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Living in the open, surrounded by risks

Vulnerable: Homeless children, adolescents and even women living in unprotected environment on streets make easy prey for sexual abuse

lucknow Updated: Mar 26, 2018 13:06 IST
Richa Srivastava
Richa Srivastava
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Homeless,Risk,Sexual abuse
For them, each day is vulnerable. When the sun sets and the traffic on the roads increases, life becomes all the more unsafe.(HT Photo)

They are three sisters (all minors) whose father died due to excessive drinking four years ago. Their mother runs a roadside tea and gutka stall which hardly ensures two square meals for the family. The family doesn’t have a house and lives in a temporary shelter under a flyover in Lucknow .

Recent incidents
  • October 2017: A drunkard attempted to rape a farming labourer’s wife after barging into her temporary shelter.
  • October 2017: Rape of a pavement dweller inside an abandoned police booth in Daliganj area.
  • January 2017: A 42-year-old woman who had come to KGMU with a patient was gang raped by three people while she was asleep on the pavement near the main gate of the hospital.
  • May 2015: A 18-month-old girl of a pavement dweller was kidnapped when she was sleeping along with her mother on the pavement near Phoenix mall on the intervening night of May 8 and May 9. The child, who was raped, was later found lying on a cart, barely 250 metres from the place where her family was sleeping.

“There have been instances when the men who come to the shop strike a conversation with us . Some of them even offer us a movie show and dinner,” say the girls.

For them, each day is vulnerable. When the sun sets and the traffic on the roads increases, life becomes all the more unsafe.

“Such girls undergo sexual, physical and mental abuse on a daily basis. Many of them don’t even realise that they are being misused and exploited for petty favours,” says Ashish Srivastava, who works for the rights of trafficked girls.

“Teenage pregnancies are common. A number of girls even lose their lives because of this,” says Shachi Singh, who has been working for street children and those on railway stations for over a decade.

Shachi recalls, “I remember there was a girl on the railway station. One day when we went, the children told us that she had died because she was pregnant. She was only 13-years-old.”

Such instances aren’t uncommon. Among all other women, those living on the streets are a very vulnerable lot when it comes to rape and sexual assault. While cases of sexual crime against those living in slums often come to light, any kind of assault with street children is hardly reported.

  • National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) recent data suggest that Uttar Pradesh tops the list in crime against minors with around 15% of share of total crime against children in the country.It is closely followed by Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh with 14 percent and 13 percent respectively. Similarly, Delhi and West Bengal recorded 8 percent and 6 percent of crime respectively
  • The data analysis also suggests that the second biggest category of crime against children in terms of numbers is rape, amounting to more than 18% of all crimes against children, while crimes under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences act(POCSO) constitute around 4% of total crimes.
  • The data reveals that more than 50% crimes against children have been recorded in just five states, namely Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and West Bengal..
  • The data also shows that there has been a sharp increase of 11% in crime against children across the country between 2015 and 2016. Going by absolute numbers, it’s an increase of 12,786 reported crimes against children across the country. The total number of crimes against children reported in 2016 is 1, 06,958, while 94,172 crimes were recorded in 2015.
  • A cumulative analysis done by a child rights organisation CRY (Child Rights and You) shows a steady upward trend with a significant increase of more than 500% over a period of the past one decade (1,06,958 in 2016 over 18,967 in 2006).

“How can we expect a teenage girl sleeping on the divider of the road to be safe? She is exploited daily,” says Usha Vishwakarma, a social worker.

“They are soft targets of auto drivers, rickshaw pullers and even those who move in big cars”, she adds.

“Crime with such people continues to go on as no one takes the initiative to raise a voice against it. Somehow they have accepted such crimes as a part of their daily lives,” says Sangeeta Sharma, member Lucknow’s child welfare committee.

“No cases of rape, sodomy or murder of street children is ever recorded. Who is going to file an FIR for these children who have been abandoned by society and trapped by gangs?” she adds.

Those working in the sector say that it is these girls who are pushed into prostitution and are trafficked . “We see a lot of little girls begging on the roads. But as soon as they attain teenage, they disappear from the roads. Has anyone ever tried to find out where these girls go? The fact is that they become part of a bigger crime,” says Sangeeta Sharma.

First Published: Mar 26, 2018 13:03 IST