There was a 336 per cent increase in child rape cases in the country between 2001 and 2011, a large number of the crimes committed in juvenile justice homes run and aided by the government.
Citing National Crime Records Bureau statistics, the latest report on child sexual assaults in India says 48,338 rape cases were reported during the decade.
Tip of the iceberg
“These [cases] are only the tip of the iceberg as the large majority of child rape cases are not reported to the police while children regularly become victims of other forms of sexual assault too,” says the report, ‘India’s Hell Holes: Child Sexual Assault in Juvenile Justice Homes’, brought out by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR). The 56-page report has been presented to Rashida Manjoo, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, who is on a visit to India now. Among the States, Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of child rape cases at 9,465 from 2001 to 2011, followed by Maharashtra with 6,868 cases, Uttar Pradesh 5,949, Andhra Pradesh 3,977 and Chhattisgarh 3,688.
Even Delhi reported 2,909 cases. Rajasthan had 2,776, Kerala 2,101, Tamil Nadu 1,486, Haryana 1,081, Punjab 1,068, Gujarat 999, West Bengal 744 and Odisha 736.
Similarly, 719 cases of child rapes were reported from Karnataka, 571 from Himachal Pradesh, 519 from Bihar, 457 from Tripura, 452 from Meghalaya, 316 from Assam and 218 from Jharkhand.
Mizoram was among those with a comparatively low number of cases at 217. Goa had 194 cases, Uttarakhand 152, Chandigarh 135, Sikkim 113, Manipur 98, Arunachal Pradesh 93, Jammu and Kashmir 69, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands 65, Puducherry 41, Nagaland 38, Dadra and Nagar Haveli 15 and Daman and Diu 9.
Many of the child rape cases were reported from homes established under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. By the end of financial year 2011-2012, 733 homes were fully supported by the government under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme of the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
It would not be an overstatement to state that “juvenile justice homes, established to provide care and protection as well as re-integration, rehabilitation and restoration of the juveniles in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection, have become India’s hellholes where inmates are subjected to sexual assault and exploitation, torture and ill treatment, apart from being forced to live in inhuman conditions. The girls remain the most vulnerable,” says ACHR Director Suhas Chakma.
Out of the 39 cases studied by the ACHR, 11 were reported from government-run observation homes, children homes, shelter homes and orphanages, while in one case a child welfare committee member was accused of sexual harassment during counselling sessions.
The remaining 27 cases were reported from private/NGO-run shelter homes, orphanages, children homes, and destitute homes. The majority of the private/NGO-run homes are not registered under Section 34(3) of the Act (as amended in 2006).
In government-run juvenile justice homes, the perpetrators were staff such as caretakers, security guards, cooks and other Class IV employees, and senior inmates.
In private/NGO-run homes, the offenders included managers/directors /owners/founders and their relatives and friends; caretakers, wardens, cooks, drivers, security guards, gatekeepers, senior inmates and outsiders including security forces.
The ACHR blamed the Central and State governments for the continuing sexual assault on children in the juvenile justice homes.
Whither inspection panels?
First, most State governments have not formed inspection committees which are mandated to inspect the juvenile justice homes and report at least once in every three months.
Second, there are hundreds of unregistered child care homes across the country despite the requirement to register them within six months under the Act. Inspection is seldom carried out in these unregistered homes and children remain extremely vulnerable to sexual abuse there. Also, there is no punitive provision per se for non-registration. Though Section 23 of the Act allows authorities to take action against wilful neglect, mental or physical suffering of children, little is done. .