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Regretting impact of 2002 riots, Tata Institute report talks of high incidence of sexual abuse of Gujarat girls

By Rajiv Shah
In a shocking revelation, a new report by high-profile NGO Save the Children, Wings 2014: The World of India’s Girls” has said that Gujarat’s 63.1 per cent girls may be subjected to sexual abuse, which is apparently, the highest in India. Pointing out that in the country as a whole there are 47.06 per cent such girls, the report, which has been prepared by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, says that most of these girls suffer silently, and “don’t report to anyone”. The report, significantly, carries a congratulatory message from Najma Heptulla, minorities minister under the Narendra Modi government, among others.
Lamenting poor child sex ratio (CSR) in Gujarat, as also other states, the report says, though “concerted community-level interventions” have meant that there should be significant improvement in CSR in states like Punjab, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, there have been only “marginal improvement in states like Tamil Nadu and Gujarat over the past ten years”. In fact, it regrets, “None of these improvements signify a considerable shift in son preference. CSR has crossed the 900 mark in only two states in the north-west – Himachal Pradesh and Delhi.”
Pointing out that “in states like Delhi and Gujarat, it seems that roughly the same proportion of families is resorting to sex selection today as a decade ago”, the report states, “A study conducted by the Public Health Foundation of India in 52 districts in 18 states reflected the poor implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act. The study found that there were as in June 2009, that is, 15 years after the Act came into force, only 606 cases were pending under the Act, of which only 21% were related to communication of fetal sex while the others were for violations of other technical compliances.”
Specifically referring to Gujarat among other states, the study says, “Surprisingly, despite it being so rampant, no case of illegal sex determination had been fi led in Gujarat, West Bengal, Goa, Assam, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. In fact, data till 2006 reveals that as many as 22 of the 35 states in India had not reported a single case of violation of the Act since it came into force.”
Saying that in the two decades starting 1990 have shown “significant improvement in enrolment of children - especially girls - at the primary level”, and “in eight major states, more than 11% girls in this age group were not enrolled in school”, the study says, “By 2011, this figure had dropped to less than 6.5% in three of these states (Jharkhand, Gujarat and Odisha) and less than 5% in three others (Bihar, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal).” However, “gender gaps” remain, it underlines: “In the 11-14 age group, for example, Bihar has surpassed Gujarat, ranked among the more economically developed states, both in terms of both gender parity as well as overall enrolment levels.”
Referring to how following violent conflicts, such as the 2002 communal flareup in Gujarat, “there is a tendency for increased family and community controls on young girls as a result of real and imagined possibilities of sexual violence”, the report says how the phenomenon of ghettoised schooling was seen happening “in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat violence”. It adds, “Homogeneous ghettoised schools make girls’ social experience insular and confined to their own communities, where even basic friendships with other children cannot develop. Worse, this has a direct negative impact on the mobility of girls who get more restricted to home and community spaces.”
In fact, the report states, over the “last 20 years, conflicts in India have assumed geographical, community and caste dimensions. It must be recognized that even in the absence of a violent event, many areas are characterized by a simmering conflict that compounds the anxiety for safety of girls. In December 1992 and January 1993, Bombay, Surat, Ahmedabad, Delhi were among the cities where attacks on Muslims, murder, rapes of women and girls took place. During the 2002 Gujarat massacre, the plight of children affected by mass violence and conflict came into sharp focus, when mass marriages of girls took place in the relief camps and children, especially girls, were assaulted sexually, brutally maimed and murdered.”
The report particularly regrets, Gujarat is one of the states, along with Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, where the state completely shed its responsibility towards such girl children, adding, “In place of the state, it was NGOs and community organisations who took responsibility for sustained relief and protection, especially of women and girls”
Insisting on the need for “recognition of caste-based and communal violence resulting in greater violation of girls’ rights”, the report refers to “specific impact of conflict situations on the girl child, as seen in Gujarat (2002), Khairlanji (2006), and Muzaffarnagar (2013)”, adding, there are increasing instances of “exceptional physical and sexual violence” with “a long-term impact on their right to development, protection and participation due to increased restrictions, poor living conditions, loss of educational opportunities and early marriages.”

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