Delhi NGOs send out strong message

In the wake of the child sexual abuse racket that came to light at a Darya Ganj orphanage here recently, several organisations came together on Monday to highlight the role of the Government and the need for a strong reaction mechanism for children who are victims of abuse and neglect. They also demanded that the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act be strengthened.

Speaking on child care facilities, Ashok from Campaign against Child Labour said: “These homes and institutions have become sexual abuse zones. Are these organisations above the law? There should be a policing system in place for the sake of these children and internal mechanisms to monitor the working of such institutions.”

The speakers agreed that the cases of sexual abuse at Arya Orphanage in Darya Ganj could not be seen in isolation, and that it was in fact a systemic failure. They also demanded that the management of the orphanage be brought to book.

The case came to light around a week ago when members of the non-profit organisation Haq visited the orphanage along with some police officers to talk to the children who had been subjected to various kinds of abuse.

Another issue that was highlighted was the reluctance of such institutions to get registered under the Juvenile Justice Act. According to former Child Welfare Committee chairperson Bharti Sharma, “We need to make procedural changes and amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act so that no such institution can escape registration… [There is] complete failure of the child protection system across the country.”

Referring to a 2007 study which showed very high levels of abuse in such institutions, she added: “The management of such institutions feels it is above the law.”

Bharti Ali of Haq raised two pertinent questions: “Where is the mechanism for a child to complain? And shouldn't child welfare committees become complainants in such cases and take suo motu action?”

The speakers also questioned the accountability of government and NGO-run institutions. “The laws are inadequate as most forms of child abuse remain unaddressed,” said the organisers in a press note. They called for a protocol to ensure necessary response and immediate protection of children in situations where they report abuse.

The failure of the State and Central governments to set up Juvenile Justice Boards and implement Integrated Child Protection Schemes was also highlighted in the discussion.

Social activist Swami Agnivesh said the chairperson of Arya Orphanage had been receiving grants for running the institution even though it was not registered. “Their legality is questionable…after the findings of the NGO and the police; they should have tried to reform the institution,” he said.

The speakers also emphasised the need for mental health experts and child protection experts to take up immediate response and action against the offenders. They also demanded that a list of homes and institutions housing children in Delhi, and their status, be made public.

The NGOs will be organising a protest at Jantar Mantar later this week.

  • “Incident can't be seen in isolation; a systemic failure”

  • “Institutions must register under Juvenile Act”