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Secure their childhood

26 Sep


Are we failing in our duty to provide our children a secure environment?

Righting these wrongs is not only the government’s responsibility but that of every self-respecting citizen.

Bitter are the tears of a child; sweeten them

Deep are the thoughts of a child; quiet them

Sharp is the grief of a child; take it from him

Soft is the heart of a child; do not harden it.

Pamela Glennwarner

A girl said to be 14 but appearing younger, jumps off the balcony to escape from her employer in Mangalore. Pelvic bone dislocated, severely traumatised. Brought against her wishes from Sirsi in Uttara Kannada district to work as a housemaid in Manga lore. She was locked at home with the owners’ children to look after them in the parents’ absence. Shows lack of concern of the employers not only for her but their own children too.Mother’s blind belief kills three-year-old in a village in Mysore district. Child suffering from advanced bone disease. Child Development Project Officer/ anganwadi worker repeatedly request mother to take child to hospital. Belief in powers of tribal priest in neighbouring village led to late admission in hospital.

Stray dogs maul 18-month-old Rehana. Parents of children forced to accompany children out at all times because complaints of stray dog menace have fallen on deaf ears. (All from The Hindu dated August 29.)

An 11-yr-old girl who allegedly posed for obscene photos at a studio in their absence is chained at home by parents in Patna.

An 18-month-old girl is critically ill after being raped by the boy next door.

A tribal girl is attacked at a girls’ hostel in Murshidabad. (All from The Times of India dated August 29.)

A news channel comes up next with the shocking reports of a nine-year old stripped and paraded in a Faridabad school allegedly for not paying her fees and a school principal arrested in Jaipur for repeatedly raping a 14-year-old student .

Inadequate security

Grave vulnerabilities are created by the inadequacies of all those whose duty it is to ensure the security of young wards. Keeping children safe is ensuring the well-being of tomorrow’s doers and decision-makers. Not doing so is not only harmful but a national shame. The 1989 UN Charter guarantees every child rights of empowerment like health services, education, nutrition, name and nationality, and rights of protection and participation like a hopeful existence free of exploitation, violence, neglect, and extreme poverty. India, as a signatory to the Charter and by the provisions of her own Constitution, owes her children consistent support systems to experience childhood in an enabling, secure environment conducive to their fullest development. The lack of mechanisms to provide security is a shocking aberration in a country aiming for super power status in the near future.

Staggering numbersA 1997 RAHI (Recovering and Healing from Incest) study in Delhi of 1,000 respondents revealed 76 per cent had been abused as children. Sixty-three per cent of girls surveyed by Sakshi Violence Intervention Centre in Mumbai, said they had been abused by family members. Fifty-eight out of 150 minor-age girls in a study conducted (1994-5) by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences revealed that they had been sexually abused before they turned 10. In Bangalore, Samvada’s 1996 study of high school students showed 47 per cent were victims of abuse. (Source: isa_stats.html.)

What is a young, hurt, bewildered child to do when parents/ teachers/ guardians let ignorance and superstition and worse not only make them neglect their duties towards their wards but actively connive at causing them distress as in the news items cited? Or when they have the misfortune to attend schools where physical violence, humiliation and rape are probable dangers? What use pretty words and prettier treaties when the rights they guarantee are never realised?

Chaitanya, a firm engaged in people-oriented policy analysis, recommends bringing this into the security agenda to gain better leverage in media and policy circles. Activists would find that the “security” tag goes further than the “social welfare” tag, they feel and add that “A security policy agenda that also considers issues critical to the survival of children, suggests an accurate forecasting of tomorrow’s risks. In democratic societies where the demographic balance is tilting in favour of youth, threats faced by the fastest growing population segment are, or ought to be, the most pressing security concerns”.

Righting these wrongs is not only the government’s responsibility but that of every self-respecting citizen. Hearts and minds need to open up, vigil stepped up, perpetrators of crime against children booked and severely punished, and awareness raised. Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, “the child’s sob curses deeper in the silence than the strong man in his wrath”, but in their smile-less sobbing existence, the victims of this article seem to incite neither righteous anger nor trigger dormant consciences to action.


Dr. Haim Ginott, teacher, child psychologist and therapist makes illuminating observations about the teacher’s role in the young child’s life: “I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I’m the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humour, hurt or heal. In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanised or dehumanised.” The unchecked excesses of the system today are humiliating: they are not only dehumanising the children but shaming every adult.


Kids go to serve sex in Dubai

21 Sep

By: J Dey

Hundreds of minors flown out to Gulf to dance in bars, provide sex, as Ramzan month of abstinence ends

For three days now, 2,000 girls, almost all minors, have left for the Middle East, particularly Dubai, to feed the needs of a population starved of entertainment and sex post the rigours of Ramzan.
The girls have been told they are being taken to dance in bars, but it is implicit that they will double up as prostitutes for well-paying clients. Another 1,000 will leave by tomorrow.
Sources say there has been an approximate 20 per cent rise in the trafficking of minors over the last year.
And it’s remarkably easy. Chennai and New Delhi were used as gateways instead of Mumbai where checks are more stringent.

Sources added that all the minors were travelling on forged documents that show them as adults.
A senior officer from Special Branch 1 said the girls were travelling on a tourist visa and their stated purpose was ‘to visit relatives in the Gulf’.
“We know they are going for immoral purposes. We have been looking to see how we can check their exit,” remarked the officer.

‘Rise in trafficking’
Vikrant Raghuvanshi, lawyer and president of the NGO Akshaywat, which works with child trafficking, said, “Yes, there has been a substantial rise in the trafficking of minors, but it was never really controlled.
The government has to take strong initiatives rid the country of this menace.”

In an earlier newspaper report, Subhash Chakma, director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights, had said the government was not serious about checking human trafficking in the country.
“We have enough laws to deal with the problem but lack the will to enforce them.”
Ashraf Khan, an agent, said he had been scouting for girls for the past five months. “I make around Rs 40,000 per girl if the deal goes through.
The recruitment process begins about three months before the migration to Gulf begins post Ramzan,” said Khan.
In the Gulf, dance bars are shut during Ramzan and the licenses are revoked. All the girls working there are sent home. The exodus to the Gulf therefore begins post Ramzan.
“An average girl gets paid approximately Rs 1 lakh for a three month contract, while an experienced dancer gets around Rs 3 lakh for the same period,” he added. In addition, experienced dancers get 50 per cent of the tips.
In Mumbai, possibly the best paymaster, the girls make around Rs 10,000 a month, which explains the Gulf rush.
On contract
Khan admitted that 70 per cent of the girls on the three-month contract are below 18 years and the papers are forged to show them as 21 years and above.
“I am going for the first time. My friends told me that the scene is good in Dubai and I will three times what I would earn in Mumbai,” remarked Chandni.
Confirming the exodus, Ramesh Shetty (name changed), a bar owner from Kashimira said, “Five girls from my bar left for Dubai yesterday. We now have a shortfall of dancers, but they have promised to return after three months.”
Once there, the girls are completely at the mercy of the operators as their passports are taken away so that they cannot escape.
Rakesh Pandey of Rakesh Tours admitted there had been a significant rise of passengers travelling economy class to New Delhi and Chennai in the past few days, of which a large number were female.
The Other Side
Said DCP Brijesh Singh, “We cannot stop them if they are travelling on proper documents. But I am looking into the matter.”
Girl Spotting
> Agents spot the girls at beauty parlors or malls.
> The girls are interviewed and if willing, contracts are signed.
> Rs 30,000, what they would make in a month in the Gulf is paid as advance.
> Most of the girls are 16 and belong to the Bhedia tribe from Rajasthan, famous for their Kalbelia dance.
> The other girls are from Central India and the rest are Mumbai bar girls.
12 lakh
Children are believed to be  involved in prostitution in India twice the population of Nerul
1 crore
People involved in human trafficking in India. The population of Mumbai is 1.5 crore
10 %
Of human trafficking in  India is across borders


12 Apr



However incredible or unbelievable it may sound, incest and sexual abuse of children is a bitter reality that needs to be dealt with strongly and systematically, writes Shoma A. Chatterji

Family — the basic cog in the social matrix — is termed as the final refuge and a source of comfort. But is it really so? If one were to take the case of the 21-year-old young woman of Mira Road in Mumbai, who was systematically raped by her father for nine years, then one can see that family can also be the cause of betrayal of the worst type from which there is no escape.

Is the Mira Road tragedy a live validation of the different levels of silence around the deeply camouflaged issue of incest or just a freak incident.

A study by the Family Planning Association of India stated that at least one out of six boys and two out of four girls in India are abused.

Vulnerable victims

This study explodes the myth that children are in safe hands in the company of people they know. Beca,use almost in 80 per cent of such cases, children are abused by adults or older children they know, trust or love and who can influence their behaviour by exerting power over them. The study shows that both boys and girls are vulnerable. A Tata Institute of Social Sciences study in 1985 revealed that one out of three girls and one out of 10 boys had been sexually abused as a child. Fifty per cent of child sexual abuse happens at home.

In 1996, Samvada, a Bangalore-based NGO, conducted a study among 348 girls. As many as 15 per cent were used for masturbation mostly by male relatives when they were less than 10 years old and 75 per cent of the abusers were adult family members.

The case of 50-year-old father in the Mira Road incident is just the tip of a massive iceberg called incestuous rape.

The victim bore the torture in silence because her mother persuaded her that this would rescue the family from financial ruin. The excuse used was that a tantrik/astrologer/numerologist had advised the father that ‘the act’ would resurrect his business. The tantrik, too, raped the girl. The victim was sexually abused sometimes even in the presence of her mother.

The heinous crime was exposed when the girl discovered that her younger sister was about to be subjected to incest after having already been raped by the tantrik. She narrated her tale of woes to her maternal uncle who persuaded her to file a police complaint.

The extensive coverage given to this case by television channels brought forth several skeletons out of family cupboards across the country. A 21-year-old girl from Ajnala, Punjab, broke her silence and complained that her father, a BJP leader, had been raping her for eight years. Medical examination of the girl confirmed that she had been violated and the father was arrested.

Another 16-year-old girl reported that her father, a landless labourer in Ishani village in Nagpur district, had been raping her for over six years. The girl complained to the sarpanch who informed the Hingna police immediately and the accused was placed under arrest.

Talking about the Mira Road case, Dr Yusuf Machiswala, a psychiatrist at Mumbai’s J.J. Hospital, says, “This is a case of sexual perversion. The tantrik forced his desire on the follower so that he could perform the same act in future. Such men take advantage of depressed and frustrated people and sometimes even drug or hypnotise their followers to make them perform such acts.”

According to the officers interrogating the three accused, they appeared to be unrepentant about their act. They are even talking about “compensating” for their crime with an offer of marriage of the younger daughter with the tantrik’s son. When asked why the older daughter was not being considered for the proposal, the tantrik replied, “Because she has been used too much”.

Legal lacunae

There is no law in India that recognises incest as a separate crime. The girl’s father (in Mira Road case) will face charges under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, which covers rape.

The accused tantrik, too, would face the same charges under the same section. Does this imply that they are equally heinous in their sexual assault on the girl? Isn’t the father a bigger and uglier criminal than the tantrik?

In a famous legal-awareness television serial Bhramar some years ago, where real life legal cases were fictionalised, one story explored the true case of a girl getting pregnant by her abusive father. For fear of social ostracism and public scandal, the parents decided to poison the 14 year old. The victim’s paternal grandfather was the sole witness to this diabolic murder and complained to the police. But the man went scot-free because he had other children and if he was to go to prison, the family would have been orphaned.

Last year, a Mumbai court let off a father who raped his daughter for years because his “alleged” crime — incest — was not recognised as a punishable offence.

The infamous case of a government under-secretary is a striking example of the judicial machinery’s absolute patriarchal bias in cases of child abuse when it happens within the family.

The governement official was accused of repeated sexual abuse of his eight-year-old daughter since she was three. The abuse involved vaginal and anal penetration with a finger and forcing the child to have oral sex. Neither the district court, nor the high court or the Supreme Court was willing to acknowledge any of the penetrations as rape.

On the contrary, the observations by the Supreme Court were shocking in their repeated allegations against the mother of the little girl. It accused the mother of suffering from “some peculiar psychiatric condition” and maintained that the accusation levelled against the accused was “seemingly incredulous”. It had been “concocted to wreak vengeance” on her husband. Vengeance for what? If it was vengeance for raping the little girl then does it not imply that the man was guilty of the crime?

The mother of the little girl, too, cannot be absolved of guilt. How could a mother of a three-year-old female child fail to notice that her girl was being repeatedly sexually abused by her father for five long years? Her guilt as an “indifferent” and “na`EFve” mother is no less than that of the father himself. Laments lawyer Niti Dikshit, “the problem with the existing law on child sexual abuse is that there is no existing law on this”.

In this case the court declared that the official’s sexual abuse of his daughter was not incest at all since the word “penetration” does not connote penetration with any “foreign” object. Should this not be brought within the purview of law? Parental torture of the child — whether emotional, physical or sexual — is a gross violation of human rights.

Emotional scars

The abusive parent or relative coerces the child into participating by using threat, bribes, lies and taking advantage of the trust that the child places on him/her. The abuser is more powerful than the abused in terms of age, intelligence and control over the child — financial, emotional and physical.

Even after being exposed, “it is a tough realisation for the family. Very often, people choose to live in denial and skirt reality. This crystallises the tendency to block our feelings.

We need to face reality as it is and cope with it instead of running away from it. In dealing with it, one allows the self to go through the painful emotions and resolve the conflicting feelings thereby trying to free oneself from the responsibility of coping.

It should be talked about openly, with professional help being sought to deal with the victim’s pain,” explains Dr Sanjay Chugh, senior consultant psychiatrist based in New Delhi.

In Bitter Chocolate – Child Sexual Abuse in India (Penguin, 2000), her investigative book on child sexual abuse focused on incest, journalist Pinky Virani details countless stories of boys and girls whose innocence was violated by members of their families.

In most incidents of incestuous rape, the victim is reduced to a point of total submission either through subtle terror techniques manipulated by the abuser, or through open threat. If and when the child plucks enough courage to talk about his or her experience, he or she is hushed into silence, firstly for fear of social ostracism and, secondly as an escape route because the one complained to, usually the mother, is not fully equipped to handle an open confrontation.

The most horrendous cause for not listening to the child is sheer disbelief. Virani recounted her personal experience where her mother did not believe her. When help comes, if it comes at all, it is often too late.

Social support

Vidya Reddy, who runs Tulir-CPHCSA (Centre for the Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse) in Chennai, says, “Most people imagine abusers to be shadowy and frightening strangers with a psychiatric disorder”.

In fact, often an abuser is a “regular” person who leads a ‘routine’ life and is known to the victim, but has no inhibition or qualms over having sex with children.”

This truth has been reinforced in the Mira Road case because those who knew the accused father well were shocked by the revelation as he appeared to be a decent and well-behaved person.

Possibly, the tight-knit family structure, the domineering role of fathers and uncles, the submissiveness of women who are mute witnesses to gross injustice and the ingrained tendency of not allowing “family shame” to be exposed whatever be the cost, are factors that help the abusers get away with it all

Chennai-based sexologist Dr Narayana Reddy says that incest is contextually different in India. “It is customary in our culture for uncles to marry nieces. Technically speaking, that is also incest. We just need to use the term carefully. But beyond that, I would say incest is prevalent in India and there should be a separate legislation to handle the crime.

“But at times, the offenders, too, have psychological problems”. Some experts opine that most children, who are sexually abused, go on to repeat their experience with someone younger when they grow up because it gives them a sense of power, something they lost when they were abused as children.

Dr Chugh adds, “The psychological harm on the victim is massive as it evokes doubts, raises questions for which answers are not easy to get. The victim may suppress emotions or be filled with feelings of rage, guilt and shame. It is difficult for such victims to trust others later on in life.

“With due counselling, the victim must be made to realise and understand that what happened was not his/her fault and thus not to indulge in blaming oneself. The victim needs to stand up for himself/herself and fight the trauma. Active social support from family, friends, guidance centres and counsellors can bring the victim’s faith in the goodness of human beings back.”

Rural sisterhood forms rings of steel for victims of rape

29 Mar

Shreya Roychoudhury, 29.03.2009 , Sunday Times of India

No institution assures them justice, no organization fights for their rights and no counsellor helps them pick up the pieces of their lives. But the initial findings of a nationwide study reveal that rural victims of sexual abuse are beginning to fight back in their own way.

Call it the sisterhood of India Invisible. Mobilizing village communities, picketing police stations and ridiculing attackers are some of the ways rural women are using to take on their assailants, says an 11-state study conducted from October 2007 to December 2008 by a Delhi-based NGO Swanchetan. It used data collected by state police forces and NGOs working with rural victims of sexual violence.

The researchers note that 85% urban women betray sadness, remorse and guilt when describing their experience of sexual violence but most rural women express rage. Unsurprisingly then, village women use inventive modes of protest.

In West Bengal’s Murshidabad, three upper caste men raped 23-year-old Ranu in front of her children. In retaliation, the women of Ranu’s fishing community spread a stale catch outside the house of her alleged attacker. The stench spread as quickly as word of the protest got around. Thereafter, on a daily basis, women and children dumped stale fish outside the house. Soon, men joined the protest. Stale fish was also dumped near the police station because the cops refused to lodge a case.

Ranu said in an interview for the survey that the protest was fun and everyone got involved. They called it the “Go throw a stale fish” campaign. The mound of rotting fish only grew. The police were finally forced to lodge a case. Clinical psychologist Rajat Mitra, who headed the Swanchetan study, recalls Ranu’s staunch belief. She had said that the smell of something revered by her village as the source of money and food would bring justice. Women bonding to fight sexual violence is an emerging phenomenon, say village workers. There is a very real reason, says Motilal Bahetu, a social worker in Jaunpur in eastern UP. “In the last few years, more than 80% of the men from these villagers have moved to towns and cities to work. Women stay back to manage the family. As a result, there is more bonding and sisterhood”.

Some say the change is a reflection of the growing awareness of rural women, especially Dalits. “In Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharshtra, women say that they will not tolerate (injustice). They have their constitutional rights and will protest,” says Ruth Manorama, who campaigns for Dalit women in Bangalore.

Mitra says that women are empowered when they form a collective. Sometimes, there are individual acts of fierce resistance, not least 30-year-old Sushma (name changed) in Sahilganj about 150 km from Jaunpur. When she was attacked by two “upper caste” men last year, the mother of two fought back so hard she injured her assailants to the extent they required surgery, says Mitra.

The police initially refused to register her complaint and did so when Sahilganj’s woman gheraoed the local police station for hours. The women also prepared a skit incorporating the attack and performed it in neighbouring villages. It gave them an opportunity to laugh at the incident as well as focusing attention on it, says Mitra.

It was very different a few years ago. Then, raped women were more cowed and could rely upon being ostracized. But attitudes are changing and there is growing awareness that sexual abuse is often used as a tool in rural India to stamp caste superiority.


3 Aug


(i) The complaint relating to child rape cases shall be recorded promptly as well as accurately. The complaint can be filed by the victim or an eyewitness or anyone, including a representative of non-governmental organization, who has received information of the commission of the offence. The case should be taken as follows:

a) Officer not below the rank of SI and preferably lady police officer.

b) Recording should be verbatim

c) Person recording to be in civil dress

d) Recording should not be insisted in police station, it can be at the residence of the victim.

(ii) If the complainant is the child victim, then it is of vital importance that the reporting officer must ensure that the child victim is made comfortable before proceeding to record the complaint. This would help in ensuring accurate narration of the incident covering all relevant aspects of the case. If feasible, assistance of psychiatrist should be taken;

(iii) The Investigating Officer shall ensure that medical examination of the victim of sexual assault and the accused is done preferably within 24 hours in accordance with Cr. PC Sec. 164 A. Instruction be issued that the Chief Medical Officer ensures the examination of victim immediately on receiving request from I.O. The gynecologist, while examining the victim should ensure recording the history of incident;

(iv) Immediately after the registration of the case, the investigation team shall visit the scene of crime to secure whatever incriminating evidence is available there. If there are tell-tale signs of resistance by the victim or use of force by the accused those should be photographed;

(v) The Investigation Officer shall secure the clothes of the victim as well as the clothes of the accused, if arrested, and send them within 10 days for forensic analysis to find out whether there are traces of semen and also obtain report about the matching of blood group and if possible DNA profiling;

(vi) The forensic lab should analyze the evidences on priority basis and send report within couple of months;

(vii) The investigation of the case shall be taken up by an officer not below the rank of S.I. on priority basis and, as far as possible, investigation shall invariably be completed within 90 days of registration of the case. Periodical supervision should be done by senior officers to ensure proper and prompt investigation;

(viii) Wherever desirable, the statement of the victims u/s 164 Cr. PC shall be recorded expeditiously;

(ix) Identity of the victim and the family shall be kept secret and they must be ensured of protection. IOs / NGOs to exercise more caution of the issue.


i) Fast Track courts preferably presided over by a lady judge and trial to be held in camera;

ii) Atmosphere in the court should be child friendly;

iii) If possible, the recordings be done in video conferencing / in conducive manner so that victim is not subjected to close proximity of accused;

iv) Magistrate should commit case to session within 15 days after the filing of the charge sheet.

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