June 9, 2012

Hindustan Times
June 09, 2012

Age of consent to be fixed at 18 yrs

The conflict between laws on the age of consent for sex will end soon with the government set to make changes in the criminal law to raise it from 16 to 18 years.

The controversy arose after Parliament last month passed a bill for the protection of children from sexual offences, which states that sex with a teenager below the age of 18, even if consensual, is a crime.

However, section 375 of the Indian Penal Code states: "A man is said to commit rape with a woman if he has sexual intercourse… with or without her consent, when she is under 16 years of age."

Following criticism over contradictory provisions, the law ministry has examined relevant laws and expedited the process to bring uniformity in them.

"It is a fact that, currently, there is a difference in relevant laws on the age for legal sex in India. The government is in the process of putting an end to all confusion," said a top ministry official.

He said a committee headed by former home secretary GK Pillai, with legislative affairs and law secretaries as members, had in its recommendations on rape laws already recommended that the age of consent be raised to 18 years.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill, introduced by the women and child development ministry in Parliament in May, initially kept the age limit at 16 years, but raised it by two years following the recommendation of a parliamentary panel that examined the bill.

The panel had cited the United Nations Convention on Rights of Children and a number of Indian laws in favour of its argument.

"The committee notes that other laws such as the Indian Majority Act, the Indian Contract Act and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act define a child as one who has not completed 18 years of age," stated the parliamentary standing committee on human resource development

June 4, 2012


Times of India

Shame : Delhi  still India's rape capital

MUMBAI: Delhi continues to be the rape capital of the country, followed by Mumbai. Delhi registered 568 cases of rape, compared to 218 in Mumbai in 2011, National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics showed. In the 2007-2011 period, Delhi topped the chart, followed by Mumbai, Bhopal, Pune and Jaipur.

Among states, Maharashtra ranked fifth with 7,703 cases registered; Madhya Pradesh tops the list with 15,275, followed by West Bengal (11,427), UP (8,834) and Assam (8,060). The report showed that 75,257 accused (aged 18-30) were arrested in the 2007-2011 period across India; 38,845 fall in the age group of 30-45. From those aged above 45, over 9,000 were arrested, including senior citizens. Juveniles (below 18) come last in the list with 4,461 cases.

Investigators have found that the accused are known to victims in most rape cases.

"It is a social issue and it is impossible to come out with an initiative or strategy to curb such offences. Many cases registered are technical (with victim's consent)," said Mumbai police spokesperson and deputy commissioner of police (crime branch unit-l) Nisar Tamboli. "Offences are often committed by friends and relatives who lure the victim with false promises. Many times, offences are committed by unidentified persons and they easily escape arrest," he said.

Agreeing with police, psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty figured out three reasons that lead a person to commit rape. "Anonymity, impulsiveness and power are some causes that make a person to commit the offence," Shetty said.

He said there was a system collapse in India. "There is hardly any fear left in the person who commits the offence. People should come together and form a community to fight for justice, to stop the serious offence. Then only can one find a solution," he said.

Former IPS officer Y P Singh said the police informally classify rape into two categories: technical and violent. "In case of technical rapes, there is an element of consent involved and there is no violence. Some examples are a lady caught red-handed in an act and then alleging rape; a man inducing a lady with a false promise of marriage and having intercourse. There have also been cases where departmental seniors have called for wives of suspended juniors to stop the husband being dismissed from service," said Singh.


 Mumbai Mirror

‘It took seven years, but in the end she got justice’

Woman who helped 9-yr-old mentally challenged girl testify against her rapist, recounts the challenges she faced

 When the Mahad police, first landed at her home with their request, Poornima Khade hesitated. The headmistress of a school for special children in the area, had no delusions that the job - helping a 9-year-old girl with Down's Syndrome tell the court that she had been raped - would be easy.
Over seven years later, as the Bombay High Court upheld a local court's order convicting the accused, Khade, now 36, is glad that she agreed. “I feel that whatever I have learnt has been of some use and has got this child justice.”

In December 2005, the victim had conveyed to her family that her neighbour Niranjan Jadhav, in their Managaon home (Raigad district), had raped her. The victim suffers from speech and hearing disability and, while Jadhav (then 53 year old) was arrested immediately, medical reports did not confirm rape. 
That's where Khade came in. The police wanted her to work with them and use her expertise with mentally challenged children to decipher what the victim said for the court.
“Our Suyog Special School for Mentally Deficient Children was the only such school at Mangaon,” said Khade, who holds a Diploma of Special Education in Mental Retardation.

‘I had to seek my mom's help to deal with the case’
Experience had taught Khade that such children would not easily accept a stranger into their zone of comfort. “I was afraid that this would go against her in court.”
The police were helpful, she added. “But, they were finding it difficult to understand what she was saying and the accused said the girl was lying. The PSI handling the case told me that we had to ensure that the girl got justice.”

Trial began at the Alibaug Sessions Court on June 6, 2006. Khade, who was in Mumbai for training, took the first available train home. The FIR, she adds, had graphic details of the assault. “I was shocked. The accused was old enough to be her grandfather and he had committed such a heinous act.”

“I was anxious and nervous about how to broach the conversation with the child.” She says that not having experienced sexual intimacy herself she wasn't sure about how to ask the girl to detail the sexual assault she had suffered. “I turned to my mother."

‘Judge promised victim ice-cream if she answered questions’

The first time she saw the victim, Khade remembers, the girl was clinging to her mother.
Khade said that the court granted her request for time to get familiar with the child. “Over a few hours I asked her general questions: about her school, home, parents, play, toys, ice-cream. The judge who was supportive said he would treat her to an ice-cream if she answered the questions."

Eventually Khade started with the uncomfortable questions. “I broke them into small parts, asking her about her day, what was she wearing, where she sat in the accused’s home?
“Slowly, I managed to get her to describe the assault. As she did this she became violent and aggressive and even screamed at one point,” Khade says, adding that the child was enraged and scared when she saw the accused in court.
The defence, Khade says, attempted to make it seem that the case had been forged, but she told the court “such children cannot lie. They do not understand what is a lie. They cannot connect things and then live up to a lie”.

Seven years later…

In January 2007, the sessions court convicted Jadhav and sentenced him to 10 years' rigorous imprisonment. Jadhav later challenged the order, and it came to the Bombay High Court the same year.

Relying on the victim's testimony and that of the family, Justice R Y Ganoo of the HC ruled that there was no reason to disbelieve the witnesses. The judgment was proclaimed in April.

Khade who now works with the forest department, to earn extra in order to sustain her school, says of the case, “I feel that whatever I have learnt has been of some use and has got this child justice. I am glad that the high court had faith in our deposition. The girl deserved justice.”

Exploiters of children, beware

Sania (name changed), 13, was abducted and forced to entertain drug addicts and paedophiles. This seventh standard student from a remote mountainous Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir, escaped from a trafficking net patronised by a Delhi businessman, two years ago. She was witness to spine-chilling accounts of how dozens of minor girls were kidnapped, drugged, sold, re-sold and forced to act as sex slaves. Every inch of her state may be dotted with security agencies but Sania’s case is stuck in a legal logjam. Her tormentors are yet to be punished.
Further down, in the western state of Goa, it took almost two decades to blow the cover of Dr Freddy Peats, also known as Father Christmas. Since 1974 he ran an orphanage, Gurukul, for destitute children near Colva beach in South Goa. It was only much later that people realised that he was a child abuser who exploited these destitute children and sold them to paedophiles from abroad. He was arrested in 1991 and convicted to life imprisonment in 1996.
The coastal state has seen a substantial growth in the number of foreign paedophiles, many of whom have evaded legal conviction due to grave loopholes in our legal system.
Righting a wrong
Child rights activists now believe that the new Child Sexual Abuse law approved by the parliament last week is a great deterrent to those who sexually exploit children. The new law will cover all new aspects of sexual offences against children not covered elsewhere, including protecting children against offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography.
“The bill will protect children from sexual offences, as the burden of proof will be on the accused,” says Krishna Tirath, Women and Child Development minister.
The minister says that often, the perpetrators of child abuse escape due to legal loopholes in the Indian penal code (IPC). The IPC does not spell out the definition of child abuse as a specific offence; neither does it offer legal remedy and punishment. All kinds of sexual offences, barring rape, are covered under Section 354. Child abuse involving anal and oral sex is not treated as rape but as molestation.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill, 2011 was earlier approved by the Rajya Sabha. Tirath said that all children below 18 years of age would now be treated as children, and that efforts have been made to keep provisions of the bill child-friendly.
Fear of misuse
During the debate, some MPs including Laloo Prasad Yadav raised the issue of misuse of thelaw. Earlier laws like TADA and POTA, where burden of proof rested with the accused, have seen repeated cases of misuse by the police who even book pickpockets and other petty criminals under those laws. Tirath, however, adds that provisions will be made to deal with false complaints.
“Under the new law, even stalking a girl child could attract punishment, 10 years to life imprisonment, along with a fine,” says Tirath.
The bill contains provisions for in-camera trial of offences. It also mandates the state governments to set up a Special Court to try the offences under the Act. As per the Bill, “whoever commits penetrative sexual assault on children shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term whichshall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and shall also be liable.” It further says, “Whoever uses a child for pornographic purposes shall be liable for rigorous imprisonment which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine and in the event of second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years and also with fine”.
Rising incidents of rape of children aged below 13 years have become a major worry in India, as the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) year after year comes out with figures of these atrocities. According to the 2011 report, there were a total of 26,694 reported cases of crimes committed against children in 2010. The national average rate for crimes against children was 2.3 per 100,000 people. The state of Madhya Pradesh, with 6.1% of the population, was responsible for 18.4% of all crimes against children; Delhi, with 1.5% of the population, was responsible for 13.6%. The states of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra accounted for 35.2% of child rape cases.
Education is key
More than stringent provisions of law, activists believe that promoting active participation in community life and nurturing that involvement through training and education was important to restore social health and stability. Child rights activist Hasina Kharbih also believes that laws alone would not protect children.
Emphasising the need for awareness, she demands incorporating child rights awareness as part of the curriculum, making it mandatory for all schools to teach children about child sexual abuse. “That will increase the level of awareness because then if a child faces sexual abuse, s/he will be more likely to report it to a concerned authority,” she adds.