‘Real deterrent is implementation of laws and certainty of punishment”, NGO Working With Child Sexual Abuses Victims Condemns Amendment in POSCO

Lokesh Goswami Ten News Delhi :

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‘Real deterrent is implementation of laws and certainty of punishment”, NGO Working With Child Sexual Abuses Victims Condemns Amendment in POSCO

In a Press Conference organized by NGO working with victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, panelists said, “We, as a group of survivors, individuals and organisations working with victims and survivors of child sexual abuse across the country, are deeply concerned by the egregious sexual violence against children, the failure of the criminal justice system to adhere to child-sensitive procedures, hold perpetrators accountable, and the failure of state to comprehensively implement the law and society to address the root causes of violence”.

They further added, “We register our protest against The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018, passed in the name of protection of girls and women from sexual violence. The government has not only bypassed democratic processes of law-making but also chosen not to engage with evidence-based recommendations of experts working on the law related to child sexual abuse”.

Talking about the changed proposed in POSCO they said, “The Ordinance is reactionary, impractical in terms of the procedural changes brought in and disproportionate with regards to sentencing. It is designed to fail girl children once again. We are of the firm belief that effective implementation of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and other laws related to children has to be the focus and legislative amendments prescribing higher sentences are not the solution after every brutal act of sexual violence. We believe that the punishment prescribed for rape of children below 12 years under Section 376, Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 6, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act) is stringent, sufficient, and proportionate”.

They also presented stats regarding their concern and said, “we are deeply agonized by the President of India’s approval to the Ordinance and immensely disappointed that the President has not considered the written submission by 196 citizens dated 26 March 2018, sharing concerns over introduction of death penalty for child rape and seeking a personal hearing. We strongly oppose the death penalty for girl child rape because of its inevitable adverse impact on the victim. The Ministry of Women and Child Development’s 2007 Study on Child Abuse revealed that 53.2% of children admitted to having faced some form of sexual abuse. Yet, this has not translated into FIRs and child sexual abuse remains heavily underreported. Most perpetrators are “known” to child victims and death penalty for child-rape will inevitably silence child victims further”.

Justice A P Shah ,former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court and former Chairman of the Law Commisison of india commenting on the ordinance said, “the remedy offered appears to be based on a wrong diagnosis. Not only is the enhancement of the punishment incluing death penalty futile, but will have disastrous consequences for children”. Justice shah urged all concerned to reject the Ordinance and be attentive to reform of the criminal justice system.

Anuja Gupta, Executive Director, RAHI Foundation: A Centre for Women Survivors of Incest and Child Sexual Abuse, strongly believes that “the ordinance favouring death penalty is not based on any understanding of the dynamics of incest and child sexual abuse, which is of epidemic proportions in India and is taking place in our homes as a matter of daily routine. In our collective experience of more than 20 years of working with victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, we know that victims and survivors do not want to take on the burden of punishment to the abuser, especially if the abuser is a family member or known person as is most often the case, through the criminal justice system. This adds to the trauma and guilt they already go through. Most often children do not even disclose sexual abuse happening to them. They are scared that there will be upheaval in the family because of them. This adds to their sense of self-blame, something they carry for the rest of their lives. The concept of justice for victims and survivors is not punishment through the criminal justice system. They are seeking accountability, an acknowledgement and apology by the perpetrator and family of/for the abuse itself and the harm caused to them. In such a scenario, even reporting the abuse to the police is a much further step. They do not want their perpetrator to go to jail, let alone face death.”

In this context, death penalty will only serve to silence them further. They are unlikely to disclose abuse or testify against the perpetrator. Death penalty will nullify efforts underway to break the silence around child sexual abuse. It will also endanger child victims as the perpetrator may not want the child to testify in court or disclose the abuse.

We demand that the focus be on addressing the gaps within the criminal justice system and the child protection system in India.
“It is extremely distressing that the government instead of addressing the reasons why convictions continue to be abysmally low for sexual violence agaisnt children and women, has instead indulged in legal populism by introducing longer sentences including death penalty, through this Ordinance.”, says Advocate Vrinda Grover, who represents victims of sexual assault. She adds, “There are concrete reasons why impunity for sexual violence against children and women continues unabated. There is an urgent need to improve and professionalise, investigation and prosecution; create an understanding about child sexual abuse and gender based crimes, among all stakeholders in the legal system, to counter institutional bias against victims of sexual violence. The Ordinance’s directives to fast track investigations and trials, without investment in training and allocation of more resources, inspire no confidence. The recent cases of Kathua and Unnao, lay bare the grim reality that when the accused are socially or politically powerful, those tasked with upholding the law, subvert the rule of law and shield the perpetrators.”

Concluding the discussion all panelist raised their demands and said, ” We appeal for all concerned to stand together for child protection for the long haul and not to succumb to emotional reactions and legal populism promising quick fix solutions; to collaborate and to be the change; to work together to rewire the social fabric of our society to ensure women and children the basic right to live in a safe and secure environment with dignity and respect”

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