Spike in child rape cases alarms Odisha

Atrocities against women, particularly the cases of sexual assault, are on the rise across the country. And Odisha is no exception.

However, what has made many people in the eastern state really worried and disturbed is the alarming rate at which child rape cases are going up in the state. According to a recently released official report, during the three year period between 2010 and 2012, the state had recorded as many as 2,071 child rape cases, which is one of the highest in the entire country.

Of these cases, 580 were recorded in 2010, and the number went up to 638 in 2011 and 853 in 2012. Many observers believe, the situation is unlikely to improve in the current  year because as many as 115 child rape cases have already been recorded in different districts during the first two months -- January and February -- of 2013. This means during the first 59 days of the new year, the state had witnessed almost two child rape cases every day.

  A detailed analysis of the cases of sexual assault on children registered in the state last year would confirm that the unfortunate phenomena has not remained confined to any particular region or a few districts. It is spread across the state including capital city Bhubaneswar.

In 2012, the tribal dominated Koenjhar district recorded the highest number of 63 child rape cases. The lowest - five - was registered in western Odisha’s Boudh district. During the year, a total number of 27 minor girls were raped in Bhubaneswar. The number stood at three during the first two months of this year. The figures have surprised many because the capital is known to have better security arrangements and people are more alert compared to interior pockets. 

Shameful feature

 A shameful feature of the increasing cases of rape of minor girls has been the involvement of a section of the society -- like the teachers -- who were not expected to indulge in this type of heinous criminal acts. In the current month (March) alone, two cases of sexual assault on school girls in which teachers were allegedly involved have come to the fore.

 In both the cases, the teachers have been arrested. In one of these cases which had taken place in north Balasore district, the angry parents of the students of the school had taken law into their own hands and had severely beaten up the teacher before handing him over to the police. The scene had been captured on camera by a few local TV news channels which was subsequently shown in their bulletins much to the discomfort of many viewers. “It is certainly painful to watch a teacher being beaten up by angry parents for his alleged involvement in a rape case that too of a minor girl”, said a lady, a mother of two school going kids who did not wish to be named.

 Equally disturbing is the involvement of minor school boys in some of these child rape cases. A recent incident in backward Malkangiri district is a case in point. A minor girl was found in a precarious condition near her village in the southern district a few days back. It turn out to be a gang rape case. The police investigations revealed that the alleged culprits involved in the incident were three minor boys from a local school. The girl is still recovering from her injuries in a government hospital in Berhampur town in Ganjam district, southern Odisha’s biggest urban centre. The girl had been shifted from Malkangiri after her condition deteriorated.       

  Speaking on the issue in the state Assembly recently, the women and child development minister Usha Devi said that the government had initiated several steps to check the increasing child rape cases in the state. The steps included registration of cases against the perpetrators under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012.

Besides, the local police in all the districts have also been directed to complete investigations of child rape cases as early as possible and file the charge sheets quickly.
  However, observers feel that these steps will not be enough.

Apart from strengthening the policing system, what the government needs to do immediately is to launch an effective campaign against the sexual assault on children across the state with the help of NGO groups. The campaign should include a massive awareness programme in schools as well as among the parents and guardians. According to activists, more than 50 per cent of the sexual assaults on children can be stopped if the parents and guardians are alert.

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