The arrests of two teenaged boys allegedly for committing sexual crimes against four-year-old girls last week, are not stray incidents, the Mumbai police claim.
Statistics available with the police department say that crimes against minor girls in the city are on the rise.
Until September this year, 115 cases of molestation of girls have been reported. The figure in 2009 was 111.
There has also been a rise in cases of outraging the modesty of girls from 14 cases in 2009 to 19 this year, police records claim.
“We suspect there could be many more such instances that don’t make it to the crime registers,” Deven Bharti, additional commissioner of police (crime), said. “Many children are abused and exploited in slums and those instances are seldom reported. But one thing is for sure that such cases are on the rise.”
Madhavi Mhatre, activist with Childline India Foundation, attributed the rise in these cases to sociological factors.
“There are more nuclear families with working parents. Children are left alone at home and are more vulnerable to abuse,” Mhatre said. “In joint families, there was a support structure even when the parents were away.” Snehal Rane from Balprafulta, an organisation working for child rights, said: “Young girls and boys are easy targets because there is a belief that they can be easily controlled. In most cases, the child is too scared to reveal anything about the incident to anyone.”
Dr. Nilima Mehta, former chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee said pressure to survive causes frustration that, in turn, leads to aggressive behaviour. “This aggression is directed towards vulnerable people like children and senior citizens,” she said. “There is also the factor of alienation and anonymity these days when people are not even aware about their next-door neighbours. Earlier, your neighbour’s children were like your children. In certain cases, they are seen as convenient targets.”
Mhatre said the police need to ensure that such cases are investigated properly and punitive action be taken. “Therapeutic treatment for the victim and the accused will help,” she said.