ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Preying on the Protected

The time to act and stop sexual assaults on children in protective custody is now.

The brutal rape of a five-year-old girl in Delhi last month has exposed one of those ugly and dark secrets that rarely get addressed in India – that of child sexual abuse where children as young as five or even younger are victims of the most harrowing forms of sexual assaults. According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), there were 48,338 children raped between 2001 and 2011, and numbers have increased by a staggering 336% in a decade. These are the reported cases. As with the rape of adult women, the majority of child rapes are never registered. And even if parents try, the police is not just unsympathetic but fails to act with the alacrity needed to save these children.

Amongst the large number of cases that are never recorded are those of children who are not in their own homes but in another kind of “home”, an observation home, a shelter home, a special home or a children’s home set up under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act. As of 2011, there are 733 such registered homes that receive funds from the government under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme. In addition, there are hundreds of private unregistered homes that tend to escape even the minimal scrutiny that government-aided homes do. A disturbing report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) titled “India’s Hell Holes” documents with graphic details the horrors that children have to face in these institutions.

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