February 27, 2012


Times of India

Many kidnapping cases in Mumbai involve eloping with minor girls

MUMBAI: While around 150 kidnapping cases were registered across Mumbai during each of the past three years, police officials said a large number of the cases pertained to elopement. Statistics accessed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act from 85 of the city's 93 police stations show that 136 kidnapping cases were registered in 2009, 169 in 2010 and 159 in 2011.

"In cases where the victim is an underage girl, her consent would be immaterial and the man would be booked for kidnapping," said joint commissioner of police Himanshu Roy. "Although a large number of the cases we receive pertain to elopement, we treat each of them with seriousness."

However, in such circumstances, lawyers said that for the charge of kidnapping to be framed, an important condition needs to be met -- 'enticement'. "If a boy promises to marry a girl and then elopes with her, that would amount to enticement," said criminal lawyer M A Khan. He added that if the girl is underage and elopes with a boy after being enticed, and they subsequently have a physical relationship, the boy would be also booked for rape.

Earlier this year, a 30-year-old woman from Dindoshi, who had eloped with a distant relative six years ago and married him, was rescued by the Mumbai police from Madhya Pradesh, where her husband had tortured and abandoned her. The husband, Ajay Chauhan, and his girlfriend, Kusum, were arrested from Gurgaon where they had taken the victim's two-year-old son.

"Due to the shame associated with such circumstances, the victim could prefer to live a hand-to-mouth existence than return to her parents' place, as was observed in the Dindoshi case," pointed out an activist. "Chauhan couldn't be slapped with bigamy charges despite his having abandoned his wife and living with another woman, as he had not officially tied the knot the second time."

Sociologists also said that, earlier, families would be wary of reporting a missing girl to the police, afraid that word would spread in society and disrepute would be brought to the household. But now there are a lot of parents who are willing to report such cases to the cops.

Nandita Shah, co-director of NGO Akshara, spoke of trends she has been noticing. "More and more girls and boys are taking an independent stand on their marriages, while parents are not yet ready for this. Secondly, the age at which youngsters are getting into a relationship is falling, so a lot of these cases get registered with the police as kidnapping."

Rape cases against women on the rise in Mumbai

MUMBAI: The city police are increasingly charging women with rape in cases where they are suspected of either being an accomplice or abettor to the actual act. A common instance is one in which a woman faces rape charges because she trafficked a minor victim for prostitution purposes.

Data accessed through a Right to Information (RTI) query reveals that women were charged with rape in Mumbai in five cases in 2009. The number grew to 10 cases in 2010 and 12 in 2011. The data was obtained from 85 of the city's 93 police stations.
"Women were not the principal accused in cases where they were charged with rape. They were accomplices," said joint commissioner of police Himanshu Roy. "In trafficking cases, people who are accessories to the crime are charged with rape. For instance, women who push minors into the flesh trade can be booked for rape. In such cases, the minor's consent is immaterial."

While a man can be charged under only Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code for rape, a woman has to be charged under Section 376 and additional sections, like Section 108 (abetment) or 34 (common intention). Criminal lawyer M A Khan explained, "Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code clearly states that rape is an offence committed by a 'man' against a woman's will and without her consent. So, ordinarily, a woman can't be charged with rape only under this provision. If she has to be booked, then additional charges, such as abetment, will also have to be applied."
Besides trafficking, lawyers cited other instances in which women faced rape charges. "There was one case in which the woman was unable to conceive. So she helped her husband to rape another girl," said criminal advocate Kshitij Mehta. "There are also people suffering from psychological abnormalities, such as those who like to watch rape. They would be booked as abettors, too."

Social worker and academician Farida Lambay said, "While most cases pertain to trafficking, there are some hidden cases of child prostitution (in which the victim wasn't trafficked). Rape charges being applied against women are not unheard of. The larger picture is that there are still many more instances of women being raped. In some instances of marital discord, men use such clauses against women too."
Vijay Raghavan, associate professor at the Centre for Criminology and Justice at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, said increased impoverishment in rural areas is driving women to believe promises of jobs and a better life in the city. Like Lambay, he too acknowledged that most rape cases against women were those involving trafficking and being an accomplice or abettor. "But I must state that trafficking has also changed over time, it is no longer concentrated around brothels. It has taken different forms, making it very difficult to carry out a genuine rescue operation," he added.

RTI activist Chetan Kothari, who accessed the data, said the cases reflect a deeper societal problem, that of women abetting crimes against other women. "Also, these cases are just the tip of the iceberg, because not many women register their grievances," he said.


Times of India

Once safe, schools fall prey to violence

MUMBAI: Schools have always had an aura of safety about them. They were the "second homes" where children could spend hours every day without parents having to worry. That, unfortunately, may no longer be true. Recent cases of ragging as well as physical and sexual abuse in schools, combined with strong murmurs of drug peddling around campuses, have shaken parent's belief in schools' secureness.

In June 2010, a 32-year-old teacher in a Kalamboli school, Firoze Ibrahim, was arrested after he forced a seven year-old female student into an empty room during lunch break and raped her. The incident came to light in the afternoon when the girl told her parents, who informed the police. A few days later, a group of parents protested outside the school for keeping them in the dark about the incident.

"Most schools do not exactly know how to deal with a child sexual abuse case. Many counselors too feel ill equipped to work with such issues since their Master's programme does not address trauma work," said social psychologist Chandni Parekh, who conducts workshops on sexual abuse and sexuality education in schools. "Several schools are unaware of the NGOs that work on the issue of child sexual abuse in the city or of the psychologists in Mumbai who have started an intensive study circle to specialize in trauma healing."

Parekh said that many times female students have reported instances of abuse to her. "At the end of a session, about five girls from class VIII came to me and said their music teacher had been touching some of them inappropriately. They suspected the touching could be more frequent with younger girls and done under the pretext of straightening their uniforms. I discussed the issue with the head of the school who found it hard to believe. The management confronted the music teacher and, because he offered to quit, felt he might be innocent," Parekh said.

Ajit Pandey, father of a 13-year-old girl studying in a suburban school, said: "There are times when I see strangers eyeing my daughter and I worry that even though she can take care of herself, in and around the school she is alone. Who knows what will happen to her? We also hear of cases of sexual abuse by school teachers. We don't know whom to trust anymore."

Police officers suggested that schools should employ enough female security personnel apart from male guards. "They should make rounds of desolate corridors and keep a lookout near the school entrance to prevent female s t u d e n t s getting harassed or accosted by strangers," an officer said.

Another danger lurking found outside school premises is drugs. In October 2010, TOI had reported on a circular sent by a Malad school, in which it cautioned students not to accept candies from strangers. The candy, called 'Strawberry Quick', had methamphetamine (also known as meth) in it.

"Though we have not received any complaints of drug-peddling near schools as yet, our officers conduct regular lectures for students, where slide shows and documentaries on the dangers of drug abuse are shown. We also try to explain to kids how the drug trade affects the nation," said senior inspector Girish Koyande of the police's anti-narcotics cell (ANC).

Cops said several kids, who do not study the entire year, are under the false impression that using drugs during exam time will boost concentration. "We have actually found collegians who did this. We did not book them though because it would have affected their careers," an official said. To spread the dragnet wide, ANC officers have been approaching school managements and students for information on drug sale and peddlers.

Another issue troubling many parents is ragging. Once confined to colleges, the scourge is becoming commonplace in schools too. After a class IX student of a reputed south Mumbai school was hospitalized due to a prank gone wrong in September 2011, the ICSE Board began working towards setting up anti-ragging squads in schools and inviting police officers to give lectures to students. Soon after the student had taken a sip of water from his bottle, he complained of severe pain in his throat. During an endoscopy, the doctors found a softboard pin lodged in the boy's intestine. The pin had been dropped in the water bottle by a classmate.


Most children who get involved in crime are emotionally disturbed and have no outlet to vent their frustrations: parents are busy, friends might be ignoring them. Instead of restricting media exposure, parents should put in place a monitoring system at home. Usually these days, parents are working, and with no family member around it is easier for children to get exposed to disturbing facts and ideas - Seema Hingorrany | PSYCHIATRIST

The management of every school and college should provide the police with the details of their temporary employees. Also, since it may not be possible for them to verify the antecedents of every employee, they should approach the police if they find an employee behaving suspiciously. In our zone, we have provided educational institutes with the phone numbers of our beat chowky staff - Pratap Dighavkar | DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF POLICE, ZONE IX

Schools alone cannot be held responsible for children's acts. If a child is aggressive, it could be because of the atmosphere at home or because of peer pressure. Or it could be the parents' fault. Parents and schools should be held equally responsible for a child, but not necessarily in legal terms. Schools can reach out to students by holding counselling sessions. They can ask experts to hold talks on the right behaviour - Lata Nair | VP, PTA FORUM

Students need to be counselled on the ill effects of drug abuse early on. It has to be a preventive measure, not a curative one. Class VII or VIII is the right time to counsel students against drug use. Parents should keep track of their kids, the company they keep, and what they do in their leisure time. Parents need to be alert. For their part, schools should conduct workshops for students and parents - Jyotsana Roberts | PRINCIPAL, OXFORD PUBLIC SCHOOL