A 13-year-old domestic help beaten by her employees used sign language to communicate with the policemen and welfare workers recording her statement. The tribal girl from Jharkhand spoke neither Hindi nor English and was not provided with an interpretor.
In another instance, the court case of a 15-year-old West Bengal girl, rescued from the Capital’s notorious GB Road red-light area, was delayed as her interpreter was rejected on grounds of being ‘influenced’ and a replacement had to be found.
Language barriers and lack of interpreters/translators are leading to such court cases — of children who end up victims of sexual or physical abuse after being trafficked from across the country — piling up and going nowhere.
Around 1,100 children from Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and the Northeast have been rescued in the city in the past year. While some were employed as domestic helps, others were forced into prostitution. Government officials say qualified translators are in short supply. The few who make the cut avoid such jobs, which pay little or nothing but require their presence at every hearing while the cases go on for years.
To address this serious problem, the Delhi government has written to the resident commissioners of all states asking that they provide translators/interpreters.
They point out that under the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, the magistrate or police officer has to take the assistance of a qualified translator or interpreter while recording the child's statement.
The Act also says translators should be paid a fixed amount. "We will soon fix the amount," a senior government official said.
According to women and child development officials, scores of children trafficked to the city speak nothing but their native tongue.
"I myself have witnessed a few cases where the child was unable to communicate due to language barrier. We have written to resident commissioners as they can provide not just translators but child psychologists too," said Kiran Walia, minister for women and child development.
"We face a lot of difficulties recording statements due to lack of translators. Girls who are trafficked are mostly from Assam, Bengal and tribal areas of Jharkhand and are unable to speak or understand Hindi or English. Many cases fall in court due to lack of interpreters," Rishikant of the NGO Shakti Vahini said.