Society fails victims of CSA

Society fails victims of CSA

Aociety generally blames the victim for the incident and the victims’ families also know they must endure insults for years together because the case will drag on for years.

Society putting all the blame squarely on the victim and the slow trial process in the court embolden those who rape women or children irrespective of their gender, says Sherin Bosko, who runs Nakshatra -- an anti-trafficking and rape-crisis centre. Having closely worked with the prosecution in ensuring Dhasvant, who sexually assaulted and murdered a 7-year-old girl in Chennai, gets maximum punishment, Sherin discusses Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) and the stringent POCSO act with ETB Sivapriyan in an interview. Excerpts:

Many cases of CSA are silently tackled in police stations and courts. Many parents are scared to report such abuses and what could be the reason?

It is registered in the minds of the people that the accused is granted bail within weeks or months of filing the case. It is the family that goes through hell in CSA cases and not the perpetrators. The society generally blames the victim for the incident and the victims’ families also know they must endure insults for years together because the case will drag on for years. The system is so slow that the accused is out of jail for long, giving time for him to ensure that witnesses are turned hostile. There have been instances of the victim getting summons from the court to appear before it four years after the incident when the child had completely forgotten the incident and was leading a normal life. The slow pace of the trial discourages people to come out and report such cases.

How does the society react in such situations?

Society should stand up for those who have been abused, but unfortunately it does not. It is the victim who is made to feel ashamed of the incident and as if it was their crime to have been abused. The family will be pushed to the situation where they doubt their own upbringing of the child. The society fails victims of child sexual abuse every day.

What, in your opinion, would encourage people to come and report CSA cases?

A speedy trial in courts is the only way to ensure all CSA cases are reported and justice is delivered to the victim. And more importantly, fear should be instilled in the minds of those who commit rape that they would spend their entire life in jail if they are caught. The general feeling among people is that they can easily get away with rape cases because it is easy to tamper with evidence and ‘buy’ the witnesses. The message should be clear that one will spend a lifetime in jail if he touches a woman or a child irrespective of the gender inappropriately or abuses them sexually.

Are our police aware of the provisions of Prevention of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO)?

Not many policemen are completely aware of the provisions in POCSO Act. But, as far as the Chennai Police is concerned, they act very swift when a CSA case is reported to them. But the system should be made victim-friendly and cross-examination of the victim in courts should only be for a minimal time and no child should be put to live through the trauma yet again. Mixing up of sections do take place resulting in acquittal of the perpetrators. Police should be equipped enough and sensitised to deal with CSA cases.

What is your view on the recent amendment to the POCSO Act that awards death penalty to those raping girls under the age of 12?

I am not in agreement with the amendment. Who said that death penalty will act as a deterrent? If so, we should not have had murders in our society. The POCSO Act, even before the amendment was made, deals in detail with CSA. The act is good, but the implementation is very bad. If the act is implemented in letter and spirit and the cases are disposed of within stipulated time by the courts – that would be a bigger deterrent than death penalty. Death penalty is counterproductive in CSA since the child is the only witness in most cases, the accused might even kill the victim after raping him or her to erase the evidence.

What are the challenges faced during the trial?

The major problem is repeated adjournments. I am sorry to say but we have a lot of corrupt public prosecutors who become the spokespersons of the accused and exert pressure on the victims’ families to go for an out-of-court settlement. If the accused comes from a well-to-do family, the amount of money offered to the victims’ families is unimaginable. And another major problem is the way the victims are treated in courts – in some cases, the victim would be made to sit on the floor while the accused would be given a chair to sit. This would obviously create a fear psychosis in the minds of the victims. Court procedure is the most challenging period and judiciary should be friendlier towards the victim.

How important is witness and victim protection for rape victims?

Victim protection is important not only at the time of their recovery, but also during investigation, trial and even thereafter so that they can depose without fear of consequences. The absence of victim protection is the reason why many POCSO cases are turning hostile in India.

Also read: Create safe neighbourhoods for children

                  Child rape in Chennai that was a horror of horrors


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