Society must step in where state fails
A SHELTER home for children is a olace for love, philanthropy and welfare. Then again, it could just be another way of making money — a business exploiting the plight of the underprivileged. This is the story of the Rohtak (Haryana) shelter home, raided by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) last month, and a medical examination conducted thereafter confirming that the inmates had been sexually abused.
As if that was not enough, we heard of female foeti being flushed down the toilet in Yamuna Nagar, Haryana. Priyanka, a BMS from Saharanpur, UP, was caught redhanded when the local health department raided her bungalow. Caught on camera committing the crime, she had little to offer except for a confession. “I have been working here for the last five-six years. At least six-seven abortions take place here each month. They are then disposed of in toilets,” she said.
Close on its heels came the alleged gang-rape of a firstyear student at Haryana’s Bhagat Phool Singh Women’s University by four youths.
Alarmingly, all the three crimes took place in Haryana. It may be pertinent to mention here that the sex ratio of the state is the lowest in the country, at 826 girls for 1,000 boys in age group of 0-6 years. With a literacy rate of 76.64 percent, what makes matters worse for the state is its failure to educate people and stall female foeticide, which has been featured on national television in the Aamir Khan-hosted Satyamev Jayate.
Haryana may carry the dubious distinction of being the most ‘woman unfriendly’ state, but the problem of sex crimes plagues the entire country. Irrespective of gender, everyone needs to pinpoint where the failure to stop such crimes lies.
A study on child abuse in India, conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development across 13 states in 2007, says that 53.22 percent children reportedly faced one or more forms of sexual abuse, of which 48 percent were boys and 39 percent were girls. These figures may have risen significantly since then.
Social stigma & pressure cause many victims to shy away from reporting abuse
As per the report, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar and Delhi reported the highest rate of abuse. It’s often felt that children are safe in schools, but this belief has been demolished by the study, which reports that children on the street, at work and in institutional care reported the highest incidence of sexual assault. Half the abusers are persons known to the child, or in a position of trust and responsibility.
The belief that educated people do not indulge in such heinous acts is also proven wrong. As per the study, prevalence of sexual abuse in upper and middle class was higher than in lower or lower-middle classes. Sexual abuse was found prevalent in both joint and nuclear families. So the safety net of parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents is trashed beyond redemption. Worse, most of the children did not report the matter!
Now, back to why sexual crimes are so rampant. Are the laws weak or missing — as with child abuse? Would awareness help? Families are trying to break the traditional shackles and sending their daughters to schools, colleges and universities, only to increase the risk of them being assaulted. Can this vicious cycle of poor laws, a weak-willed government, delayed and faulty judicial system, and social stigmas be broken?
One reason why sexual crimes are increasing is that talking about them is still a taboo. Most of these crimes go unreported. Social stigma and pressure make even educated parents disbelieve their children when they tell them about abuse. Rape victims are seen as ‘secondhands’ or ‘used’. In case of child sexual abuse, how many of us have the courage to bring to justice a culprit who is the victim’s parent or grandparent?
Enough blame games have been played against the judiciary and the government for inaction. We have to take matters in our own hands and bring about the required changes. Because the next victim could be one of us.
The opinions expressed are the author’s own