August 12, 2010

Times of India

Marriages between minors is valid : Delhi HC

NEW DELHI: Marriage between minors is valid and it can be annulled only on the plea by one of the partners, the Delhi High Court ruled on Wednesday.

"A marriage in contravention of clause (iii) of section 5 (which fixes minimum age of twenty-one years for bridegroom and eighteen years for bride) does not fall in the category of void marriages nor does it fall in the category of voidable marriages. Consequently, by the process of elimination, it would be a valid marriage," the court said.

A bench of Justices B D Ahmed and V K Jain said that even under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act the marriage involving minors has not been declared as invalid and the Act just says that the marriage can be annuled on this ground if plea is made by the minor partner.

"It is clear that where, earlier, a child marriage may not have been voidable under personal law, as in the case of the Hindu Marriage Act, by virtue of the section 3 of the Prohibition of Child marriage Act, it has explicitly been made voidable at the option of the child spouse. But nobody other than a party to the marriage can petition for annulment of the marriage," the court said.

It said the legislature while drafting the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act had consciously left out marriages in contravention of the age stipulation from the category of void or invalid marriages.

The court passed the order on a petition filed by a minor boy who tied knot with a minor girl against the wishes of their family members after fleeing from home.

18-year Jitendra Kumar Sharma approached the court after a criminal case was registered against him on the complaint of family members of 16-year-old minor girl Poonam Sharma who alleged the boy had abducted her.


Malad schoolkids rally to stop child abuse

Raising their voices against child sexual abuse, students, teachers and parents from the Billabong high international school, Malad, and members of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Tiss) on Wednesday marched from the NCPA to the Mantralaya, urging the government to pass stricter laws against the menace.

Sanjay Singh from Tiss, who is the national convener of the ‘Chuppi Todo’ campaign, said; “We are using this campaign as an advocacy tool with the central government to pass the ‘Prevention of Offences Against the Child Bill’. For that, we encourage students to sign a document that will be submitted to central law minister Veerappa Moily.”

As part of this campaign, a memorandum and a 24-minute educational film ‘Chuppi Todo’were submitted to state home minister RR Patil. They demanded a separate act for children in Maharashtra, equivalent to the Goa act for children. The minister said he supported the students on this cause.

The campaign started at the Billabong school, with the screening of the film for students and parents. The film screening was followed by a discussion with child psychologists. A spot survey was conducted with the students to check their awareness levels about child sexual abuse. The answers given by these students before and after the screening were compared, to see the impact of film on the awareness level of children. This was followed by the signature campaign.
Billabong principal Kusum Kanwar said, “I would like to request all parents to be more forthcoming about such issues.”

Added Singh, “According to the ministry of women and child development and Childline, in India a child experiences the trauma of sexual abuse every second, and every 155th minute, a child below 16 years of age is raped.”

To spread awareness among the students on how to identify and fight child sexual abuse, NGO Plan India has initiated programmes to educate the children and parents on safe and unsafe touches, in the context of child sexual abuse.

The ‘Chuupi Todo’ campaign will extend till Delhi via Baroda, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, and Jaipur. Billabong’s Baroda branch plans to support the campaign by screening the film, along with a panel discussion for parents and students on August 12.

August 3, 2010

Times of India

Sex offenders prey on the young

MUMBAI: A teenaged boy was arrested on Monday for allegedly raping his 2-year-old neighbour in Anand Nagar, Thane, bringing to focus yet again the growing trend of sexual crimes against young women and children.

Yogesh Jethwa was arrested by the Thane police after the girl complained of pain and was rushed by her parents to a private clinic in Mulund. The 17-year-old, who has been held at the Kopri police station, will be produced before a juvenile court on Tuesday.

Jethwa's case is the latest entry in the long list of sexual crimes perpetrated against young women and children.

In the last five years, city police statistics show, at 699, the highest number of rape victims fell in the age group between 14 and 30. Next were the victims aged between 30 and 50. During the same period, about 80 minor girls between 10 and 14 years were raped.

Police officials said that the victims aged between 14 and 30 are often lured into a physical relationship with false promises of marriage. "In many cases, girls fall victim to the crook's ostensible intentions," joint commissioner of police (Crime) Himanshu Roy said.

Roy said the sex offenders frequently feel that they can overpower the minors and easily escape after committing the crime. In many cases, he said, the sex offender is either a relative or a known neighbour. "The rape victims below the age group of 10 are usually lured with chocolates or sweets by the victims' relatives or someone they know," Roy said. "The rapists feel they can get away after threatening the girls."

Shockingly, out of the 1034 cases registered in the city in the last five years, only 203 accused have been convicted so far-a meagre 20%.

City's psychiatrists said that most victims in such cases suffer from shame and self-blame since they believe they are responsible, to some extent, for what happened.

The victim, said one psychiatrist, freezes out of shock and fails to "fight or flight against the offender", a stage also referred to as "passive resistance". The psychiatrist said that many rapists construe this as consent.

"This is the time when the victim's parents and close ones should take care of the victim so that she can overcome the trauma," the psychiatrist added.

Bihar fares better than state in natl list of rape cases

Last year,at 178,the city had 278 fewer rapes than Delhis 452,but 112 more than neighbouring Punes 66 and a lot more than Kolkatas 40.

But it is not just Mumbai,the state too does not fare well when compared to many other parts of the country.According to National Crime Record Bureau numbers,in 2009,there were 1,508 rapes across Maharashtra compared to 1,450 in the much-maligned Bihar and 1,430 in Rajasthan.Only Madhya Pradesh (2,900),West Bengal (2,400) and Uttar Pradesh (1,900) figured above Maharashtra.

And while Mumbai leads many other cities in the number of rape crimes,it lags behind them in bringing the accused to book.The conviction rate in rape cases in the last five years in the city was about 20% (203 found guilty out of 1,034),compared to the country's rate of 22% to 27%.

In Maharashtra,according to the state criminal investigation department,barely 15-16 % accused in rape cases were convicted of the crime.

Ninety per cent of the rape cases registered in the city are committed by either relatives or those who are very close to the victims, said Mumbai police commissioner Sanjeev Dayal,pointing out that in the Kurla rapes and murders too,the accused were suspected to have befriended the minor victims.Society should take up the matter seriously and understand their responsibility in ensuring the safety of their kids.

Asked about the poor record,Dayal argued that the investigators had to probe the rape matter properly.He said,The reason for the poor conviction rate is that the investigations continue for too longsometimes for years after the crime happenedwhich allows the accused time to get bail.They then cajole or threaten the victims who many a time turn hostile when the trial is finally heard.Such serious crimes should be prosecuted by a fast track court to get a better conviction rate.

Low conviction rates across country fail to move Centre

Mumbai: The number of crimes against women might be consistently rising across the country,but,womens rights groups alleged,the Centre remains impervious to them.

Talking to TOI,Brinda Karat,a senior Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader,said that a girl aged between 1 and 10 is raped every 10 hours in India,but the Union government remains indifferent.

We had forwarded a bill to the government two years ago.So far it has not tabled the bill before the parliament, said Karat,who is also a member of CPI(M)s womens wing,the All India Democratic Womens Association (AIDWA).

Called the Sexual Assault Bill,Karat said,the legislation proposed creating different categories of sexual crimeslike rape,molestation,eve-teasingto help increase conviction rates.

Poor legal system,poor understanding of policemen and lengthy procedures are few reasons for low conviction rate, Karat said.In child rape cases,after horrifying rounds of investigation the victim starts feeling that she is an accused and should not have registered the case.

Karat said that the low conviction rates are a major reason for the growing number of offences against women.The conviction rate shown by cops is somewhere around 30%.But the actual rate is just 15 to 16%.

On many occasions,complains do not get registered on time and then it is very difficult to prove that rape actually happened.It should be registered within 24 hours of the incident.