Data shows that the number of missing girls exceeds boys by over 100

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court criticised the Union and State governments for what it termed as “extreme casualness” on the issue of missing children.

Though the official statistics for Karnataka, and Bangalore, are not as abysmal as it is in other States, these numbers reveal several micro trends that are serious cause for concern.

First, and not surprisingly, the numbers are skewed towards girls. Data provided by the City Crime Records Bureau for the past three years (2010-2012) show that each year the number of missing girls in the 15-18 age group exceeds boys by over 100. In 2012, for instance, 522 girls in this age group went missing, as against 416 boys.

This is not the case in the young age group (0-14) where the number of boys missing outnumbers the girls by two or even three times. In fact, a closer breakup reveals that most of the missing girls in this category are concentrated in the 11-14 age group, a trend that is as revealing as it is disturbing. Experts, and those on the field, say that these numbers confirm that a large majority of missing girls are being trafficked into sex work, and a smaller section into domestic work.

Neighbouring districts

Second, the State-wide numbers reveal another climbing statistics. Over the years, numbers of missing girls (again in the 14-18 age group) in districts surrounding and near Bangalore is on the rise.

Among the top districts on this list are Tumkur (113), Kolar (78), Hassan (92), Mandya (112) and Chickballapur (62). Compared to a few years ago, say 2009 and 2010, these numbers have increased by as much as 20 per cent.

This trend was taken note of at a recent seminar on gender and the police force organised by the State police. An encouraging statistics is the fact that the number of missing children traced is comparable to the missing numbers. However, a senior police official pointed out that the figures are not related, given that many missing children travel out of the city, and are often found in other States.

Underreporting

Speaking to The Hindu , Nina Nayak, member of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), said that there is a huge element of underreporting in such cases, particularly when it comes to girls. “Earlier, the problems would start with reluctance of the police to file an FIR. While such problems have been solved to an extent today, with increasing consciousness, the ground reality is that a lot of trafficking of girl children is often with families being in the know,” she said.

Getting around this problem is a big challenge and requires fresh thinking, she said. For instance, she suggests a more vigilant approach to child protection, one that could involve local bodies, and primarily schools. “Schools should become the centre of intervention. First, all children must be in school, and once that happens, schools should actively keep tabs on girl children. For instance, if a student in middle school goes missing, and it is not reported, she could have been married off or sold. Only the school can keep tabs on this kind of thing,” she added.

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