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Avbl.: Report on Child Sexual Abuse in India

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  • Thiagarajan Arunachalam
    From: *karmayog - tanya* http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/02/07/breaking-silence-0 February 7, 2013 Breaking the Silence Child Sexual Abuse in India Summary The
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 12, 2013
      From: karmayog - tanya


      February 7, 2013

      Breaking the Silence

      Child Sexual Abuse in India

      The rape and murder of a student in New Delhi on December 16, 2012, followed
      by large public protests, has led to a great deal of soul searching about
      the problem of sexual violence in India. Politicians, lawyers, women's
      rights activists, and an independent government-appointed commission have
      all made proposals for new laws, police reform, and public education. The
      government has promised action. If nothing else happens, the case has
      awakened many Indians to the scale and prevalence of sexual violence in
      their country.

      While great awareness has been raised about sexual violence against women in
      India, much less is known about the problem of sexual abuse of children.
      Studies suggest that more than 7,200 children, including infants, are raped
      every year; experts believe that many more cases go unreported. Expressing
      concern about violence against women after the New Delhi rape, Louis-Georges
      Arsenault, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) representative to India,
      said that "too many of these cases are children."

      Consider the case of Apna Ghar, a residential care facility for orphans and
      other vulnerable children in the northern Indian town of Rohtak in Haryana
      state. Conditions were so dire that at dawn on May 7, 2012, three teenage
      residents sneaked out through the front door after one of the girls stole
      the key to the door, along with 500 rupees, from the purse of the facility's
      director. It was all they needed to make their escape to New Delhi. The
      girls promised the friends they left behind that they were going to return
      with help.

      That help came two days later, when members of the National Commission for
      the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) visited the facility to investigate
      the girls' allegations of abuse. The head of the team later described the
      scene they encountered there as "insane, unbelievable." Girls of all ages
      told them they had been made to have sex with strangers for money, that the
      son-in-law of the director had molested them, that they had been stripped
      naked, and beaten on their vaginas. Others said that staff had tied them up
      and suspended them from ceiling fans as punishment. "They made us do such
      disgusting things," one said. "I felt so dirty that even the water I drank
      afterwards tasted like it had been contaminated."

      What is most shocking about the abuse is that it happened in a
      well-respected facility that was regularly inspected by government
      officials. Its director, Jaswanti Devi, had recently been named Haryana
      state's "woman role model of the year." Her charity ran 12 government-funded
      welfare projects. According to Vinod Tikoo of the NCPCR, the abuse in the
      institution revealed a massive breakdown. "It is not neglect. It is systemic
      failure," he told Human Rights Watch.

      As recent research has shown, it is not just within institutions that Indian
      children suffer from sexual abuse. A 2007 Indian government-sponsored
      survey, based on interviews with 12,500 children in 13 different states,
      reported serious and widespread sexual abuse, thereby putting the government
      on notice about the gravity of the problem. Smaller surveys conducted by
      nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have also painted a disturbing picture.
      Children are sexually abused by relatives at home, by people in their
      neighborhoods, at school, and in residential facilities for orphans and
      other at-risk children. Most such cases are not reported. Many are
      mistreated a second time by a criminal justice system that often does not
      want to hear or believe their accounts, or take serious action against

      This report does not attempt a quantitative analysis of the scope of the
      problem in India. That has already been established by recent research
      conducted by the government and others, though more research is certainly
      needed. Instead, this report looks at a number of detailed case studies to
      examine what the government does to prevent abuse, how it responds when it
      receives allegations of abuse, and how it treats victims after they are
      abused. To prepare this report, we interviewed more than one hundred
      government officials, doctors, police officials, lawyers, members of
      nongovernmental organizations, and children. We spoke directly with eight
      victims of child sexual abuse and the relatives of another nine victims. We
      examined court papers and other documents. In accordance with Indian law, we
      have changed, or not revealed, the names of any of the victims and their

      A wide swathe of authorities in India, including political leaders,
      bureaucrats, police, and judges, have publicly condemned the sexual abuse of
      children. Yet, poor awareness, social stigma, and negligence have
      facilitated the continued perpetuation of such crimes.

      During our research we found that despite commitments to ensure the
      protection of children, the Indian government has failed to generate
      effective oversight mechanisms that could prevent much of the child sexual
      abuse from taking place. Additionally, existing child protection schemes,
      and many police departments, courts, local government administrations,
      children's institutional care facilities, schools, and doctors, are simply
      not doing enough to help victims after sexual abuse has been identified, or
      to ensure that perpetrators are punished.

      A government appointed committee, in January, found that the government's
      child protection schemes, "have clearly failed to achieve their avowed
      objective." Set up by the government in December 2012 in the wake of the
      Delhi attack, the committee, headed by Justice J.S. Verma, made several
      recommendations to address sexual assault and expressed particular concern
      over the plight of children in residential care institutions.

      To be sure there are significant hurdles to crafting effective responses to
      this still largely hidden problem. Fear of social stigma or lack of faith in
      government institutions prevents many people from reporting child sexual
      abuse. The 2007 government survey found that, among abused children, only 25
      percent had told anyone, and only in 3 percent of the cases had the police
      been informed. As in many other countries, deep-rooted cultural norms
      discourage the open discussion of sex and make it hard for a child to
      complain about an older relative or a person in a position of authority.
      Writing in the introduction to the government survey, the then women and
      child development minister, Renuka Chowdhury, said that child sexual abuse
      in India, "is shrouded in secrecy and there is a conspiracy of silence
      around the entire subject."

      Addressing child sexual abuse is a challenge all over the world. But in
      India, shortcomings in both state and community responses add to the
      problem. Victims who do come forward to make a complaint often suffer as a
      result. For instance, Ahmed told Human Rights Watch that his family found
      itself ostracized after his 12-year-old daughter said she was raped. She
      claims this happened after three men abducted her one afternoon as she was
      walking to her home in the northern city of Varanasi. Ahmed said that he
      decided to inform the police because many schoolgirls used the same street
      and he was afraid for their safety. But instead of winning the gratitude of
      his neighbors, they shunned him and his daughter because she was a rape
      victim. The parents of his elder daughter's fiancé cancelled the engagement
      because they felt that public knowledge of the attack had brought shame to
      their family. The police discouraged him from registering a complaint and,
      apparently to avoid having to take action, even accused the family of lying.
      Ahmed told Human Rights Watch:

      My daughter was continuously saying that she had been raped, but the
      police told us not to tell anyone. They told us to settle the case. When I
      refused, the police then grabbed me and slapped me several times. Three or
      four men did this to me, including the station officer. They also beat my
      The fear of attracting social stigma can result in families trying to cover
      up the most horrific treatment of children. In a village in Uttar Pradesh
      state, the mother of a two-year-old girl walked in on her child being
      molested by a 17-year-old male second cousin. The parents of the girl wanted
      to file a case with the police, but were persuaded by the extended family as
      well as the police to settle the matter privately. Rather than having the
      perpetrator arrested, he was instead told to leave the village. "We know
      that a lot of abuse is happening but people don't talk about it," said Anand
      Prakash, a local social activist. "It is all related to respect and the
      dignity of the family. If it comes out, the family will be disrespected."

      In recent years this "conspiracy of silence" has finally begun to break
      down, thanks to activists working on the rights of women and children, the
      small but growing number of NGOs that counsel survivors and raise awareness,
      and to the central government's Ministry of Women and Child Development,
      which has taken a leadership role on the issue.

      The criminal justice system, from the time police receive a complaint until
      trials are completed, needs urgent reform. One problem is the inconsistency
      in the way the system currently handles cases. Many victims and their
      families find the whole process extremely intimidating. Neha, for example,
      who is from a low-caste rural family, told Human Rights Watch that she was
      raped when she was 16 years old. The next day she put on her

      best clothes to look respectable and went to the police station. But the
      officer on duty simply made rude remarks about how nice she looked,
      suggested that she had consensual sex, and told her to go away. "The man on
      duty told me to shut my mouth and go back home," Neha said. "I was so angry
      that I wanted to hit him. Why was he doubting me?"

      Krishna, from Uttar Pradesh, says she was raped when she was 12 years old by
      a member of a politically influential family. When she complained to the
      police, she said they detained her at the station for the next 12 days:

      They [the police] kept insisting that I change my statement otherwise they
      threatened that something would happen to me. They would also insult me and
      call me rude names. My parents kept trying to see me but they did not allow
      them to talk to me because they thought my parents would tell me to speak
      the truth.
      Victims also complain about the insensitive way they are treated by the
      doctors who examine them for evidence of rape. Many, like Krishna, found it
      a deeply upsetting experience. She said:

      [The doctor] asked me to lie down on a table and remove my clothes. When
      she examined me she inserted a single finger inside me. It hurt and I was
      scared. I did not like what the doctor was doing to me. She then said
      something like, "Oh, it was just a small rape, it is no big deal."
      The mother of a three-year-old girl described the medical examination of her
      daughter, who she suspected had been raped and sodomized by the father, as
      both distressing and painful. The examination took place in a blood-stained
      labor ward in a government hospital in Bengaluru instead of a separate room
      where the child would not be further traumatized. After a lengthy and
      anxious wait for the doctor to arrive, the examining doctor "pulled her legs
      back and she screamed."

      According Dr. Shaibya Saldanha, a gynecologist who works with child sexual
      abuse survivors in the southern city of Bengaluru, most doctors simply do
      not have the skills to perform such an important role:

      Unfortunately no doctor, whether a general practitioner or a gynecologist
      or a pediatrician has been given any training whatsoever regarding child
      abuse examination, interviewing, how to take care, what are rehabilitation
      procedures, the medical and psychological needs of the child. They have no
      The result of such treatment is that many victims decide not to pursue their
      case. Senior police officer Suman Nalwa, who heads a special unit for women
      and children in New Delhi, recalls failing to persuade one nervous and
      reluctant woman to bring charges against her husband for molesting their
      11-year-old daughter. Nalwa told Human Rights Watch,

      We told her that her name would be secret and the trial would be in camera
      [not in public], and we took them to the hospital for a medical examination.
      But their treatment in the hospital was so pathetic that she said, "You
      know, you promised me so many things and this is only the first step." She
      just walked out and never came back.
      A major problem in India is the lack of effective monitoring of residential
      care facilities, orphanages and other children's institutions. In the first
      half of 2012 alone, the Times of India newspaper reported sexual abuse cases
      in eight different residential facilities in different parts of the country.
      Three of them, including Apna Ghar, mentioned above, were in Haryana, with
      others in New Delhi, Karnataka, West Bengal, Goa, and Uttar Pradesh. Alleged
      abusers were members of staff, older children, and outside visitors
      including police officers.

      Under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, all
      existing children's residential care facilities were supposed to register
      with the government within six months, with child welfare committees
      mandated to inspect them. But the law actually contains no penalties for
      children's care facilities that do not comply. The government's system of
      monitoring and inspection is in any case so dysfunctional that nobody even
      knows how many such institutions there are in India, let alone how the
      children in them are treated.

      A former child resident of one facility said that where he lived, "nobody
      dared to share their experience with anybody outside. The general atmosphere
      was intimidating, scary and oppressive." He told Human Rights Watch that
      both wardens and older children were involved in sexually abusing young boys
      and that a climate of fear prevented anyone from reporting what was going on
      to managers. In the 15 years he lived there, he said, he was not aware of
      the facility being inspected once. "A child would dare not complain about
      the warden, and those older boys were also so intimidating," he said. "It
      had a bullying culture and there were no safeguards."

      In May 2012, India's parliament took a major step by passing the Protection
      of Children from Sexual Offences Act. Under the law, all forms of child
      sexual abuse are now specific criminal offenses for the first time ever in
      India. Before the new law, different forms of abuse had to be prosecuted
      under a patchwork of different laws often designed for different purposes,
      and their uncertain applicability to individual cases of child abuse created
      obstacles to prosecution. For example, it was not clear whether any law
      covered non-penetrative sexual acts committed against boys. The new law also
      establishes guidelines for the police and courts to deal with victims
      sensitively and provides for the setting up of specialist child courts.
      There is hope that, taken together, these measures will encourage more
      victims and their families to step forward, and result in more successful

      These are welcome initiatives, but will only make a difference if they are
      implemented. Experience in India shows that while good laws and policies can
      be adopted by the central government, implementation is frequently a
      challenge. An earlier law has in fact already provided for the setting up of
      courts for the "speedy trial of offenses against children." But six years
      later, only the Delhi state government has begun the process of establishing

      Implementation problems have also hindered other attempts to improve the
      protection of children. The goal of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme
      (ICPS), an ambitious nationwide scheme launched in 2009, was to strengthen
      existing child protection measures, and create new ones, such as a network
      of district level social workers. But the government admits that the scheme
      has been slow to get off the ground. According to its own figures, only four
      of India's 28 states spent the money they were allocated by the central
      government during the first three years of the scheme.

      In most states, important bodies, such as child welfare committees designed
      to oversee the care of vulnerable children, do not receive the funding they
      need. Since the ICPS was formed in 2009, the number of such committees has
      increased, but there are still serious gaps. According to a recent survey,
      fewer than half of India's 629 districts had appointed a committee, and most
      members of committees that did exist had received no training in India's
      juvenile justice or child protection systems. Badly trained and poorly
      funded child welfare committees are failing to adequately monitor orphanages
      and other residential care facilities. It is essential that this work be
      improved because, as recent cases have highlighted, sexual abuse in such
      institutions appears to be widespread.

      The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights has been given
      the task of monitoring implementation of the Protection of Children from
      Sexual Offences Act. To do this properly, it must be given sufficient staff
      and resources.

      Apart from its domestic laws, India is party to a number of international
      human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and
      Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Child, which provide
      specific protections for the rights of children. They call for measures to
      prevent and punish abuses by government officials, and place a burden on
      governments at the central and state level to adopt measures to prevent and
      punish abuses by private citizens.

      Human Rights Watch calls on the Indian government to adopt and enforce
      policies that will prevent and redress sexual violence against children.
      International institutions and foreign governments should work with the
      Indian government to assist in providing training and best practice models
      that can protect every child in India.


      A. Thiagarajan
      98490 22573

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