The Modi-led BJP government in its commitment to its mission of ‘Beti Bachao’ has in what appears to be a lack of application of mind to the serious malice of the Indian society – child sexual abuse – passed a Bill in Parliament seeking a law of death penalty to a convicted rapist of a girl child under the age of 12-years but completely ignored the startling fact that the crime of child sexual abuse happens to a boy child too.
The passage of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2018 on April 22 provides for death penalty only for those convicted of raping a girl below 12 years of age.
The April ordinance amended Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and also changed Section 42 of the POCSO Act, to say that newly-amended IPC section would apply to girls below the age of 12 years. While POCSO is gender-neutral, the amended Section 376 mentions the word “woman”. This meant that those guilty of raping boys below the age of 12 would not be subject to the death penalty provision.
In 2007, Ministry of Women and Child Welfare supported by United Nations Children’s Fund conducted a study to understand the magnitude of child abuse in India. Number of boys abused was 52.94 per cent and girls abused 47.06 per cent thereby indicating that child abuse in boys is rampant in India but rarely spoken about or reported.
In the last week of July this year thirty six kids were rescued from a madrasa in Pune’s Katraj Kondhwa area after reports of sexual abuse surfaced. The kids were aged between 5 to 15 years and were rescued in a police operation. The case came to light when two children were spotted alone by the Railway Police Force (RPF) at the Pune Railway Station. The police team with the help of child right activists raided Jamia Amubhuja Darul Yatama situated in RK colony, Katraj Kondhwa. A maulana named Rahim had been arrested.
In the first week of August this year the Ajmer police have registered a case under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act against six senior students of a city school following allegations of sexual abuse and sodomy. A complaint in this regard was jointly filed by the school managing committee and the father of the victim, a new student of Class XI.
Frustrated over lack of measures to address and tackle male child sexual abuse in the country, a 24-year-old youth had written to President Ram Nath Kovind this year seeking permission to end his life through euthanasia. Apart from the President, the survivor from Kurnool also wrote to Andhra chief minister Chandrababu Naidu and sought permission to end his life as he wanted to be relieved from the pain of being a victim of child sexual abuse.
India is in its effort to protect the girl child has turned a blind eye the boy child who is equally or more vulnerable to rapists and paedophiles lurking around in our society.
I had the opportunity to interact with several survivors of child abuse – girls and boys – with one such case becoming the foundation of my first novel – Karmic Ishq. It allowed me to understand the trauma of being a survivor of child abuse. It does not matter whether it’s a boy or girl who is abused, what matters at that time is the beauty of innocence that is shattered by this vile act of humanity.
It is unfortunate and insensitive of the government of India to completely ignore the pain and trauma of the boy child in drafting its law because law has to be gender neutral and should not discriminate between sexes. The action of the Parliamentarians lacked application of mind in passing such a half-baked bill.
The knee-jerk reaction of the government and its failure to understand the crises of child sexual abuse has been exposed. It no hidden knowledge that the death penalty was expedited due to a public uproar during the case of the rape of seven-year old girl in Kathua but because rape of young boys do not elicit much media noise as young girl child, government appears to have completely forgotten the boy child and played to the masses sentiments without taking into considerations facts of the nuances of child sexual abuse in the country.
The government can still make amends to this anomaly soon and not act in a Beti Bachao, Beta Rulao manner