Monday, May 27, 2024

Sexual crimes on the rise


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The report of sexual assaults on two minors in South West Garo Hills sends a chill up the spine. Safety of women and minor girls is hugely compromised in this matrilineal society. Young girls have never felt so unsafe. No matter who the perpetrators of the crime are, gang-raping minor girls is something that will leave a perpetual scar on them and their families. That such vile men get away with impunity is what is frightening. Sometimes even when the rapists are arrested it takes years for the courts to decide the cases and mete out exemplary punishment such that similar crimes against women and girls are not repeated. In this case since both the girls are minors the case would fall under the Prevention of Child Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. In India, only 3 % of Child Sexual Abuse related offenses were reported to the police. This is due to the social stigma associated with such abuse. Unfortunately, the minor girls carry this stigma for the rest of their lives and would require regular counselling to get out of the trauma. It is for this reason that the State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights has been created across states. The Commission is meant to create awareness about POCSO and also to teach young girls how to keep themselves safe from sexual assaults or rape.
Sexual abuse of minors can and has happened within families. Most rapes are committed by known persons and not by complete strangers. Hence for a young girl even the family with its extended connections is not a safe space. When sexual assaults happen within families the case is hushed up to protect the family honour. Instead of looking for justice, families clamp up and the girl lives a nightmare for the rest of her life. Sadly, the criminal justice system has consistently failed to address the needs of children who have experienced sexual assault and to monitor their mental and physical well-being. In India, more often than not it is the victim of sexual abuse who is taunted or looked at askance instead of society standing with the survivor and her family and assist them in approaching the courts of law.
It is hoped that police will be able to identify the rapists and arrest them because if they get away scot-free they will repeat their crimes. It is time that NGOs working in the area of women and child rights help the survivors of such crimes to report the matter and also follow up the matter regularly. To leave the entire matter only to the family might be too burdensome since most survivors of sexual assaults come from poor families. At this juncture it must also be stated that the State Commission for Women should immediately have a person at the helm to address these growing atrocities against women and the girl-child. It is not understood as to why the Government should allow this post to remain vacant for so long when other superfluous appointments are made post haste.

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