Mumbai: Hospital keeps 7-year-old sexual abuse victim waiting, refuses examination
After jet-ski rider molested her while on vacation, hospital in Mumbai she had come to for a mandatory medical test, makes her family wait for two hours
While vacationing in Maldives with her mother, a seven-year-old girl had the most terrible experience — the driver of a jet-ski ride sexually abused her while she was riding with him. However, her sufferings didn't end there. Short of time, as she couldn't undergo a medical examination in Maldives, her mother decided to get it done in Mumbai. Instead of ensuring a smooth process, Cooper Hospital allegedly made them run from one department to the other and refused to conduct the test without the presence of a woman constable, in complete violation of the POCSO Act, even though they had a complaint letter from the Maldives police. The hospital also didn't inform the local police about the case, which is mandatory.
It seems that despite consistent efforts of the government to educate hospital staffers about POCSO cases, they have failed to do so. Last Monday, the victim along with her 35-year-old mother, who earlier worked as a celebrity stylist, went to Maldives for a five-day vacation. The mother-daughter duo was having a fun holiday until last Friday when they decided to go for a jet-ski ride. As it was not possible for the two to ride a jet-ski together, the woman sent her daughter along with driver while she waited at the beach. When the girl returned, she looked very upset, which made her mother suspicious. On enquiring, she revealed that the driver molested her.
The woman said, "When she got off the jet-ski, she seemed very perplexed, which was unlike her. On asking her she said that the driver touched her private parts. Following this I filed a complaint with the Maldives police." As per the protocol, the victim was supposed to undergo a medical examination in Maldives but as they had to catch a flight to Mumbai the following morning, her mother decided to get the test done on returning. After reaching the city last Saturday morning, they rushed to Cooper Hospital for the examination but there they faced a different kind of harassment.
"First, they asked us to get an FIR registered at the nearest police station. This is after I showed them the complaint copy from the Maldives police. Then, they made us run from one department to another. When we reached the gynaecology department, they made us wait there for over 90 minutes. My child was already traumatised and had not slept the previous night. She was exhausted and despite repeated pleas, the doctor-in-charge told us, 'is sab mein time lagta hai (all this takes a lot of time)'," said the woman. She further added, "We kept waiting and my daughter started feeling dizzy. This is the reason why people don't report about sexual harassment. Where is the system to deal with it?" Even after waiting for so long, the hospital didn't even inform the nearby police station, which is compulsory under the POCSO Act.
What rules say
According to the POCSO Act, when a child arrives at a hospital with complaints of sexual abuse, it is the responsibility of the hospital to inform the nearest police station. For violating it, those responsible can be imprisoned for six months. Speaking to mid-day, "As per the POCSO Act, when a child with complaints of sexual abuse is taken to a hospital, they can't refuse a medical examination. It is the responsibility of the hospital to inform the local police station. And there was no need for a female constable to be present when her mother accompanied her," said Nishit Kumar, former head of Childline.
"It is traumatic for such a child to wait for two hours in a hospital. It just adds to the trauma she has already faced. It is mandatory for the hospital to complete the examination as soon as possible. In this case, as they had a complaint copy from Maldives, there shouldn't have been any problem in doing the medical examination," he added. Similarly, Dr Harish Pathak, head of the department of forensic and toxicology unit of KEM Hospital said that when a child is accompanied by the mother for a medical examination on complaints of alleged sexual abuse, it is the responsibility of the hospital to examine the person without any delay.
"First, in case of sexual harassment cases, whether it is of an adult or a child, the presence of police is not compulsory. The medical examination can also be done in a private hospital. Doctors need to examine the victim and later appear as witnesses in court," said Varsha Deshpande, senior advocate who fights for women and child rights. "Secondly, when a cop appears as a witness in a child abuse case, she needs to come in plain clothes. As per the rules, she can't wear the police uniform," she added. Meanwhile, psychiatrist Dr. Sagar Mundada said, "When a child visits a hospital with a sexual abuse complaint, the medical team needs to provide immediate counseling. If the hospital kept the child waiting for hours without treatment or counselling, it is unacceptable."
Dr. Pinakin Gujjar, the newly appointed dean of Cooper Hospital, said that he would look into the matter. "I will talk to the gynaecology department and look into the matter. This is a serious issue. I will not let it go off so easily."
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