17 Apr 2024  |   04:01am IST

Sexual assault of minors is disgraceful

In a shocking incident, a five-year-old girl was raped and murdered at an under-construction site at Vaddem, Vasco last week. According to the police, the victim’s parents found the body lying in the basement of the under-construction site and immediately took her to the Sub-District Hospital, Chicalim. The post-mortem examination report stated that the girl was sexually assaulted and was killed by smothering and strangulation.

This is not an isolated incident of crime against a minor. In February this year, a four-year-old girl was kidnapped and sexually abused in Mapusa. In Pernem, a minor girl was kidnapped and molested. A Russian who had organised a night camp at Arambol, sexually abused a minor girl aged 6 years.

The alarming rise in cases of violations against minors has posed a big question on the vulnerability of children in Goa, especially those from the socio-economically weaker sections of the society.

Rising offences against children stem from the fact that they are most vulnerable and make easy prey. Our society lacks a robust safety framework that would provide a safety net to our children. The vulnerabilities leave them susceptible to a range of atrocities, including abuse, exploitation, violence, and neglect.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has defined child sexual abuse as the involvement of a child in sexual activity as he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society.

It includes different sexual activities like fondling, inviting a child to touch or be touched sexually, intercourse, exhibitionism, involving a child in prostitution or pornography, or online child luring by cyber-predators.

India is home to almost 19 percent of the world’s children. 42% of the country's total population is below 18 years. According to survey reports, it has been found that more than 53% of Indian children are subjected to sexual abuse.

Majority of these cases were perpetrated by someone known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility.

Addressing child sexual abuse is a challenge all over the world. But in India, shortcomings in both state and community responses add to the problem. Child abuse is shrouded in secrecy and silence. There is hardly any public discussion on this issue.

Child sexual abuse is a dark reality that routinely inflicts our daily lives, but in a majority of cases it goes unnoticed and unreported due to the stigma attached to the act, along with insensitivity of the investigating and law enforcement agencies.

Police have to intensify its patrolling in isolated, vulnerable areas to prevent untoward incidents from happening. It needs to be more proactive in crime prevention. Today, our police force is more reactive than being proactive. The legal machinery has to move fast against perpetrators of such heinous crime against children.

The parents must also encourage their children to open up regarding any wrongdoing with them and instead of sweeping the matter under the carpet in pretext of family honour, they should be bold enough in taking on the assaulter by registering FIR with the police. The police too have to register the FIR and act swiftly on the complaint.

Although we have strong legislations like the POCSO Act, merely enacting legislations will not be enough unless there is strict enforcement of the law, with better accountability.

The working conditions of women, especially poor labourers, have to be improved. Crèche facilities should be set up by the government and NGOs so that children are not left unattended at home, while the parents are away for work. CCTV cameras should be set up in all public places for better surveillance.

The buck stops with all of us as it is about the safety of our children. We have to collectively find ways to protect our children, whether inside our homes or outside.


Idhar Udhar