2018 was a real curse for woman and children — kind of brutality they undergo every moment is unexplainable. Around 19,920 children were victims of child rape in 2016 alone. However, the conviction in 2016 for such crimes stood at an abysmal 28.2 per cent, while a majority of cases (89.6 per cent) are still pending for disposal. The lengthy judicial procedure has given life to many rapists and that is the reason, there is no deterrence.
We are posting on social media, sharing all side stories on WhatsApp and trying to be a part of propagandas, but none of us has the courage to come on the street and force government to bring a stringent law. The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Swati Maliwal, who is on hunger strike from past six days, will continue her fast till Prime Minister Narendra Modi returns to India and holds a discussion with her on her demands, including the death penalty for rapists of minor girls. Just because of devoted political ideologies, no youth wants to support her agitation because she belongs to Aam Aadmi Party; no one is realising if the law is passed, people at large are going to be benefited. Swati is not staying hungry because of any AAP agenda, it’s because she wants justice to those innocent girls who were mutilated before they could see this world.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) was passed in 2012 to address the growing sexual violence against children and the inability of the Indian Penal Code to deal with this concern. The Act provides a graded classification of sexual offences against children, prescribes higher mandatory minimum sentences for such crimes, mandates several processes and safeguards to ensure a child-friendly trial such as the designation of “special courts”, a child-friendly process of recording victim testimony, provision of compensation, protection of the child’s identity etc. The Act also contains extensive mandates for procedures to be followed by the police, magistrates and medical personnel handling victims of child sexual abuse.
Despite the Supreme Court stating that the “two-finger test”, serves no purpose and is humiliating, doctors continue with this inhumane practice, often casting aspersions on the character of the victim. Our society, despite aspiring for progressiveness and gender equality, is still extremely misogynistic. Sexual violence is often seen through the prism of “honour” rather than as a violation of a woman’s rights over her body. This probably explains the contradiction that despite women being considered goddesses in our society, their choices are curtailed and judged by injudicious notions of morality.
It is cardinal to ensure that there is a positive attitude towards women’s empowerment if we are serious about purging sexual violence from our society. It is extremely important that our education inculcates gender sensitivity and promotes gender equality. Even the Justice Verma Committee suggested this when it recommended the formation of a constitutional authority on the lines of the comptroller and auditor general to deal with matters relating to education and non-discrimination of the women and children.
Setting up of fast-track courts to complete the trial in such cases in six months and recruitment of adequate police personnel and better forensic labs is the need of the hour. After every incident that captures the nation’s attention, there are calls for stringent measures to deter criminals. There are vociferous debates on TV channels, protests, candle marches and other methods of expressing our collective anguish. Once the anger subsides, the millions of other cases that escape the media’s radar continue to tarnish our national conscience, until another shameful incident comes to light, and the country is once again demanding the death penalty for the rapists and for the cases to be adjudged in a time-bound manner.
As awful as the problem itself is, our response to it seldom involves introspection and rationality. In a state of heightened emotions, people often call for retribution, including public executions in the flawed and naive belief that it would act as a deterrent. This belief resonates with the political parties who seek to exploit public anger for their benefit. Sadly, it appears that even the judiciary has yielded to this popular, but unfounded belief. Most of the child sexual abuse goes unreported. A Ministry of Women and Child Development study (2007) surveying 17,220 children from 13 states found that an alarming 53.22 per cent of them had faced some form of sexual abuse amongst which 52.94 per cent constituted boys. The CCL study, however, shows that only 2.5 per cent of the victims in the five states studied were boys. Thus, only a fraction of the incidences of sexual abuse against children enters the criminal justice system, amongst which only a minuscule fraction ends in a conviction. Without effective implementation of the law, a penalty — no matter how severe — will not work in reducing crime.
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