New Delhi: Even as protests roil the national capital against a barbaric rape of a five-year-old, Asian Centre for Human Rights in its report, "India's Hell Holes: Child Sexual Assault in Juvenile Justice Homes" stated that sexual offences against children in India have reached an epidemic proportion and a large number of them are being committed in the juvenile justice homes run and aided by the Government of India.
The report has been submitted in advance to the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Rashida Manjoo who is conducting an official visit to India from April 22 to May 1.
The 56-page report, citing National Crimes Record Bureau statistics, stated that a total of 48,338 child rape cases was recorded from 2001 to 2011 and India saw an increase of 336% of child rape cases from 2001 (2,113 cases) to 2011 (7,112 cases).
These 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.
Among the states, Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of child rape cases with 9,465 cases from 2001 to 2011; followed by Maharashtra with 6,868 cases; Uttar Pradesh with 5,949 cases; Andhra Pradesh with 3,977 cases; Chhattisgarh with 3,688 cases; Delhi with 2,909 cases; Rajasthan with 2,776 cases; Kerala with 2,101 cases; Tamil Nadu with 1,486 cases; Haryana with 1,081 cases; Punjab with 1,068 cases; Gujarat with 999 cases; West Bengal with 744 cases; Odisha with 736 cases; Karnataka with 719 cases; Himachal Pradesh with 571 cases; Bihar with 519 cases; Tripura with 457 cases; Meghalaya with 452 cases; Assam with 316 cases; Jharkhand with 218 cases; Mizoram with 217 cases; Goa with 194 cases; Uttarakhand with 152 cases; Chandigarh with 135 cases; Sikkim with 113 cases; Manipur with 98 cases; Arunachal Pradesh with 93 cases; Jammu and Kashmir with 69 cases; Andanam and Nicobar Island with 65 cases; Puducherry with 41 cases; Nagaland with 38 cases; Dadra and Nagar Haveli with 15 cases; and Daman and Diu with 9 cases.
According to the rights body, many of the child rape cases take place in juvenile justice homes established under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 and by the end of financial year 2011-2012, about 733 juvenile justice homes were fully supported by the Government of India under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) of the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
"It will not be an understatement 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 hell holes 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. It matters little whether the juvenile justice homes are situated in the capital Delhi or in the mofussil towns," stated Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.
The 56-page report also highlights 39 emblematic cases of systematic and often repeated sexual assault on children in juvenile justice homes. Out of the 39 cases, 11 cases were reported from government-run juvenile justice homes such as observation homes, children homes, shelter homes and orphanages, while in one case a CWC member was accused of sexual harassment during counseling sessions.
The remaining 27 cases were reported from privately/NGO run juvenile justice homes such as shelter homes, orphanages, children homes, destitute homes, etc. Majority of privately/NGO run homes are not registered under Section 34(3) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act (as amended in 2006).
In the case of government-run juvenile justice homes, the perpetrators were staff members including the caretakers, security guards, cooks and other Class IV employees, and the senior inmates. In two cases, the sexual abuses were committed by the senior inmates in collusion with the staff.
With respect to the privately/NGO-run juvenile justice homes, the perpetrators include managers/ directors / owners/founders and their relatives and friends, staff members such as caretakers, wardens, cooks, drivers, security guards, gatekeepers, senior inmates and outsiders including security forces. Out of the 27 cases in privately/NGO-run homes, inmates were responsible for the offences in five cases and out of these, in one case offence was committed in collusion with the staff.
"In most cases, sexual assault in the juvenile justice homes continues for a long period as the victims are not able to protest and suffer silently in the absence of any inspection by the authorities under the JJ(C&PC) Act. While authorities of the juvenile justice homes are the main predators, the absence of separate facilities, in many cases for boys and girls, and in most cases as per age i.e. for boys and girls up to 12 years, 13-15 years and 16 years and above as provided under Rule 40 of the Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Rules 2007 facilitates sexual assaults on the minor inmates by the senior inmates," stated Chakma.
Asian Centre for Human Rights blamed the Government of India i.e. the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the State Governments for the continuing sexual assault on children in the juvenile justice homes.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights and the Child Welfare Committees intervene only after crimes are reported but there are no preventive mechanisms or regular inspections, it said.
The report highlighted four major failures for the continuing sexual assaults in the government run and aided or unregistered juvenile homes.
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. Though the Ministry of Women and Child Development while approving projects for all the States and Union Territories under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme since 2010, it never raised the issue of Inspection Committees with the Governments of Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Puducherry, Bihar, Jharkhand, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Meghalaya and Nagaland despite having yearly meetings for the last three years.
In fact, no separate budgetary allocation has been made under ICPS for the functioning of the Inspection Committees. There is a conscious effort on the part of the Ministry to avoid the issue of the Inspection Committees, the report said.
Second, there are hundreds of unregistered child care homes across the country despite the requirement to register the same within six months under JJ(C& PC) Act, 2006. Inspection is seldom carried out in these unregistered homes and children remain extremely vulnerable to sexual abuse in these homes.
There is no punitive provision per se for non-registration of the institutions but Section 23 of the JJ(C&PC) Act allows the authorities to take action against willful neglect, mental or physical suffering of children but little action is taken.
Third, though there are 462 District Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) in 23 States mandated to verify fit institutions, majority of them exist only on paper. The State Government of Karnataka in October 2010 put the conditions that "members of the CWCs cannot visit child care institutions, when they are not holding a sitting, without prior permission of the heads of these institutions", thereby prohibiting random and surprise inspections.
Fourth, though Rule 40 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules 2007 provides for separate facilities between for boys and girls as well as according to age i.e. for boys and girls up to 12 years, 13-15 years and 16 years and above, this provision has not been complied with. The lack of segregation on the basis of gender, nature of offences and age facilitates senior inmates to commit the offences against minor inmates including girls.
Asian Centre for Human Rights stated that the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) will not address the menace of child sexual abuse unless the Government of India creates a Special Fund under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme to provide financial assistance for prosecution of the offenders under the POCSO.
Asian Centre for Human Rights also, among others, recommended immediate establishment of the Inspection Committees in all the districts and mandatory inspection of the juvenile justice homes by the Inspection Committees in every three months; stopping funds to any home unless inspection reports are submitted; separate budgetary allocations for the functioning of the Inspection Committees, ban on posting of male staff in girls' homes, separation of residential facilities based on the nature of offences, gender and age, completion of inspection of all unregistered homes within six months and registration of cases against the authorities of the unregistered juvenile justice homes.