December 24, 2012

I am Pooja Taparia, Founder and CEO of Arpan, an NGO in Mumbai working on the issue of child sexual abuse for over 6 years now. 

Below are some thoughts that I have on sexual crimes having worked directly with over 10000 children and over 18000 adults on creating awareness on child sexual abuse and empowering children and primary stakeholders such as parents and teachers with information and skills to deal with the issue of child sexual abuse.

  1. I feel the magnitude of sexual crimes against both children and adults is huge specially as we are also a population of 1.2 billion.
  2. We do not have enough police and courts to try cases effectively. Police are not trained adequately to collect evidence and present in court. Rape has seen only 3% conviction and when over 20,000 cases of rape are reported against women every single year in India. Approximately 15,000 cases against minors.
  3. I read a recent article in the paper which said that 93% criminal cases were pending in Maharashtra in which 68% of cases weren't even yet investigated by the police.
  4. The trauma and stigma a victim goes through in the trial process is huge and then to have conviction as low as 3% is further traumatic.
  5. We are talking about kinds of punishment when we don't even find most offenders guilty.
  6. Its also difficult to get evidence in cases of rape unless medical examination is done within 24 hrs. 
  7. A whole range of other sexual crimes that do not include penetration is dependent on proving sexual intent. Now how does one prove that? 
  8. In my opinion while the criminal justice system needs empowerment through more police, more training of the police, the judges, more special and fast track courts, parallely we need to think of other solutions too. 
  9. Can we at the community level develop multi disciplinary teams to which people can go and report and seek support? Just an idea... 
  10. Meanwhile most importantly we need to look within our own minds, homes and address gender inequality, attitudes towards women.
  11. We need to stop discriminating between a girl child and boy child. 
  12. We need to stop looking at the girl child and women as the lesser sex.
  13. We need to teach our children to respect the opposite sex and build empathy in them.
  14. Rape is about power. Most sexual crimes are about power. We need to work with men to teach them to use power positively and not negatively.
  15. People are influenced by films. Objectification of the woman in films and media is another reason why men think they have an ownership on women. 
  16. As a society we need to change our perspective on sex, change it from a moralistic perspective to a realistic perspective. The taboo and stigma around it prevents most children and women to even talk about it and they silently suffer for years. 

Arpan teaches personal safety skills to children in schools in the age group of 6-12 yrs. We teach them how they can protect themselves from sexual abuse and report. We build on their self esteem, teach them how to be assertive, teach them empathy and many such life skills. We have seen amazing outcomes of this. We also believe that teaching empathy at a young age and setting boundaries can prevent boys to become potential offenders in the future. 

I would be happy to share these thoughts and speak to someone from your newspaper on the same. 

best regards,
Pooja Taparia