Seeking adult help
It’s difficult to imagine what kind of justice can be done to an abused 13-year-old child forced into motherhood, or to a 12-year-old boy who accepts being sexually abused as something natural. But in its final form, the Offences Against Children Act, 2006 should effectively bridge the chasm between what the Constitution provides for child rights, welfare and development and the staggering number of cases of the Constitution being flouted. Coming on the heels of a Mumbai sessions court sentencing two paedophiles, the draft law includes rape of boys, which so far, had eluded the law’s ambit. The law should spur speedier registration, quicker follow-ups and closure of cases with ‘demonstrated’ effect, so as to act as a strong deterrent against children’s abuse and exploitation.
A law not in use is of no use. Sadly, this is the case with a very large section of
India’s children. People entrusted with child care are, far too many times, found to be perpetrators of unimaginable crimes — from threatening low achievers with being paraded naked in school (and, in cases, pushing them to suicide) to locking up children, and worse. This pattern of torture can be as traumatic as molestation and sexual abuse. As a signatory to the UN Convention for Child Rights and with a National Policy on Children in place, India may have focused on creating a better future for its children. But this ‘focus’ wavered when it came to setting up educational and health delivery systems — these lack in-built guards against abuse of these systems. The ideals promoted by successive governments have, in many cases, been turned on their heads. The law, as it exists, is riddled with lacunae. For instance, India’s law book has different ages to define children for different acts, which provides a canopy for criminals. There’s a plethora of children’s issues that the State needs to tackle aggressively — begging, child labour and sex work being the most urgent ones.
A robust legal framework for protecting children sends out the message that wrongs need not be tolerated. The draft bill is with the states for review. If only the issue were as important for our politicians as, say, the proposed law on office of profit.