As a not for profit organisation committed to the cause of children, especially girls and young women, Plan India strongly condemns all forms of gender based violence particularly towards children. The protection of children, especially the girl child is at the very core of our work. We also ensure our active participation in civil society forums that engage with law enforcement agencies on safety and protection of children and young people. Plan has worked with different child protection agencies to strengthen the system, with specific interventions on child trafficking, child marriage, female foeticide, juvenile justice and child sexual abuse.
The rising incidence of rape and sexual abuses committed against children and women, highlights once again the pressing need for stricter measures and safeguarding laws and policies towards creating protective safety nets as well as redressal systems for young children, girls and women in India. NCRB (National Crime Record Bureau) has expressed in its report that there is a sharp rise in the child rape cases. According to the NCRB data for 2016, incidents of rape of children have increased by over 82%, in reference to 2015. It further shows that in 2015, 10,854 cases were registered across the country and in 2016, it increases to 19,765.
On the recommendation of Justice Verma committee in 2013, several changes has been brought in the legal system of our country which has improved the conviction rate, as well as, provided support to the victim. If we look at to the conviction rate under POCSO, it is 29.6% (NCRB, 2016) but along with it, there are almost 90% (pendency rate) of the registered cases which are awaiting trials in the court. Thus, there is a need to strengthen the judicial system by provisioning for special courts, as suggested by the Verma committee.
India’s commitment towards the international covenants such as CEDAW (Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women), UNCRC (United Nations Convention on Child Rights), and strong constitutional framework demands action from the government to ensure the protection of children. As a signatory to these conventions and pioneer in bringing some, it is our duty to adhere to the standards that we have agreed in front of the international community. Also, we have committed under SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) to eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation (SDG:5.2). Thus, this is becoming imperative with our rising economic proves, which should be for the welfare and protection of our citizens.
Recent changes in the rape law has further improved its effectiveness by enhancing the punishment and completing the justice within a time bound period. We welcome these efforts by the government but also want to make submission, that along with the law, there is also a need to improve the implementation of provisions, schemes and services, which are meant to support the victim. Legal Services Authority, ChildLine, Special Juvenile Police Unit, Child Welfare Officers, Child Welfare Committees etc. should work in tandem with spirit of law. These are support for victim on ground and the law will only exist to the extent, it is available to the victim. Nirbhaya Fund also need to be availed to improve the security of girl child and women in public spaces.
Based on our long standing experience of working on the issue of child sexual abuse, we urge the government to take certain immediate measures towards further strengthening the system and enforcement of the law:
We request our Judiciary, legislature and executive to ensure,
- That the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) is only law which is encompasses range of child sexual abuse with the children and all the states should implement the law, in letter and spirit.
- For strengthening the training mechanism of lawyers, judges at the district level to sensitize them towards the issues related to child sexual abuse and what are the different mechanism which should intervene to support victim.
- Mandate Legal Services Authority to compulsorily train the lawyers who are in the roster to provide legal support to children. Also, to strengthen the roster of counsellor and other allied services at the district, sub-district level.
- Gender based violence to be termed as special crimes and inaction in the offence by related officials should be punished in line with the POCSO and other Code of Criminal Procedure provisions.
- Implement the recommendation given by the Justice Verma Committee in full spirit, related to support the victim.
- Child Offender Registry to be published and must be available for the public view. This registry should contain information of conviction as well as complaint.
- E-filing of Rape complaint should be promoted, which should be monitored at the state level by a senior level officer.
- ChildLine 1098 and other children related services should be made effective in India and they should act as a support mechanism.
- To strengthen the community processes which can support the victim and could act as a first line of response, in the case of abuse. Village/Urban ICPS (Integrated Child Protection Scheme) committees functioning to be reviewed and strengthen for preventive actions.