December 21, 2010

Hindustan Times

Child abuse Bill to have biting powers

A child abuse Bill is getting closer to reality, with the Cabinet set to consider a special law in the coming few weeks. Union minister for women and child development Krishna Tirath told HT that she had sought cabinet approval for the Bill.

“The Indian Penal Code (IPC) does not distinguish between adult and child victims, and we are very clear about the need to protect innocent children from sexual abuse of any kind,” she said.

Source say child abuse by those in a position of trust and authority, repeat offences, and abuse of children in especially vulnerable circumstances, are set to become more serious crimes with extra stringent punishments.

The new Bill is likely to have certain path-breaking features, according more gravity to sexual abuse by family, guardians, and others who live in the same house.

Abuse by police officers, within police stations, officers of the armed forces or other security forces, public servants, and by employees in jails, remand homes, protection homes, observation homes, hospitals and educational institutions, would all be categorised as "aggravated" offences, it is known.

The law, if passed by Cabinet and subsequently Parliament, will take an equally harsh view of sexual assault committed on a child in the course of communal or sectarian violence. Aggravated offences will attract a term of not less than five years and may extend to seven years.

The ministry has also proposed that the amount of fine that accompanies such offences be left to the discretion of the courts with no upper limit.

The category of aggravated offences would also include any abuse of a child below the age of 12 or is physically or mentally challenged. The proposed Bill further views the use of weapons, fire, heated substances, poison, corrosive substances, explosive substances or animal, to cause sexual abuse, as aggravated offences too.
"The inclusion of these terms is in itself an indicator that unfortunately such offences have been committed in the past," a senior ministry official said.

Similarly, sexually assaulting a child as a result of which he/she becomes pregnant, mentally ill, or unfit to perform regular tasks, gets infected with HIV or any other life-threatening or lifestyle-impairing illness, would be aggravated offence

December 20, 2010

Times of India

Switzerland drafts law to make incest legal

London: Incest could soon become legal in Switzerland as the Swiss government is considering repealing its laws on sexual relations between family members,according to a media report.

The government is claiming that the law banning incest is obsolete and there have been only three such cases since 1984,the Telegraph reported.
The upper house of the Swiss parliament has drafted a law decriminalizing sex between consenting family members which must now be considered by the government, it said.

Switzerland,which recently held a referendum passing a draconian law that will boot out foreigners convicted of committing the smallest of crimes,however,insists that children within families will continue to be protected by laws governing sexual abuse and paedophilia.Daniel Vischer,a Green party Minister of Parliament,said he saw nothing wrong with two consenting adults having sex,even if they were related.

Incest is a difficult moral question,but not one that is answered by penal law, he was quoted as saying.Barbara Schmid Federer of The Christian Peoples Party of Switzerland,however,said the proposal from the upper house was completely repugnant.I for one could not countenance painting out such a law from the statute books.

The Protestant Peoples Party is also opposed to decriminalizing the offence of incest which at present carries a maximum three year jail term.A spokesman for the party said: Murder is also quite rare in Switzerland but no one suggests that we remove that as an office from the statutes. PTI

Mumbai Mirror

14-yr-olds are UK’s youngest parents

The children began dating last Sept but are now confused over the future of their relationship
London A pair of school kids, both aged 14, have become UK’s youngest parents.

The baby was born last month weighing 8lb 14 oz, but the news of the birth was announced on Friday.

The two children, who are both still in school, are believed to be the youngest parents in the history of the country.

April Webster delivered a boy after getting pregnant when she and the child’s father Nathan Fishbourne were just 13, The Sun said of Webster who lives in Caerphilly, South Wales. The four-week-old child, Jamie, is living with Webster and her parents.

But Fishbourne said: “I’d love to have him at weekends - and April can have him five days during the week.”

The teenagers, who began having unprotected sex after they started dating in September last year, are also confused over the state of their relationship.

Webster said, “He has not turned his back on the baby but he’s asking to do things like have him stay over at his house and that has caused some arguments.” Fishbourne also admitted: “I’ve not thought about our future yet as that’s a long way off.”

However, the determined mum said, “Jamie wasn’t planned, but I’m going to be a great mum for him. He’s perfect and I’m going to give him everything he ever wants.”

Times of India

MP records highest rape cases in 2008

New Delhi: The number of rape cases across the country has increased with Madhya Pradesh reporting highest number of such crimes, according to an official data.

In most of these cases, the perpetrator of the crime was an acquaintance with the victim, according to data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau.

A total of 21,467 rape cases were reported in 2008, registering an increase of 3.5 per cent over the previous year. Provisional data for 2009 shows that 21,397 rape cases were reported during the year.

Madhya Pradesh reported as many as 2,937 cases, accounting for 13.7 per cent and highest of total rape cases, followed by West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh at 2,263 and 1,871 cases respectively.

These states were followed by Maharashtra (1,558), Assam (1,438), Rajasthan (1,355) and Bihar (1,302). The lowest number of cases were reported from Nagaland (19).

Women in the age-group of 18-30 years appeared most vulnerable to the crime.
In 2008, 57.2 per cent (12,299) of the victims were from this age group, only 0.5 per cent less than in 2007 (11,984). In as many as 91 per cent (19,542) of these cases, the offenders were known to the victims. Neighbours were accused in 33.1 per cent of rape cases.

Worried over these figures, the Consultative Committee of the Parliament attached to the Ministry of Women and Child Development at its recent meeting decided to focus on the principle of restorative justice to help the victims of the heinous crime survive.

"Rape is one of the most violent forms of crimes against women, which not only impacts her bodily integrity but in the long-run, impairs her capacity to develop meaningful personal and social relationships, and affects her life and livelihood," Minister of State for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath said in the meeting.
She said the Supreme Court had directed the National Commission for Women (NCW) to evolve a "scheme so as to wipe out the tears of unfortunate victims of rape".


2010: The year crimes on minors sent shivers down Mumbai’s spine

This year, the city bore witness to several gruesome incidents in which minors were raped and murdered, leading to a public outcry that was widely covered by the media, highlighting the chilling fact that children in this city are far from safe. Here are some of them, which still remain unsolved despite massive pressure on the police.
Nehru Nagar nightmare

Of the many cases of child rape and murder registered this year, of the cases that continue to elude the police in spite of their best efforts and leads from the Forensic Science Laboratory, the Nehru Nagar cases have been the most high profile.
The first such one to light when the body of a five-year-old girl who had gone missing from near her residence, was found in the stairway of the eight-storey Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) in the Vatsala Tai Nagar locality in Kurla, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Nehru Nagar police station.

The body was found in a gunny bag, which was covered with blood stains of the victim. A subsequent medical examination revealed that she had been repeatedly raped and then strangulated.

Less than a month later, Nehru Nagar police were alerted that a nine-year-old girl from the Qureshi Nagar locality near Kurla station was missing. A search was launched by people from the locality and authorities too jumped into action. Police officials alerted the control room and an extensive search was carried out in Kurla and nearby areas.

The railway police were also involved and wireless alerts were sent throughout the city to look for the girl.
The biggest shock came the next day, when the body of the victim was found dumped on the terrace of the police quarters building, located right opposite the Nehru Nagar police station. This time too, the body was found stained in blood and a medical examination revealed that the victim had been raped and then strangulated to death.

Clueless chaos

Subsequently, the Nehru Nagar police picked up several people for questioning. A person identified as Mohammad Ajmeri was arrested on charges of raping and killing the minor but his DNA did not match with that found on the victim’s body. In the absence of any other strong evidence against Ajmeri, he was released on bail.
It was later discovered that the DNA found on the bodies of both the victims was the same, pointing to the fact that the same person had committed both these heinous rape and murders.

The third case of rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl took place under the jurisdiction of the same police station which created a sensitive situation in the locality. People accused the police of not being able to control law and order, and preventing such incidents from happening.

Eleven days later, the body of the third victim was found in a locked shanty in a decomposed state. Medical examination of the body revealed that she was repeatedly raped for two days and then killed.

In response to the public outrage, several hundreds of people were picked up for questioning by the police and a record number of DNA samples of around 800 people were taken. One of these samples matched with the DNA found on the body of the third victim and led to the arrest of nineteen-year-old youth Javed Shaikh who is currently in custody at the Arthur Road jail.

Stumped once more

However, the arrest did little to calm the minds of concerned parents across the city when onceagain, a three-year-old boy went missing from his residence in Kajupada in Ghatkopar.
His body was found dumped in a cabin outside the Maharashtra Navnirman Vahtuk Sena (MNVS) office near Sunderbaug Industrial Estate in Kamani, around half a kilometre from the victim’s residence.

The victim’s throat had been slit using a sharp weapon. Local police and crime branch officials questioned more than a hundred people but the case remains unsolved till date. The motive behind the murder is still unclear but old injuries were found on the victim’s private parts which points out that the victim had been sexually abused prior to his murder.

A senior police officer said, “In the Nehru Nagar cases, the only evidence that the police have is the DNA samples. So a large number of suspects are being put through DNA tests so that the accused can be nabbed. The accused had used the same modus operandi in both the cases and we are working on a few other clues which will help us close in on the accused.”

Similarly in the Ghatkopar murder case, police have no evidence or clues about the accused but it is being suspected that someone known to the victim could be involved.

Apart from these high profile cases, several other incidents of rapes of minors were reported in the city this year. If numbers continue to rise, authorities will undoubtedly be held accountable, as the city has displayed an outward refusal to stand by and watch such horrors take place.

Times of India

Remand homes in a pathetic state

Mumbai:Juveniles sent to childrens remand homes face overcrowding,unhygienic conditions,sexual abuse by older inmates and lack of counselors.

According to city police sources,there is a shortage of such homes across the country.Sometimes,all juveniles aged 7 to 18 are housed under a single roof,leading to sexual abuse of the younger lot.The rehabilitation of children can also take a backseat to the misappropriation of funds.

Apolice source said the Dongri childrens home has a capacity for 450 boys and 150 girls,but is overcrowded.

State DGP D Sivanandhan said,The childrens and womens welfare department is responsible for any situation at Dongri. Varsha Gaikwad,minister of state for women and child development,said,I will check out the issues.If misappropriation or illegal activities are observed,then action will be taken against the guilty.
In November,the Bombay High Court appointed professor Asha Bajpai of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences as chairperson of the Maharashtra State Co-ordination Committee.The panel will advise the government on rehabilitation of juveniles.TNN

Parental support vital during counselling

Mumbai: City-based psychiatrists say that out of 10 juvenile delinquents,an average of six are successfully counselled to return to a normal life.According to psychiatrists,to achieve this success it can take just a day,or the counseling may stretch to a week,months,a year or even two.However,to bring about a transformation,the child must get proper and careful support from the parents or guardians before and after the counselling sessions, they say.

Through counselling,psychiatrists have identified peer pressure,a desire for lavish lifestyles,too much freedom from parents and even simple curiosity as triggers for juvenile crime.The basic reason for many children below 18 coming into conflict with the law is a desire to fulfill dreams through short cuts.They take a risk without thinking of the consequences.Getting used to the availability of easy money at home can also make a child get into trouble, said city-based psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty,who has counselled over 5,000 juveniles in the city since 2005.

Hardly a decade ago,children stole a bicycle and sold it to fulfill an immediate need.As time passed,the situation changed and the younger generation has now graduated to committing thefts from neighbours,friends and even their own homes.They are pickpocketing,planning their own kidnappings and even forming gangs, said Shetty.
Shetty said that a lack of proper attention from parents can lead children down wrong paths.If the children are not made aware today,time will take them slowly and quietly,and with much anguish and bewilderment,into a confused world.So the need of the hour is to love the youth,and nurture,develop and give them strength before it is too late, said the psychiatrist.

Shetty said the term counselling has been rewritten and it is now a dialogue between the juvenile and the counsellor.If a counsellor behaves and treats the juvenile like a parent,then it is impossible for us to get in to their groove and solve their problem.It is a must for us to firstly think just like a child and gain their trust when starting the treatment, said Shetty.

In India,counsellors may use the EEG (electro-encephalogram ) brain-mapping test and psychological evaluation test to treat juveniles.According to Dr Supriya Ghase,To find out about the circumstances that leads juveniles to commit crime,they first use EEG,through which they learn about several problems,like soft neurological signs,behavioural disturbance signs,attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,etc.It helps the counsellor or medical practitioner choose which kind of therapy is best suited depending on the nature of the juvenile.

December 14, 2010

Times of India

FBI issues warning over Barbie 'Video Girl' which could be used by paedophiles to make child pornography

Parents are being warned that a new Barbie doll that features a built-in video camera could be used as a tool by paedophiles to make child pornography.
The Barbie 'Video Girl', which is on sale in the UK and the U.S., has a hidden camera in the chest and a small LCD screen video display in her back.

A 'cyber crime alert' from the FBI has said the doll, which went on sale in July, could be used to record footage used for distribution by paedophiles.

It said: 'FBI investigation has revealed instances where an individual convicted of distributing child pornography had given a Barbie doll to a six-year-old girl.
The document went on to cite the findings of another investigation which found 'examples where a concealed video camera had recorded child pornography'.
That camera did not involve a doll, FBI agent Frederick Gutt said, but the possible combination of the two in a single device presents concerns for investigators.
There have been no recorded incidents of paedophiles using the Barbie 'Video Girl' to prey on young children.

The alert adds: 'Law enforcement is encouraged to be aware of unconventional avenues for possible production and possession of child pornography, such as the Barbie Video Girl.'
Video Girl can capture up to 30 minutes of footage and the video can be downloaded and streamed live to a computer. There is no indication it can be streamed directly to the internet.

The alert was written in the U.S. for law agencies only, but was mistakenly sent to media outlets in Seattle.
Agent Steve Dupre told CNN: 'It was an inadvertent dissemination of the document.
'There have been no reported incidents of this doll being used as anything other than as intended.'
William Porress, from Tacoma, Washington, said he would not buy one of the dolls for his six-year-old granddaughter.

'That plays into these people who prey upon our children's ideals. It frightens me.
'Oh, she would love it, but she's more important to me than a giggle on Christmas morning.'

A statement from Mattel Inc, which makes the doll, said: 'The FBI is not reporting that anything has happened. Steve Dupre from the FBI Sacramento field office has confirmed there have been no incidents of this doll being used as anything other than its intent.

'Mattel products are designed with children and their best interests in mind. Many of Mattel's employees are parents themselves and we understand the importance of child safety - it is our number one priority.'
The Barbie doll, which costs $49.99 (£32), is aimed at children six and above and has been nominated for the 2011 Toy of the Year Award.

Times of India

Sin city: 4 gangrapes in 2 mnths

Delhi Girl Raped As 600 Policemen Hunt For Car In Vain

New Delhi: In a city that witnesses at least one rape each day433 cases have occurred this year the report of yet another abduction and gangrape of a young woman has raised several questions about the safety of women in the national captial. Sundays gangrape was the fourth in the span of two months. The heinous act also shows the extent to which louts feel emboldened to harass women the resident of Sultanpuri was allegedly raped because she protested against lewd comments by criminals.

To make matters worse, the latest incident has raised questions about the efficiency of the police force. Six hundred policemen took two hours to find the woman even after they received a call that she had been abducted. By the time they found her, the 18-year-old had been gangraped inside a moving car by two men. Four people, including a minor, have been arrested.

As part of her routine, the victim would pick up her mother, who works in a Mongolpuri factory, whenever she worked extra hours. On Saturday night, on her way to her mothers factory, she was accompanied by her neighbour Ravi, said JCP (northern range) Karnal Singh. The accused Rama (28),Chandrapal (23),Dabbu (25) and a 14-year-old boy were out on a joyride in Ramas Hyundai Accent. All the three adults in the group work as drivers. None of the accused had any prior brush with the law, apart from Ravi who was involved in a fight in 2007.Police officers say Dabbu and the boy were not involved in the rape as they got off the car before it happened. The police found beer bottles from the car of the accused. Around 10.15 pm, the victim and her companion reached the Aman Vihar sector 20 park where they were accosted by the car occupants, who started passing lewd comments about her. The victim told us that the accused were drunk. When she protested, an argument broke out, said DCP Chhaya Sharma.

Describing the sequence of events, Sharma said the argument lasted for a few minutes before the accused decided to drive ahead.But the girl was angry and she snatched Ravis factory keys and smashed the rear glass of the car. The accused then allegedly decided to teach the victim a lesson. The four occupants then forced the girl inside the vehicle by tugging at her salwar suit and drove off towards the Nangloi railway crossing. Initially, the accused asked the girl to pay up for the damages. As punishment for her deed, the accused even beat her up. We found several cuts and bruises on her cheek, the DCP said.

About an hour later, after two of the accused Dabbu and the minor got off, Rama and Chandrapal took turns to rape her.


The second assault at police hospital

Rape victims at the Nagpada police hospital endure crude forensic examinations with no medical treatment; are subject to bullying by cops and callous hospital clerks; and many find the horrendous medico-legal procedures a nightmare as bad as the one inflicted on them by the rapist.

One December evening last year, four-year-old Priya, the daughter of a construction worker, was out playing near her house in Kalwa, northern Thane. They had only recently moved to a shanty there, after the municipal authorities found their house in Vikhroli to be ‘illegal’ and razed it.

A neighbourhood drug addict spotted Priya playing alone. He kidnapped her, took her to a secluded spot, raped her, and dumped her in a nearby swamp. Priya had lost consciousness and her inert body was fished out from the swamp. The rapist was caught by the police. Priya was taken to the hospital for a forensic examination and treatment — and there, she underwent an ordeal that was perhaps as heinous as the sexual assault she had suffered.

After the incident, the family moved back to Vikhroli, with the idea of taking the girl away from a place where she had undergone such trauma, to help her recover. But two months later, Priya still hadn’t stopped crying — she was in tremendous pain. She could not urinate, her genitals burned, she could not walk, and she could not even sit down without slivers of pain shooting through her body. While the sexual assault was the primary cause of all this, equally responsible was the lack of medical treatment at the hospital she had been taken to.

Manisha Tulbule, a lawyer and social worker who is handling Priya’s case, says the hospital did not give the girl even the basic medical attention any rape victim would require. “Priya had been taken to the Thane Civil Hospital immediately after the incident. But the hospital only did a forensic examination for rape. Vaginal swabs and blood tests were taken, but neither did they give her medical treatment, nor did they refer her to another hospital. They didn’t follow the standard procedures for rape victims, such as checking for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and HIV infections,” she says.

A solution worse than the problem

The hospital that Priya was taken to is not the only one at fault. In fact, treatment of rape victims in most public hospitals is dismal. The worst, according to activists, is the Nagpada Police Hospital, which receives over 1,000 rape cases in a year.

SM Patil is the police surgeon at this hospital, the demigod around whom the hospital bureaucracy revolves. He is a small man with a big moustache and a big pair of glasses. Bigger still is his brightly-lit office, opening on to a courtyard with a separate driveway. Big man that he is, he is naturally a busy man. He is part of a team that is drafting a new manual on how doctors and cops in Maharashtra should deal with victims of sexual assault.

After initial denials, he eventually admitted to this reporter that he was indeed drafting such a manual, along with members from the home department, the department of medical education, and the directorate of health services. But he wouldn’t talk about it.

Why this strange coyness in talking about what, on the surface, seems like a progressive step?

In February 2010, a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court against the state of Maharashtra and the Union government. The PIL was based on a study by Dr Indrajit Khandekar, titled ‘Pitiable And Horrendous Quality Of Forensic Medical Examination Of The Sexually Assaulted Victims In India’. Dr Khandekar had scrutinised the manner in which rape victims were dealt with by police personnel and doctors.

In response, the Maharashtra government tried to ‘rectify’ the problem. So in June 2010, the government came up with a directive asking all government hospitals to use the Nagpada police hospital’s pro forma. The trouble is this ‘official’ pro forma is a source of humiliation all over again: it prescribes the two-finger test, takes a broad consent for all tests (no matter that the traumatised victim may not be comfortable with some specific tests), asks for, among other things, the mental state in which the victim reaches the hospital, and the victim’s build.
Of all these, the most execrable is the two-finger test. Researcher Aruna Kashyap published a study in August 2010, showing how the two-finger test is still being conducted in Indian hospitals. She showed how the defence counsel still uses this information in courts (if two-fingers can be inserted into the victim’s vagina) to term the victim a person of ‘loose’ moral character.

Kashyap is also shocked by other elements in the pro forma.
“What is the purpose of recording the victim’s ‘mental state’ and ‘build’?” she asks. “If the victim is small-built and she comes crying, then apparently there is a good chance that she was raped. But what if she has been raped, but is not of small build and is not weeping? Also, the victim should be allowed to decline certain tests that she might be uncomfortable with. One can’t take a broad consent, as is being done now. For instance, not everyone who has been raped just hours before, would be comfortable with the two-finger test.”

In fact, the pro forma is just part of the problem. In November 2008, the research and health advocacy group CEHAT observed for 10 days how the Nagpada hospital handled cases of sexual assault. They were shocked. “The clerk who was supposed to take down the victim’s details was actually talking to her in an accusatory tone. He was asking her, ‘How many times did you go out with the rapist?’, ‘Did you do some wrong thing with him?’, ‘Oh you went with him! Very good’,” says Padma Deosthali, coordinator, CEHAT, who was part of the team of researchers.