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So much of violence – both sexual and otherwise, is directed towards children, innocent victims of a patriarchal society that engages in power play and control.
Justice has been delivered in the Kathua gangrape case. And yet, the question that should agitate our minds, is why kids of such tender years are assaulted sexually or other wise.
Trigger warning: sexual abuse & violence
More boys are sexually abused than girls as per statistics, yet, our society being patriarchal, we live in denial that boys are raped. Even though the POCSO (The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act has been made gender neutral to tackle sexual abuse of all children, it cannot stem the rot of sexual abuse of kids.
And what begins as a sexual assault can slowly give way to sexual trafficking of kids, which is a part of the $150 million illicit world wide trade, which comes third after trade of small arms and drugs.
Recently, a 2 year old girl was found killed in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh. As usual, the matter was politicized. One of accused who was arrested has been facing two charges under POCSO and yet he was roaming freely to look around for potential victims and traumatize more kids.
Hence, there is an urgent need to have a database of sexual offenders on a pan-India basis. This would help in faster arrests and a better conviction rate. This in turn would assist in assuring safety of kids.
The idea of a national registry of sexual offenders is by activists like Sunitha Krishnan of Prajwala. She also started a #ShametheRapist Campaign, approaching the Supreme Court with a plea that a national agency needs to deal with the gangrape and rape videos which are being shared on various social media and the internet.
As a result of this campaign and the activism by others, India has got a national registry of sex offenders.
It has been shown time and again that most of the sexual crimes are committed by people known to the child. As per NCRB data of 2016, 94.6% of offenders were known to the victims, 43.3% of rape victims are minors, and 13% of minor rape victims are aged 11 and below.
Obviously, minors are being raped by people known to them, and 75% of offenders are estimated to be known to these minor rape victims, obviously it must be above 75%. This is also one of the main reasons why conviction rate is as dismal as 30% because many a times, families want the ‘shame’ to remain within the family. Nobody tries to understand how this is going to traumatize the victim who is a family member as well! And this non-reporting of sexual assault makes the offender more brazen about perpetuating similar or more violent assaults on others within the family and outside.
Rapes are very traumatic crimes that affect the mental and the physical wellbeing of the victim/ survivor.
In India, it’s a social stigma as well. The victims/ survivors have to face the blame that they “asked for it” by wearing clothes which were “inappropriate” or by being “too bold”.
Rape is an act of power play and control. If the way the victim/ survivor dressed made somebody commit rape, then how can rapes of babies and women as old as eighty be explained? Gangrapes during communal flare ups and caste violence? Can they be explained by skimpy dressing? No! And definitely the rape of minors cannot be explained by dressing sense. Specially, rape of minor boys can never be explained, for those, who allege that girls need to stay within limits and not behave like boys!
Patriarchy is so entrenched that the offenders roam freely after raping many, while the victims and survivors face the wrath of the society, including anger from family and friends because the victim “asked for it”!
In a judgement delivered by Bombay High Court, the judges stated that rape is worse than murder, because it affects victims physically as also psychologically, and as a fallout, many of the victims tend to end their lives.
What needs to be done to prevent or lessen the number of rapes of minors ?
Many steps need to be taken. Firstly, make sex education a part of school curriculum as has been done recently . Sex education will enlighten minors about good touch and bad touch; this can help warn the minors about potential offenders.
Another step is sensitising the public about safety of children. It’s our duty as adults to create a safe environment for our children so that they grow up into fearless, healthy adults. Minors who are raped suffer trauma on a life long basis, with a lot of psychological issues.
Police needs to be sensitised to take faster action, with thorough investigation in all cases relating to sexual assaults of minors. This will assist in increasing the conviction rate under the POCSO Act.
And last, but not the least, faster trials and speedy dispensation of justice will act as a deterrent. Certainty of punishment is a deterrent; not the death penalty.
Death penalty awarded for rape as well as for murder might mean that rapists might think nothing of killing their victims as well. This needs to be avoided at all costs.
Death penalty has almost the same effect of deterrence as life imprisonment as per 262nd Indian Law Commission Report.
Death penalty is a long and winding process.
Death penalty is expensive.
Errors in judgement lead to innocent people being punished by death penalty.
Death penalty has often been shown to be awarded to people who are from the minorities, and scheduled castes and tribes.
Kailash Satyarthi, the Nobel Peace Prize Winner in a recent article on the occasion of World Day Against Child Labour, 12th June 2019 talks about steps each of us must take, to reach the goal of a child friendly society. Because each time we remain silent as we witness any injustice in whatsoever form regarding a child, we let down that child and ultimately our future.
Because, as stated by Nelson Mandela, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
Image source: shutterstock
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I am a law graduate from Government Law College,Mumbai.I am a Fellow in
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