The Child Helpline has received more than 92,000 SOS calls which have asked for protection from child abuse and violence in the span of 11 days during the ongoing lockdown, that India is facing. 30% were regarding protection against abuse and violence on children. It is also observed that complaints related to domestic violence against women have also seen a spike in the cases where 25,769 are taken to be just the reported ones and an unknown number of many.
“ Not all homes are safe” states Indian Express, Pertaining to this very statement it is to be taken into consideration that the effect of the lockdown has not only affected the economic status of an individual but also has taken a huge toll on one’s mental health. It is seen that the burden of work women are pressurised under has increased three times more than usual. Minimum mobility has been a boon for the nation where public crowding has come down to a certain extent and bane for the individuals specifically the women and children as they have been trapped in torture by the family itself. Complaints of rape and attempt to rape have been on a high rise as well, adding to this we also see complaints related to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which guarantees the right of persons to live with human dignity have doubled since the commencement of the lockdown. Cases under this Article have been more on the basis of gender and caste. It is clearly seen that no matter what kind of situation the nation is under but never is a woman spared for what she is in the society, even if it is the rich or poor.
A case of domestic violence brings us to the South of India where a cook has been accustomed of physical abuse from her unemployed alcoholic husband which had been diminished recently as she was getting paid and he could get his share of alcohol, as the lockdown has brought everything to a pause, the 45-year-old lady was a prey once again but this time when she walked up to the police all she could hear them say is “Go home and sort it out,” the officer on duty told her. “The police and courts are shut for 21 days.”
This brings us to a point of thought where we see the casual behaviour on the part of the judiciary. It has been mentioned under the exceptions of the 21-day lockdown where the police stations will be working in spite of the nationwide lockdown. Article 39-A of the Indian Constitution states that “the State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall, in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities”.
Is it right to say that justice is given to an individual ( the women in this case ) based on their class in the society or the level of education that one has attained to fight for justice? Is this why people are losing faith in the law and the judiciary ?
Shutting down of schools have taken a heavy toll on the lives of the innocent souls. One such incident of child abuse has taken place in Telangana where a 13-year-old girl was raped by her father during the lockdown. “The father has allegedly raped the vulnerable victim multiple times during the lockdown,” said Achyuta Rao, president of child rights NGO, Balala Hakkula Sangham. Another case of child abuse takes us to Chennai where young Ramya was seen running out of a 58-year-old man’s house without clothes who lured her into his house by offering chocolates to this little tender soul. Cases of such sought have only come into light at the later stage as these children have been through a traumatic experience that has made them lose hope and trust in people they are surrounded by. This brings us to, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 that was enacted to provide a robust legal framework for the protection of children from offenses of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography, while safeguarding the interest of the child at every stage of the judicial process.
Not only we see an increase in the child abuse cases but also see that young minds are vulnerable to sexual abuse online an international rights and law advocacy group has said. There has been an alarming rise in the demand for child pornography material also referred to as ‘Child Sexual Abuse Material’ ever since the lockdown was enforced The India Child Protection Fund claims. According to the ICPF, the online data monitoring websites are showing an increase in demand for searches like ‘child porn’, ‘sexy child’, and ‘teen sex videos’. Data from Pornhub, the world’s largest pornography website in the world. This leads us to experience cold shivers when we think about the threat factor the Indian children will have to face in this period of time. Also not failing to mention that amidst the lockdown most of the cybercrime cases have been put on hold which has brought the plight of any victim on a standstill.
Although we see that the government has been taking the required measures to curb the domestic violence cases and child abuse atrocities such as the availability of the National Commission for Women’s (NCW) Complaint and Investigation Cell through emails and online portals, we observe that the traditional methods such as the helpline number and post have been non-functional from the time the lockdown had started. India having the highest gender gap when it comes to access to technology it is observed that not all women own mobile with an internet facility in it. This very gender gap further widens when it comes to lower-income groups. This means that a significant proportion of women simply do not have the ability to report.
Noticeably, improving the ability to report cases of child abuse and domestic violence does play a key part in fighting against it, but it is clearly to be seen that cases of such atrocities have not taken a place on the priority list of the government. The lack of priority given to any of these gets us to a point of thinking that, the government has not once prioritized the outrage that the women and children have or would face during this time of the pandemic. Is it because the level of torture one has experienced is not similar to that of any other rape cases like what Nirbhaya or Disha have been put through? Or Are we differentiating on the basis of torture that the individual goes through to grab the attention of the so-called candlelight march or sharing of posts on the social media platform?
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