On Children’s day today, even as Pune celebrates children and all the innocence and joy they embody, a darker reality lurks just under surface — that now, more than ever, the city is not safe for kids. In the past ten months alone, the city has seen a sharp rise — 41 per cent — in incidents of child abuse, and according to the Pune police, in most cases, the survivors were on familiar terms with the culprits.
There has been a 41 per cent increase in incidents of child abuse over the past ten months alone. Cops and activists said that in most cases, the culprits were known to the victims. File pic for representation
What’s most worrying, however, is the number of cases in which the culprit was an educator or tutor, in whom both parents and children themselves place absolute trust. While there have been reports about child abuse in schools and school buses in the past, according to the Social Security Cell attached to the Pune Crime Branch, police have observed that in most cases since January, the culprits were tutors at private tuitions or hobby classes such as dance, karate, etc.
‘Law has more scope’
As per the city police’s data, there have been 178 recorded cases of child abuse in the past ten months (January – October), a sizeable increase from the 126 cases that were registered through 2013. With a wider scope in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, the police say that more cases of child sexual abuse are now being registered, forming a great portion of crimes against children.
Police Inspector Sanjay Nikam, in-charge of the Social Security Cell, said, “The POCSO Act now has got scope for cases of sexual abuse against boys as well, and this year, six such cases came forward. Most of the victims are aged between 8 and 14 years, both girls and boys. What is worse is that even toddlers aged up to 3 years are sexually abused. The main issue is not the number of cases, but the injustice that these children have to bear.”
According to the police, 216 suspects were arrested while investigating child abuse cases, of which 15 were juvenile suspects. “In most of cases, the culprit is between 45-59 years old. There were also three undetected cases in which the culprit was a stranger who lured the children with sweets or cash,” said Nikam.
Changing social trends are also partly responsible for the rise in crimes against children, Nikam pointed out. “This year, we have noticed that cases of abuse and molestation were mostly from private tuition or classes for dance, karate, drawing, handwriting. It has been observed that the parents are usually working, and in an attempt to keep their child engaged, they send the child to such classes. The tutors are aware that the parents are struggling to give the child enough time and attention, and take advantage of the situation,” he said.
He went on to add that in other cases, children were abused or molested in familiar surroundings, by people they were acquainted with. The incidents took place at places such as the local grocery store, the building lift, with familiar people such as the next-door neighbour.
Anuradha Sahasrabuddhe, director of Dnyana Devi Childline (an emergency helpline for children in distress), said, “Parents must communicate with their children regularly. Check their books personally, and interact with them. Merely teaching kids good and bad touch is not enough; they must step in the child’s shoes and understand the issues, tackling it skilfully.”
Dr Yamini Adbe, a child rights activist said, “When the culprit is from the family, the victim is sometimes forced to turn hostile during the court trial as the child is in the parents’ custody.”
Since January, the helpline has received around 200 calls about child abuse cases. However, Sahasrabuddhe suspects the real figures are far higher. “In most cases, the parents don’t even report the abuse because of the social stigma. In many instances, it has been noticed that the parents themselves are responsible. Fathers have been accused in several cases, and sometimes even mothers play a vital role by shielding the culprit instead of standing by their child.”
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>> On November 1, the survivor complained to her mother about the neighbour abusing her
>>z The mother kept silent about the incident as she was close to the culprit
>> The next day, the child complained about pain in her private parts and was rushed to a hospital
>> Two days later, the police found out about the abuse, but parents were unwilling to report it
>> With the help of NGO volunteers, the police convinced them to lodge a case
>> One week later, cops arrested a 19-year-old youth identified as Arjun Jadhav, a plumber