By TN Ashok / New Delhi
A clarion call went out to the government today for evolving a National Plan for combating child abuse which was on the rise across all strata of society and most of the times the crime went totally unreported because of the social stigma attached to it.
The national coalition to protect our children (NCPOC), a civil society convened by the Rajya Sabha MP and head of NDA in Kerala, Rajeev Chandrasekhar along with Ms Stuti Kacker, Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, told a press conference today that there was a large gap between the existing laws to deal with sexual child abuse and incest, lack of proper registry on offenders and victims, lack of training to investigating officers.
The coalition released a report today based on a national consultation on the protection of children from sexual offence act 2012 held at Bengaluru recently which is to be submitted to the government for action. The coalition partners – NCPCR, HAQ, Rahi, CSJ ,NCPOC, and Majlis – also intend to meet the PrimeMminister Narendra Modi to highlight the intensity of the problem widely prevalent across all states across all strata of society.
“The problem gets reported from the lower strata of society but not from the upper strata for fear of stigma and protection of the family member who is an offender”, Rajiv Cahndrasekhar and Ms Stuti Kacker said and the child lived under fear all the time and would open up only under a closed witness protection programme.
The authors of the report besides Rajiv Chandrasekhar and Ms Kacker, Ms Bharti Ali , Co Founder , Haq centre for child rights, Ms Flavia Agness , Founder Majlis and leading lawyer from Mumbai, Ms Anuja Gupta, Executive Director, Rahi Fundation and M Jonathan Derby, Founder Counsel to secure justice for children , launched the recommendations for the POSCO Act 2012 to combat child sexual abuse.
The report was compiled after over 40 experts from over 10 states in India including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam, Maharashtra , Delhi , Goa , eight special POSCO court Judges , the chairperson of NCPCR ad the joint secretary of the ministry of women and child development, deliberated over the two day consultation on the Protection of children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 at Bangalore in early this year.
The report recommended amendments to the protection of children from sexual offences act 2012, recommend best practices that stake holders involved in the CSA response , police, medical personnel, forensic experts, investigating officers, social workers, lawyers , judiciary , can adopt to improve their interventions.
The report also recommended to state governments to recognise CSA as a priority and improve their response to the malaise.
As per information collated by national commission for protection of child rights , 45, 498 cases have been registered under the POSCO act 2012, between November 2012 from March 2015/.
Out of this 4316 cases are still pending with the state police for investigation and 35,700 cases are pending before courts for trial. The overall conviction rate of cases registered under POSCO rests meagrely between 7 and 16%.
In view of the lacunae, the coalition of Rajiv Chandrasekhar organised the two day national consultation on the Posco act at the National School of India University in Bengaluru.
“Crimes against children are the worst forms of cruelty, especially because they violate the basic trust and core that a child expects from an adult”, Chandrasekhar said.
The criminal justice system in India struggles to cut this root from the inherently biased social system where survivors of child sexual abuse are facing numerous issues. So the recommendations encompass: support and protection of children from sexual abuse, pre-trial and trial stage, health and child sexual abuse ad ambiguities in the letter of law.
The report felt that importance be given to effective implementation of the POSCO act instead of pushing for amendments. Child pornography, cyber bullying and sexting are challenges presented by modern day technology and we need to have laws and systems in place to deal with them, Ms Anuja Gupta of Rahi Foundation said.
Media could play a major role in bringing sensitive issues like CSA to light and putting a pressure on the stakeholders to take steps.
Answering questions both Rajiv Chandrasekhar and Ms Bharti Ali said it was not a case of mental aberration on the part of the offender because often it was found to be a pre meditated crime and especially from family members like father, brother, or uncle and often it was difficult to provide evidence to convict the offender. As for the victim the rehabilitation period to come out of the trauma depended on the individual, the intensity of the crime, the extent to which it had hurt the psyche of the child. They did not agree that the scars of the crime could lead to vengeful attitude on the part of the victim.
Striking a slightly different cord, the report said instead of condemning offenders, their rehabilitation needs to be focused upon. Counselling needs to be made available to them as well. “Our approach should be providing restorative justice instead of focusing on punishment”, he said.
CSA is a form of terrorism against children, Rajeev Chandrasekhar said adding only if children are provided safe and healthy childhood can they become healthy citizens. While stressing on creating data bases outlining the experiences of investigators, he said US programmes like The Violent Crimiminal Apprehension Programme (VICAP) may serve as a guideline for starting something similar in India.