March 20, 2010


Child abuse on the rise in schools

New Delhi: More and more children are being abused and harassed in schools across the country. According to the Centre, the number of such cases has tripled in 3 years
A total of 95 such cases were registered last year,” women and child development minister Krishna Tirath said.

“The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights said there has been an increase in the number of reports of excesses on children in schools. These complaints have been referred to thestate governments and union territory administrations concerned for appropriate action.”
The complaints included sexual abuse, harassment, humiliation, murder, corporal punishment and wrongful confinement.

“From 34 complaints in 2007-2008 and 68 in 2008-2009, the figure went up to 95 last year,” Tirath said.

Child rights activists feel this may not reflect the true picture as many cases go unreported. They, however, were satisfied that more children and their families are coming forward to report abuse.
Uttar Pradesh reported the most cases this year. Of the 27 cases in the state, 20were of corporal punishment and one of murder. Tamil Nadu reported 12 cases, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa nine each and Andhra, Rajasthan, Bihar, Haryana and Punjab four each.


Rape worse crime than murder: Bombay high court

Mumbai: Rape is a more heinous crime than murder, observed a two-judge bench of the Bombay high court on Friday. The observation came in the context of a petition challenging the rules under the Maharashtra Prisons Act, 1965, which compel murder undertrials to wear jail uniforms, but not rapists or bomb blast accused.

The petition was filed by a murder undertrial, Dhanesh Shivdasan.
“Rape is a worse crime than murder. A rape victim is made to suffer in society even after the accused faces punishment. There is a point to the petitioner’s argument: Why are only murder undertrials compelled to wear uniforms?” asked justices Ranjana Desai and Mridula Bhatkar.

The court observed that one is innocent until the crime is proved and he/she is convicted for the offence. “Then why such discrimination between a murder undertrial and a rape undertrial? We do not understand ?” the judges remarked. The court was more surprised when the petitioner’s legal aide, Indu Varma, said even undertrials in bomb blast cases were not compelled to wear uniforms.

Observing that crimes like bomb blasts and rape were more heinous, the high court directed the state government to file its reply in two weeks. Varma further told the court that rule 6 of the Maharashtra Prisons Act allowed undertrials in cases attracting rigorous imprisonment to wear civil clothes.

Under the same rule, convicted persons in cases involving simple imprisonment were allowed to wear private clothes. This was also discriminatory.
Additional public prosecutor Vitthal Konde-Deshmukh argued that the said rules were made in order to maintain discipline in jails.

“This (to make murder undertrials wear jail uniforms) helped in identifying the accused and also in maintaining jail discipline,” Konde-Deshmukh told the court.
The petition was filed by Shivdasan, an undertrial in a murder case, who has been lodged in Thane Central prison since March 1, 2006. Shivdasan had in January, 2009, sent a hand-written application through the jail authorities challenging rule 4 of the Maharashtra Prisons Act, 1965. In his application, he referred to an earlier order of the high court which ruled that undertrials need not wear jail uniforms.

“I had given an application to the jail superintendent, Thane, along with a copy of the high court order and requested him to exempt me from wearing jail uniform, but still I was not allowed to wear civil clothes,” said Shivdasan’s application. The high court had converted his application into a petition.

In February, 2009, a division bench of justice Bilal Nazki (who retired in November, 2009) and justice AR Joshi had ruled that undertrials should not be compelled to wear jail uniforms. Citing the said order, Shivdasan had approached the high court for relief
“The said rule is prima facie discriminatory. We feel that a balance needs to be struck between undertrials in murder and other crimes. A balance needs to be maintained between prisoners’ rights,” observed the court.

Hindustan Times

A legal shield for him & her

Justice maybe a long time coming, but the heartening thing is that the law in India is constantly evolving to plug loopholes and correct imbalances. The latest is a draft bill that the home ministry is working on to broaden the terms of sexual crimes and make its provisions gender-neutral. The word rape is sought to be replaced with the term sexual assault in order that different forms of sexual abuse come under its umbrella.

This is important in two specific contexts. One, the courts have decriminalised homosexuality, which while being a positive step also brings rape among same sex partners under the purview of the law. The other is that there will be redressal for the boy child in cases of molestation.
A study by the ministry of women and child development shows that more boys suffer sexual abuse than girls and that one out of two children have suffered some form of molestation usually between the ages of 9 to 12. In the case of boys, only proven sodomy is an offence so far and does not take into account other forms of sexual offences or harassment. Already, the law has evolved mechanisms to lessen the trauma of child victims, providing them the means to have hearings at home. The same goes for women victims of sexual crimes.

So far, the definition of sexual crimes, particularly rape, has been in the context of women and the girl child. This seems to have led to a quantum increase in crimes against the boy child. In Delhi alone, a government study showed that far greater number of boys were abused than girls. This suggests that the boy child has little protection and that offenders have taken advantage of the gaps in the law. So far, the law has not taken other forms of sexual abuse, including verbal, seriously enough. This has encouraged offenders to get away with all manners of abuse short of rape.

The next step is to sensitise the police, the first port of call for a victim, of the changes in the law and the need to treat all forms of sexual abuse seriously and in a gender-neutral manner.
The judicial system today is such that the victim is doubly traumatised, first by the perpetrator and then by the legal system. The earlier proposal to dispose of sexual crime trials in two to three months is yet to kick in. This could go a long way towards encouraging people to come forward and report such crimes. The legislation may take time to show results. But at least the government is taking proactive steps to draft a non-discriminatory framework on sexual assault.

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