Young and vulnerable

Young and vulnerable

Young and vulnerable

Most incidents of minors being sexually assaulted are reported from unauthorised colonies and jhuggi jhopri clusters. Many  cases go unreported because of the social stigma attached to rape. Society and police are both responsible for such crimes.

Leave minors, even toddlers are not safe from rape. Every 30 hours, a minor girl becomes a victim of sexual assault in Delhi, and most of the time she falls prey in the hands of a perpetrator known to her. This reflects systemic failure among lawmakers and enforcers.
The recent gang rape of a five-year-old girl in east Delhi is like many other cases of brutality and barbarism. But it served to highlight the callous attitude of the authorities in handling such cases, and the sickness within society. 

So far this year, some 230 minor girls have been sexually assaulted in the city. According to National Crime Records Bureau, 325 minor girls were raped in 2012. In 2011, 339 minor girls were raped; in 2010 the figures remained almost the same — 304 were raped. In 2009, 307 minors and in 2008, 301 were sexually assaulted.

But many rape cases involving minors go unreported because of the social stigma attached to it. A rape victim is mostly looked down upon by society, and people often consider the girl the culprit. There were instances when girls committed suicide after they went through sexual abuse as they were too scared to speak out their ordeal in public.
In court, the trials of some 1,000 cases remain pending at the end of every year.

“The figures clearly reveal that schools and colleges, and teachers and mentors, failed to inculcate gender sensitivity and civility, norms of society and the fear of the law they are supposed to teach us. It also reflects that there is no fear of the law among the perpetrators,” says Ranjana Kumari, director of Centre for Social Research.

Who is responsible for such crimes — perpetrators or the society? The society at large also seems to be responsible.

Horrific example

The nature of injuries inflicted on the five-year-old gang rape victim clearly showed that she was badly tortured by the two youth for sadistic pleasure. Police commissioner Neeraj Kumar says such incidents are “horrific”. He says such cases fall in the non-preventable category in the sense that these are sexual crimes perpetrated in confined or private space. “The problem is of mental depravity, psychopathy and mental sickness,” he recently said.

This case also suggests that it is a collective failing and one cannot blame it on police alone. Police is but one institution of society. “It is humanly not possible for any police force to prevent a case like this when somebody lures a girl into a room or any other place and rapes her,” says Kumar.

Similarly Ranjana Kumari says it is not police’s job to protect daughters from being raped by their fathers, friends, lovers or neighbours.

While such incidents expose a systematic failure, the recent rape of the minor and allegations levelled against police exposed another side of the spectrum — negligence on the part of police.

Police, the first responders in such cases, have to be more responsible and sensitive. The uncaring approach in the recent gang rape has exposed the failings of police, which must be challenged and corrected. The incident has exposed not only the inefficiency of police and the government, but also speaks volumes about the brazen impunity with which they operate.

“Our government needs willpower to make things happen, and our country’s police needs some serious training about appropriate response to such complaints. After that, if any negligence is found in handling such cases, there must be zero tolerance,” says Kumari.

The new Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 has a provision to sentence for two years police officers for refusing to file a complaint of rape.

In Delhi, most incidents of minors being sexually assaulted are reported from unauthorised colonies and jhuggi jhopri clusters. Girls living in these areas, where most people are illiterate and migrants, are more vulnerable than than those staying in authorised colonies.

“Minors between 16 and 18 years old are the most vulnerable,” says Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat. In 97 per cent of cases, the perpetrator was known to the victim.

Everyone has to take responsibility in stopping this barbaric crime.

Where policing is concerned, various steps have been taken to minimise such incidents.
Police have identified various areas of training to make their officials more sensitive while dealing with such cases.

“Officials in every police station have been advised be very careful in handling victims and family members. We are planning to conduct weekly training programmes to appraise beat constables on handling such cases,” says deputy commissioner of police Prabhakar.

Police also plan to intensify their community policing programmes in unauthorised colonies. Residents are being called for interaction with local police officials in those areas. People are given information about preventive measures so that such crimes can be avoided.

Police have planned to make ‘neighbourhood watch groups’ in unauthorised colonies so police and residents can monitor suspected people living in their areas. “Landlords have been informed to keep watch on their tenants, and to inform police whenever they keep new tenants,” says Prabhakar.

NGOs in unauthorised colonies and jhuggi jhopri clusters have been asked to organise self-defence and educational programmes for minors living in these areas. To supplement these efforts, the government must launch a mass public education campaign on sexual abuse and violence.

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