A mere 12% of men accused of child rape are convicted of the crime by specially designated sessions courts that deal with cases filed under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO.)
Between 2014 and 2015, the city sessions courts delivered judgments in 170 POCSO cases, according to the Delhi district courts website. Only 20 cases resulted in guilty verdicts. The accused were acquitted in the remaining 150.
Thirty child rape victims claimed the accused threatened them prior to filing the case and 114 complainants turned hostile before the court. Child psychologist Dr Roma Agarwal explains the high hostility rate saying, “The questions are very sexually graphic and can be very traumatising for the child and make them very, very uncomfortable.”
Judgments also reveal that the police often discourage child victims from undertaking a medical examination, even when the crime is reported on the same day. Forensic evidence makes a critical difference and corroborates the child’s testimony but according to Hindustan Times’ data analysis, medical tests were conducted in only 52% of the cases.
“Sometimes it’s the doctor, sometimes it’s the police who will say things to the victim like ‘the hymen is torn, it will come out as official and then no one will marry you,’” an NGO lawyer dealing exclusively with POCSO cases told Hindustan Times.
An analysis of the data also shows that 86 percent of the accused were known to the children. Strangers were accused in 24 cases and caretakers in two. However, 56 of the accused were former lovers, 33 were neighbours and 27 of were family members.
Of the 56 cases lovers, 40 were acquitted and in 13 other cases, the survivor told the court her parents had filed a complaint after she eloped.
At least 27 accused belonged to the child’s family and a conviction took place in only one of these cases. Lawyers dealing with child complainants said that it is especially hard to procure a conviction in POCSO cases if the accused is known to the victim and gets bail from court.
Former additional solicitor general, Indira Jaising explains the complication. “The mother of the child is also dependent on the men in the family for her own sustenance and therefore would tolerate the victim saying she was not raped.”
(District courts data compiled by interns Srishti Juneja, Vidushi Gupta, Tanuj Dayal. Data analysis by Avantika Mehta and Vignesh Radhakrishnan)