By Dr Judith Anne Lal
With rising violence against children, the most heart-wrenching concern any parent would have is the safety of their children. The National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), reported a rise in crime against children.
Since the last decade, crimes against children have particularly increased over six times from 22,500 cases recorded in Financial Year 2008 to 148,185 cases in Financial Year 2019. The states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi and Bihar account for 51 percent of all crimes against children. Rape amounting to 18% of all crimes against children with 109 children sexually abused every day in India according to NCRB data.
The impact has been an increase in the vulnerability of children due to exposure to sexual crimes. Especially, children from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes community face multiple forms of discrimination, violence and social exclusion on account of their identity.
Children fear shame, punishment, ridicule, or threat from the offenders thus making them vulnerable. The absence of reporting mechanisms, lack of parental guidance, and ill-informed societal spaces, no visible child-friendly centres and the lack of language to articulate such experiences have further added blocks to counter such incidents.
Time and again we have witnessed that the lives of children from the Dalit and Adivasi communities are lost to sexual violence, physical violence and hunger in the country. India has been ranked 94th out of 102 countries in Global Hunger Index. Children from the Dalit and Adivasi communities are the ones who are severely affected by hunger and poverty. This is because the parents do not have enough socio-economic stability to provide nutritious food resulting in poor health of the children. Dalit and Adivasi children in comparison to other groups are severely stunted, wasted and under-weight.
The recent case of rape and murder of an 8-year-old Dalit girl in Delhi’s top defense area – the Delhi Cantonment-has once again raised concerns on the safety and protection of children, increasing perversion in society, depleting standards of human rights and consciousness, and the rising vulnerability of children at the behest of self-care while their parents are at work. This particular incident of gruesome atrocity where the child was killed and then burnt without the consent of the parents unveils the bitter reality of a failed society and the system’s delayed response to the issue of the right to protection of Children. Even though at global levels India claims to be a superpower; however, it is quite ironic that in the most high profile secure zone of the capital, a child is raped, murdered and then her body cremated. If this incident does not shake up people and the governance then what will?
I visited the site and watched the mother of the child in distress, going through a traumatic experience of losing her child and having so many unanswered questions. I observed the most ruthless behavior by the media at the spot. The media channel was there to get a bite. No one cared about what she is going through as a mother. But rather it became a story for a day for everyone to cover. Every news channel asked her the same questions repeatedly. The scene and the atmosphere rather gave the reflection of a meaningless fight for justice and death of basic human concern or connect. The visits and words seemed so very superficial; with people taking a jibe at the politicians and each one presenting their view of what happened not caring of how this would impact the case’s investigation and trial process.
The case has been politicized to an extent that the crux of the violation of the ‘right to life of that child is not being debated or does not seem like a concern. The danger here is the apathetic response from the general public for taking these incidents as a normal happening. As this indifference sets in there seem to be dismal chances for humanity to regain its consciousness to respond to the injustice done.
The role of the state becomes crucial in routing these spaces and to strictly ensure the implementation of law and order, to have preventive steps are taken and to enable justice for the victims of caste-based sexual assault.
The governments (central and states) need to initiate prevention strategies and to work on ‘changing mindsets, which is key to achieve safety, gender equality and respect for human rights.
There have to be concerted efforts by the governments, civil society organizations’ or ‘CSOs’
and communities to tap the mindset for gender justice and social change. There has to be an effort in shaping the mindset for gender justice by involving grassroots perspectives to conduct evidence-based research to inform policy. Listening to the experiences of women and children at the grassroots who have faced violence and abuse on account of their social positioning is the need of the hour to develop informed policy for the targeted communities and groups of people.
The fight against injustice and perversion of society can be fought when the legal systems that is in place; in actuality work for the people in distress and not distress people. Wherein the society is well informed of human rights standards and the abuse, to differentiate and take required legal action. This can happen only with the involvement of all stakeholders the government, implementing authorities and the general public to bring about social change and justice.
 National Crime Record Bureau report 2008 to 2019 accessed from https://ncrb.gov.in/en/crime-in-india
 National Family Health Survey (2015-2016), Ministry of Health and Family welfare