On Children's Day, justice a far cry for the abused

According to Commission for Protection of Child Rights, over 2,430 child abuse cases are pending in the courts across the state and of these 960 cases are pending in urban Bangalore alone

While the country gears up to celebrate Children's Day once again today and all the kids are expecting special treats at school and at home, some shocking facts about the nightmarish tortures inflicted on minors lurks just beneath the surface.

According to experts and child psychiatrists, abused children often tend to exhibit an excessively withdrawn nature, and fearful or anxious behaviour

Like the year before, the government and its machinery will once again make tall claims about the joys children are experiencing on their special day, while the truth is that physical and sexual abuse against children in the state is on the rise.

This year, the number of reported cases has already reached 600, which include both physical abuse and sexual abuse, while the figure was 401 for 2010. What is appalling is that cases of abuse against children dating back to 2003 are still pending in various courts in the state.

A sorry figure
On one hand, numerous provisions are being made to ensure protection of children against physical and sexual abuse, but no visible prosecution or punishment has been delivered to persons guilty of these very crimes in the recent past.

As per the figures from the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR), till now there are over 2,430 abuse cases pending in various courts across the state and of these, 960 cases are pending in Bangalore urban alone.

"Child abuse cases more than often are forgotten or lost as a result of prolonged procedural delays, which are a part of our legal system. The legislation is low, as there are still major gaps in the legal provisions relating to child abuse in myriad situations, particularly in cases of sexual and forced labour," said Nina P Nayak, chairperson, KSCPCR.

Further, as per KSCPCR figures, the number of child abuse cases has risen alarmingly this year as compared to the last few years.

"Going by the trend, it looks like the numbers would double this year as compared to last year. We saw around 401 registered cases last year and that figure has been reached mid-year itself and as of November, there have been over 600 cases already registered," Nayak added.

Govt failure?
Under Sections 25 and 26 of the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, the state government has been tasked with the responsibility of setting up special courts to try offences against children exclusively. However, although the provisions have been in existence since 2007, it is yet to become a reality.

"Presently, there is High Court order on the matter and we are hoping to have a special court to speedily address these issues soon," she said. With the legal system failing to provide speedy judgement, often enough child abuse cases get buried and the victim is denied justice.

"We have cases pending from 2003, which have not been addressed, but things might change for good when the special courts are instituted," Nayak said.

Justice on pause
One example of the lax attitude of the authorities is in the case of 14-year-old Durga, who was rescued from the house of an Infosys techie and his wife in December 2009, where she had been working as a maid.

The media reported her plight widely after neighbours brought it to the notice of the police on hearing screams coming from the house. Durga was rescued and her body bore numerous injuries and burn marks apparently inflicted on her by the couple. It was later discovered that she had been subjected to sexual abuse as well.

As the story gripped the city, the police said that she had been brought from West Bengal and the couple used to send her grandparents a mere Rs 2,000 for the work she was did. The couple was initially arrested, but they were granted bail and the case is still pending.

Tip of the iceberg
While the number of child abuse cases is on the rise, child rights activists claim that this is merely the tip of the iceberg. According to the groups, several cases from small parts of the state are never ever reported.

"As per statistics, 60 per cent of sexual abuse cases occur at home itself or by somebody known to the victim's family. Therefore, in most cases these crimes are never reported," said Dr R Padmini, managing trustee, Child Rights Trust, NGO.

While the rise in the number of such cases may be a worrying trend, private NGOs are now creating awareness about the problem. "People are gradually becoming aware of the growing problem and even NGOs are doing their best to bring the issue to the forefront.

If child abuse cases are redressed quickly, then more people will come forward to seek justice," Dr Padmini added.

Save a child
Child Help Line (Makkala Sahaya Vani) - 1098
Concerned For Working Children (CWC) - 080 25234270
Sambhav Foundation - 080-23391901
Child Rights Trust - 080 41138285

Spot the signs
According to experts and child psychiatrists, abused children often tend to show telltale signs.

Signs to look for include, excessively withdrawn, fearful or anxious about doing something wrong.

Show extremes in behavior (extremely compliant or extremely demanding; extremely passive or extremely aggressive)

Have trouble walking or sitting

Show knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior

Refusal to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.

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