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Poor conviction rate in child sex abuse: Top NGO to map targeted drive for 5000 cases

By Our Representative 

The Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) is all set to launch the Justice For Every Child campaign, in which it has decided to intervene in 5,000 “strategic” Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act cases in 100 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSC) at the district level, regretting that at 88.8% pendency as of today, if no new cases are added after 2019, “it will take 8.2 years to dispose of current POCSO cases in courts.”
Pointing out that “at 34.9%, the conviction rate for cases is abysmally low”, a KSFC note, prepared on the proposed campaign, says, 68% applications are pending as of March 2020 under the Victims Compensation Scheme; 1.2 million girls are in ‘child prostitution’, yet in 2019, only 529 cases were registered; and a mere 11% of Nirbhaya Fund (Rs 252 crore of Rs. 2,264 crore) was released to States and Union territories for utilization in 2019.
Stating the problem has been exacerbated by the fact that just 0.3 psychiatrists, 0.7 psychologists and 0.07 social workers are available for every 100,000 citizens in India, the note gives the example of one Janvi who "has been fighting for justice for the last six years ever since she was raped she was 11 years of age.
Raped by her neighbour, despite all friends and relatives asking them to ‘move on’, her mother decided to file an FIR and thus began their fight for justice. “Janvi often wakes up at night in cold sweats recalling the defence lawyer questioning her on the horrible details of her assault for over four hours during the rigorous interrogation”, the note says.
“At one point, as she shook with anger, trying to hold back her tears, the defence lawyer kept prodding her, asking her if she had an affair with her neighbour. She could not believe the words coming out of his mouth, but was too shaken to say anything more than the fact that he had raped her”, the asserts.
“When the judge granted the rapist bail, her neighbour smiled at Janvi. After the hearing, he came up to her mother and said that nothing could touch him and no one would marry Janvi because she had disgraced her family”, the note says.
“Hearings after hearings have passed this way, with repeated adjournments. Every time her mother has to leave her daily wage job and spend a hefty amount to get on the bus to reach court, the trauma rushes back”, it adds.
Campaign would be carried out after conducting national research on prevalence of child sexual abuse in 100 districts
“Someone said Janvi should get some compensation but they haven’t seen anything in six years. The first year of the trial was just spent understanding how the courts work and what the paperwork means. They have lost track of how many times their lawyer has changed, and are never confident about being represented fairly”, the note underlines.
It adds, “Life between hearings is spent trying to fight anxiety attacks and keeping up with her studies. The system has failed them. When her mother proposed they consider withdrawing the complaint, Janvi's blood was boiling. But she was helpless.”
Commenting on the case, Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi wonders, “Will a child who was raped when she was 11 years old attend court hearings when she turns 70? Every single minute matters, every single child matters, every single childhood matters.”
Pointing out that “justice is denied to the child victims of sexual abuse and rape due to the inadequacies of the justice delivery system”, the note says, “Delays in trial, an insensitive system, and the lack of a legal deterrence revictimizes the child and often leads to victims turning hostile.”
It adds, “The vulnerability of female victims is compounded by social ostracization, which often causes them to drop out of school and face gender-based discrimination. Public loses confidence in the justice delivery system and the impunity of perpetrators results in the rampant abuse of children to persist.”
Pointing out that the KSCF campaign plans to ensure “legal aid and mental health support to victims and families, while promoting the rehabilitation and education of survivors, especially girls”, the note says, “Evidence and learnings from this pilot will enable KSCF to scale up this solution across all 1,023 FTSCs for POCSO and rape.”
The campaign, the note says, would be carried out after conducting national research on prevalence of child sexual abuse in 100 districts on the implementation of the POCSO Act, increase conviction rates and timely disposal of cases, rehabilitation of survivors, and bridging knowledge and evidence gaps.
Even as intervening in 5,000 POCSO cases, the note says, there would be legal representation to child victims of sexual abuse and rape for access to justice; provision of healthcare services, particularly mental health support to child survivors and their families; rehabilitation and education, including timely compensation and skill enhancement of child survivors; promotion of gender equality through fair and equitable access to justice; and training and sensitization of judges, prosecutors and police on child friendly processes.
All this would be done, the note concludes, while giving leverage to technology to track progress by develop software to track case progress, generate insights on good practices, identify challenges in implementation, and identify cases requiring assistance.

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