanding how the COVID-19 epidemic has affected social ecologies and altered interactions between people and their surroundings. Changes in this reciprocal interaction may yield new definitions for people's cognitions, emotions, behaviours, and the underlying mechanisms that underpin them. As a result, this mutual process reveals itself in changing physical, interpersonal, economic, and political contexts, as well as in human adaptation and modification of these environments. Given that child maltreatment is an interactive issue, the COVID-19 disaster has impacted children's ecological systems on multiple levels. It has created or exacerbated a number of risk factors for child abuse and neglect related to the child's and caregivers' traits, family dynamics, and the larger social and cultural context. As a result, we evaluate these hazards via the prism of Belsky's ecological integration model at each of its stages. We also include the transactional process within this model, which means that at each ecological level, the complex interaction of potentiating and compensating forces effects both children and their ecological systems. Ecological levels of analysis not only capture and systematise the numerous variables that contribute to child abuse, but they also allow for the incorporation of complementary approaches such as socio-cognitive approaches to parenting, which can aid in understanding how environmental changes influence the incidence of child abuse.

Increased oppositional behaviour and limit testing in children are expected at the micro system level. This behaviour may evoke harsh responses from parents, who may be experiencing parental burnout as a result of, or as a result of, the pandemic's implications. Children's concern and uncertainty about the epidemic may exacerbate their parents' anxiety. The COVID-19 pandemic may also exacerbate pre-existing mental health issues and lead to an increase in instances among children and adolescents, raising tensions in the household. According to a recent survey, more than one-fourth of parents reported poor mental health in their children since the start of the epidemic, one-seventh reported worsening behavioural health, and nearly one-tenth reported worsening in both. Children with special education needs are also at danger; the disturbance of their daily routines may cause them to become angry and irritable. Overall, stressed parents are more likely to respond aggressively or abusively to their children's nervous actions or demands. According to preliminary study, the scenario generated by the COVID-19 crisis is exceedingly demanding and stressful for parents, and it greatly raises their overall stress levels. Previous research has also found that a high-stress family setting is a strong predictor of child physical abuse and neglect.

Finally, in the COVID-19 environment, views toward children and their rights are a significant risk factor for violence. Even though research has proved that children are not the primary cause of the epidemic, they have been accused of being vectors of viral transmission in several countries, even by official leaders, and are regarded more contagious than asymptomatic adults. This may have resulted in some social rejection and a lack of empathy for the negative effects of house confinement for their development and well-being. In fact, while adult society is resuming normalcy, most countries' schools, kindergartens, and even playgrounds remain closed.

The police have a key role to play in such a case. Whether it is to assist children in distress, to ensure violence prevention in migrant camps and temporary shelters, to be watchful and sensitive to any reports of violations of children's rights, or to ensure children are directed to child protection agencies.

During COVID-19, UNICEF developed a guideline for police on their responsibility in safeguarding children from violence and exploitation. These are being adapted and implemented in a number of states.

The webinar commented on the COVID-19 specific problems posed by children and highlighted the importance of police as citizens' advocates, particularly for children. It also served as a forum for police officers from all over the country to discuss their experiences and lessons learned.

The long-term goal of the interactive knowledge session was to create a network/cohort of officers who were interested, informed, and skilled in child safety issues, hence creating a nationwide movement to protect children from violence and harm.

The police are one of UNICEF's most important partners in its work to protect children. In every circumstance involving children in distress, they are frequently the first to respond. As a result, their sensitivity to children and the manner in which they handle cases are crucial for a child's experience - and trust - in the justice system "In her speech to the webinar, Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF Representative in India, said

"In India, children account for 40% of the population. As UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently stated, children may not be the face of the COVID-19 Pandemic, but they are one of its most vulnerable victims.

"We are happy to cooperate with the National Police Academy to ensure that the effects of COVID-19 are reduced in the population and that children receive the protection they deserve from a duty bearer of such crucial importance as the police," Dr. Haque added.

The effectiveness of collaborative partnerships            

UNICEF operates in 17 Indian states and has a close relationship and partnership with the police. UNICEF is providing technical assistance to state police in places such as Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh on child friendly policing projects, which has resulted in child sensitive policing becoming a part of the culture in state police forces.

In Jharkhand, UNICEF and the police have collaborated to create a set of indicators and a committee that monitors and certifies police stations as child-friendly. These are not just infrastructure-related, but also refer to training and the procedures that police use when dealing with instances involving children.

Using the Nirbhaya money, UNICEF is assisting the Kolkata Police Department in planning and executing programmes to prevent violence against women and children in West Bengal.

In Odisha, UNICEF and the state police undertook a nationwide campaign to prevent child sexual abuse, demonstrating the critical role of the police in prevention and response.

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