April 30, 2010

Times of India

Indian bishops frame child abuse norms

CHENNAI: With the clergy facing horrible child sex abuse charges in several countries, Catholic bishops of India have drafted guidelines for the clergymen across the world. From spelling out a general behavioural code for bishops and other priests to defrocking as the ultimate punishment for such crime, the guidelines focus on "wholesome safety of children in and outside our institutions".

The draft is a result of four days of deliberations by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) and the Conference of Catholic Bishops in India (CCBI), the two apex bodies, that ended in Bangalore on Wednesday. It will be sent to the Vatican for the Pope's approval before being finalised by the end of June.

Several cases of alleged child sexual abuse against Indian Catholic priests abroad had come to light in the recent past, forcing CBCI to act. With similar cases being reported from across the world, Pope Benedict XVI had written letters to the clergy in several countries.

"While the general consensus at the conference was to report any suspected case of child sex abuse to the police, measures like defrocking and expulsion will be thought of only if the accused is convicted by a court," CBCI spokesperson Babu Joseph Karakombil told TOI.

So far, priests charged with child sex abuse abroad have been transferred to dioceses in India, raising concern that they could repeat crimes while in service that puts them in close proximity to children.

Office-bearers of CBCI, including its president and Mumbai archbishop Fr Oswald Cardinal Gracias, are in favour of defrocking priests who are found guilty. "I am in favour of such stringent action against the guilty. We will follow the Indian law and the canon law," Fr Gracias told TOI before leaving for Rome ahead of the Bangalore conference.

"The Bangalore conference discussed in detail ways and means to ensure the safety of children in our institutions. The draft guidelines will not be made public till they are given a final form. The draft will be sent to the Vatican, as also to all bishops and Catholic institutions in the country for perusal and suggestions," Karakombil said.

While cases of child sex abuse against priests have been reported from other countries, child right activists feel non-reporting in India is a matter of grave concern. The CBCI guidelines, they hope, will bring in more transparency and accountability.

April 29, 2010


Wikipedia's parent company distributing child porn: Co-founder

California: Wikipedia’s co-founder, Larry Sanger, has said that the online encyclopedia’s parent company, Wikimedia Commons, is knowingly distributing child pornography in their products
Sanger, who left Wikipedia in 2002, said the Wiki products, including Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikinews and Wikiquote, is rife with renderings of children performing sexual acts.
He said he has sent a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) outlining his concerns and identifying two specific categories, which he believes violate federal obscenity laws.
The first category, entitled “Pedophilia”, created three years ago, contains 25 to 30 explicit and detailed drawings of children performing sexual acts, while the second, “Lilicon,” provides cartoons similar in detail and depiction.
“I was not shocked that it was online, but I was shocked that it was on a Wikimedia Foundation site that purports to be a reference site,” Fox News quoted Sanger, as saying.
“I think a lot of teachers and education technologists responsible for the filters at public schools don’t realize how much and what level of pornography there is in the system. I’m quite sure that if they knew there were pages devoted to pedophilia, it might make them think twice about giving students unrestricted access in schools.”
“I’m going to sound really old fashioned, but I felt that it was my duty. I really did. Wikimedia has quite a bit of pornography on it and they had no idea,” he added.

Times of India

Teens using secret online lingo to deceive parents

LONDON: Teenagers are increasingly using a secret language on social networking sites like Facebook to stop parents from judging them by their social activities such as partying and drinking, a new study found.

Instead of writing they are drunk, teens post "Getting MWI" — or mad with it; being in a relationship is known as "taken" or "Ownageeee", and "Ridneck", a corruption of redneck, means to feel embarrassed. Meanwhile, girls posting "Legal" are indicating they are above 16 and legally allowed to have sex, researchers found.

Lead researcher Lisa Whittaker of Stirling University said the slang had been created to keep their activities private, and cited the example of a girl who was sacked after bosses found pictures of her drinking on the website.

"By doing this they are able to communicate with their in-group and conceal the content from the out-group. This further adds to their online identity," she said.

Times of India

Judge rues huge backlog of cases in courts

Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Monday bemoaned the huge backlog of cases that have piled up over the decades.The fact cannot be ignored that suits,which have been instituted in the 8th and 9th decades of the previous century,are still pending in this court for adjudication, said Justice D G Karnik.Though the situation in the district and civil courts in the state is slightly better,there too,suits are pending for several years, the judge added.
The remarks came during the hearing of a plea challenging a civil courts order appointing a court commissioner to record evidence.
Considering the present strength of judges,it would well nigh be impossible to hear the suits expeditiously if the task of recording evidence in every case is also to be performed by the judge, said the HC,while ruling that a court can appoint a commissioner to record the evidences of witnesses on affidavits.The matter before the court concerned a petition relating to secession.A trial court had appointed a court commissioner for recording of the evidence on affidavit.But one of the parties concerned objected
to the court commissioners appointment.Advocate Ajay Panicker said the court commissioner has no power to examine any witness on affidavit and the affidavit must be tendered in court.Thereafter,the matter could be referred to the court commissioner for cross-examination.
Rejecting the argument,the HC said according to the Civil Procedure Code,in the interest of justice or for speedy disposal of the case,a court commissioner could be appointed.The HC has sent the case back to the court commissioner.

April 19, 2010


Look around, there may be a rapist in your neighbourhood

New Delhi: If the rape of a 19-year-old waitress by two army jawans in Pune on Wednesday did not wake up the government to the plight of working women, the latest data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) should.

According to NCRB, the number of rape and sexual assault cases rose sharply between 2004 and 2008, with rape cases shooting up by 17%.

In fact, there was an overall increase in crime against women — up by 27% — with rape, sexual harassment, molestation, cruelty and dowry deaths accounting for 95.3% of the cases in 2008.
NCRB says most (57.2%) rape victims were in the 18-30 age group, a time when women become more mobile due to needs such as higher education or employment. Madhya Pradesh (MP) reported the most (13.7%) rape cases.

Data shows offenders were known to victims in 91% of cases. Neighbours were involved in 33.1% of cases, relatives in 5.4% and parents/family members in 1.6% of cases. There were also 309 cases of incest registered in 2008, most of them in MP.

Molestation cases too increased by 4.3% over 2007, with again MP reporting the most at 15.9%. There was an 8% increase in child rape cases in 2008, with Uttar Pradesh reporting the most (900), followed by MP (892), and Maharashtra (690). The three states accounted for 45.6% of child rape cases.

Sociologists say this is a result of our male-dominated society becoming increasingly intolerant to women, particularly independent ones, and the increased access to pornography.

“Easy access to pornographic material, dating websites and phone sex is causing sexual frustration among men, resulting in an outburst in the form of rape and sexual assault. Men have access to virtual experience, while actual experience is missing,” Ranjana Kumari, director of Centre for Social Research, New Delhi, said.

A low conviction rate emboldens criminals. Of the 94% cases of rape charge-sheeted in 2008, only 33.4% resulted in convictions.

Minors are major rape targets in city: Cops

Mumbai: Rapes on minors have outnumbered those on women in the city, making the former more vulnerable and soft targets of the crime, a recent study has said.
Till February this year, the police had registered 36 rape cases of which 23 involve minors.

In 2009, a total of 182 cases were registered of which 128 were rapes of minors.
Of the 216 cases registered in 2008, 147 cases were of sexual abuse of girls below the age of 18.

According to Rajnish Seth, joint commissioner of police (law and order), such cases are on the rise as culprits feel they can easily overpower minor girls and then escape.
“In many cases, the culprit either is a relative, neighbour or someone living in the same locality,” he said. “The culprits feel they can get away by threatening the girls.”
Seth said that parents should be more alert and take care of who their children are interacting with.

According to Nadita Shah, co-director of Akshara, an NGO which is working for women issues, educating parents and minors about child sexual abuse is the need of the hour.
“When a child complains to her parents that a man or a boy is touching her or making her feel uncomfortable, they don’t take the complaints seriously,” Shah said. “Parents should not ignore what their child says.”

Shah claimed that the number of rapes of minors could be much higher. “Many complaints are not registered due to fear of social stigma,” she said.

April 5, 2010

Hindustan Times

New draft rape law has more teeth, wider scope

The word ‘rape’ could go out of the Indian Penal Code, replaced by a more inclusive ‘sexual assault’ that would place non-consensual oral or anal sex at par with forcible sexual intercourse under a comprehensive review of rape laws finalised by a panel at the home ministry.
The panel has recommended raising prison terms for various sexual offences. To protect the victim, it has proposed barring the accused’s counsel from raising questions about the victim’s character or antecedents during court proceedings.
It also requires the court to ensure the victim is not confronted by the accused during cross-examination.
The draft Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2010 was finalised by a high-powered committee headed by Home Secretary G.K. Pillai recently.
The panel has, however, steered clear of Section 377 that deals with “unnatural sex” and was invoked against homosexuals till the Delhi High Court came to their rescue.
Home ministry spokesman Onkar Kedia said the draft had been made public to seek responses from civil society and state governments.
The law commission had given its recommendations on reviewing rape laws nearly a decade back, in 2000.
In a fresh clause to protect minors, the Pillai panel not only changed the definition of minors to 18 years — rather than 15 and 16 years in the penal code — but also introduced the concept of sexual abuse of minors.
This provision would treat a man, or a woman — who invites, counsels, incites or exhibits pornography to a minor to be able to touch any part of the minor’s body — as a sexual offender and be liable for a 10-year jail term.
The proposed provisions raise the jail term for non-consensual sex by a man with his wife to a minimum of two years and a maximum of seven years, up from the upper limit of two years

Hindustan Times

Standard norms for child welfare committees

To counter increasing crimes against children in the state, a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been issued by the government to ensure effective implementation of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC).
According to the 2009-10 economic survey released by the government last week, Maharashtra featured second in the country for crimes against children. The state also ranked third in crimes against women.
The CWC, an integral part of remand homes helping rehabilitation of children in need of care and protection, has the powers to compel police officer to investigate a cognisable or non-cognisable offense. As per the rules, the CWC has powers to summon and order the police to record the statement of the child as a complaint.
There are two CWCs in Mumbai - one at Dongri and the other at Mankhurd. In rest of Maharashtra there are 33 CWCs, with one CWC in each district.
The need for issuing a SOP was felt due to absence of a standard procedure in the 35 CWCs in the state. The SOP simplifies operations of different sections of the Acts and Rules enacted for protection of children.
Members of the CWC have faced practical difficulties in implementation of the SOP.
Santosh Shinde, a child rights activist and a member of CWC at Dongri, said that the biggest hurdle implementation of the SOP was insufficient manpower. Rules say that there should be a follow up of every rescued child after rehabilitation in a shelter home or with a family.
“This has to be done by probation officers appointed. There are no independent probation officers appointed and existing officers are given additional charge. As a result they cannot do justice to this,” said Shinde.
Besides, there are no special budgetary provisions for protection of children.
“The funds come from different departments such as children and women welfare and labour department and are not sufficient,” added Shinde.