October 8, 2014

Arpan's study on mandatory reporting in the POCSO Act featured in Hindustan Times.

‘60% survivors of child sex abuse against reporting’

SOCIAL STIGMA Distrust of police handling the case is one of the major factors

MUMBAI: A majority of child sex abuse survivors are against mandatory reporting of abuse, which has been stipulated in the new legislation Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act (POCSOA) , revealed a recent study.

Close to 62.5% survivors interviewed for the study by Arpan, a city-based non-government group stated that they were not okay with mandatory reporting of abuse because of the social stigma. One of the clauses of the POCSOA, 2012, is ‘mandatory reporting of occurring and/ or apprehended sexual offences against children’ under Section 19, which makes failure to report punishable under Section 21 of the Act.

Surprisingly, out of the 64 respondents to the study, 40 were against mandatory reporting stating that their social environments were not sensitive enough for them to disclose abuse. “I’m a man, and it’s almost impossible to make anyone believe that I had been abused by another man,” stated one of the respondents. “I once told someone about my experience and she laughed and told me that I probably enjoyed it.”

Distrust in the manner with which the police would handle the case was also one of the major factors for survivors not wanting to report. “If I was eight or nine years old, and I knew my mother would report the matter to the police, I wouldn't know what ‘complaining to the police’ would lead to,” said another respondent.

Respondents also said that reporting without the consent of the survivor would shake the faith of the child in the trusted adult. “To have someone you confided in to do the same without one’s consent is worse,” wrote a respondent.

Only 24 survivors said that they agreed with the mandatory reporting clause.“If my abuse had been reported to the authorities at the time it was happening, it may have prevented the systematic abuse of other young girls,” said a respondent.

Shreya Sen, co-ordinator, research and development, Arpan who conducted the study said that the study was not aimed at discouraging mandatory reporting.

“The study only shows that  instead of just mandatory reporting, awareness and sensitization of responsible stakeholders needs to be done along with the need of safety education to be implemented,” she said.

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