Delhi in tizzy over child rape
Published: 2013-04-21 03:34:34.0 BdST Updated: 2013-04-21 06:10:59.0 BdST
Angry crowds demonstrated in New Delhi on Saturday after a five-year-old girl was allegedly raped, tortured and kept in captivity for 40 hours, reviving memories of last December's brutal assault on a woman that shook the country.
Police arrested a man they accuse of the attack from Bihar, and brought him back to New Delhi for interrogation. Doctors say the girl suffered severe injuries and bruising, including to her neck and genitalia.
Protests that began on Friday grew more intense after video footage showed a policeman slapping a woman protester, and following reports that investigators had offered the victim's family 2,000 rupees not to file a case.
It was the second case of alleged rape in 48 hours to trigger protests and heavy-handed policing, after hundreds of people fought police in the city of Aligarh, 135 km (83 miles) from Delhi on Thursday. One policeman was filmed hitting an old woman hard with a club in the protest.
Public fury over the latest attack in the capital echoed the response to the gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a bus on December 16 in New Delhi, which brought thousands of people onto the streets in protest and clashes with police.
The woman died of her injuries in a Singapore hospital.
The gang rape provoked rare national debate about violence against women, putting the issue onto the political agenda in the nation of 1.2 billion people a year before elections.
On Saturday, about 1,000 people gathered to demonstrate outside the police headquarters in New Delhi, where several people tried to break through metal barricades. Smaller protests erupted outside the state-run hospital where the girl was being treated, the home of ruling Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi, and the residence of the home minister.
The girl was "conscious and alert" and her condition stable, but her injuries are infected and so severe she may need corrective surgery, an official of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences hospital told reporters.
Police identified the accused as a 22-year-old, who they said had fled the capital after leaving the girl for dead in an apartment of the same building where her family lives.
The accused was a temporary worker in garment factories and lived with his father, a juice seller, police said. TV news channels reported that some people tried to attack the man and others threw shoes at him as police led him through Patna airport in Bihar state to board a plane back to New Delhi.
Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat declined to comment on reports that the girl's family had been offered money not to file a case, adding he would only do so after an investigation.
Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the government was conducting an inquiry into allegations of police negligence.
Critics Say Tougher Laws Not Enough
The girl, whose parents work as labourers and live in a slum in the outskirts of Delhi, went missing from her home on April 15, according to Manish Sisodia, an official of the Aam Aadmi Party, which organised a protest on Friday. Local media said she was found by neighbours who heard her crying two days later.
B.N. Bansal, a doctor from the Swami Dayanand Hospital, where the girl was initially admitted, said on Friday that she had undergone an operation due to severe injuries.
"We found candles and an oil bottle from inside the child when we operated upon her," Bansal told reporters. "The next 48 hours will be crucial for her."
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's office said in a statement that he was deeply disturbed by the latest incident. In December his administration had faced criticism for failing to respond quickly to the horrific attack on the physiotherapy student.
The unprecedented protests by thousands of people across India eventually forced Singh's government to pass tougher laws to fight gender crimes in March.
New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes among India's major cities, with a rape reported on average every 18 hours, according to police figures.
However, most sex crimes in India go unreported, many offenders go unpunished, and the wheels of justice turn slowly, according to social activists who say successive governments have done little to ensure the safety of women and children.
Activists said the new laws are not enough to deter sex offenders in India's largely patriarchal societies.
"You need community policing to stop these crimes," activist Kiran Bedi told an Indian TV channel.
The UN's child rights arm, UNICEF, said that tougher laws are no use if they are not enforced effectively.
"The brutal rape case this week unfortunately also indicates the need to strongly improve the response of law enforcement officers," it said in a statement.
‘Hell Holes’ Of India
Meanwhile the Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) in its report, “India’s Hell Holes: Child Sexual Assault in Juvenile Justice Homes” have said 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 Reporter on Violence Against Women, Ms Rashida Manjoo, who is on an official visit to India from April 22 to May 1, 2013, while ACHR is scheduled to meet the Reporter on April 23, 2013.
The 56-page report, citing National Crimes Record Bureau statistics, stated that a total of 48,338 child rape cases were recorded from 2001 to 2011, and India saw an increase of 336 percent 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 police while children regularly become victims of other forms of sexual assault, too.
Among the states, Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest 9,465 cases of child rape from 2011 to 2011; followed by Maharashtra 6,868; Uttar Pradesh 5,949; Andhra Pradesh 3,977; Chhattisgarh 3,688; Delhi 2,909; Rajasthan 2,776; Kerala 2,101; Tamil Nadu 1,486; Haryana 1,081; Punjab 1,068; Gujarat 999 cases; West Bengal 744; Odisha 736; Karnataka 719; Himachal Pradesh 571; Bihar 519 cases; Tripura 457; Meghalaya 452; Assam 316; Jharkhand 218; Mizoram 217; Goa 194; Uttarakhand 152; Chandigarh 135; Sikkim 113; Manipur 98; Arunachal Pradesh 93 cases; Jammu and Kashmir 69; Andanam and Nicobar Island 65; Puducherry 41; Nagaland 38; Dadra and Nagar Haveli 15; and Daman and Diu 9 cases.
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 a mofussil town,” stated Suhas Chakma, Director of the ACHR.
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