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Sexual assault on minors: In recent cases, maximum 20-year jail term for inflicting a lifelong trauma

Justice denied? For minor rape survivors, most difficult step is to confide in family members about sexual assault and abuse by relatives; rare cases go to counsellors, but many suffer in silence.

punjab Updated: Jul 26, 2017 11:58 IST
Aneesha Bedi
Aneesha Bedi
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Sexual assault,Sexual assault on minors,20-year jail term
Taking a look at some recent cases involving the rape and sexual abuse of minors by family members in Chandigarh, it emerged that it was difficult for the survivors to confide in their family.(Representative image )

The court has often said that it displays no leniency while awarding punishment in cases of rape and sexual abuse of minors, but the verdict tells another story. The maximum punishment awarded in such cases goes up to 20 years of imprisonment. Let alone the trauma that rape survivors undergo. It begins from the time the crime is committed against them to confiding in their families about sexual assault and abuse to dealing with it after it is out in the open.

The father of the 10-year-old rape survivor from Chandigarh, whose plea for aborting a 30-week pregnancy was shot down by a district court, wants that the accused should be awarded the death penalty. He feels only that will bring justice and peace to the family. In this case, the girl was allegedly continuously raped by her maternal uncle over seven months. Even as the focus is on how the child will cope with giving birth to a baby at such a tender age, for her the agony started when she first survived sexual assault.

Taking a look at some recent cases involving the rape and sexual abuse of minors by family members in Chandigarh, it emerged that it was difficult for the survivors to confide in their family. While some sought help from counsellors at Snehalaya in Maloya, others chose to keep mum until it was time for a medical check up.

Snehalaya counsellors come to the rescue?

In February, the father of a 12-year-old girl was sentenced 20 years in jail for raping her. The girl’s mother left the house when she was 10, following which her father started sexually assaulting her. According to the girl’s statement, he took her clothes off when she was asleep and slept beside her. Petrified, she was unable to share her trauma. With two more sisters, she was unaware whether he ever did this with the others.

She was enrolled in Snehalaya where she confided in her counsellor. Her father was booked for rape after a medical examination confirmed sexual assault. The 12-year-old reportedly tried confiding in her maternal grandmother who tried pacifying the father to take the girl away but nothing changed.

In another case, it took a lot of effort for a 12-year-old girl to come to terms with the fact that her uncle had raped her. He was later sentenced to 10 years in jail on December 12, 2016, under relevant sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

According to the girl’s statement, the accused was a relative of her father’s who was a frequent visitor to the house. In 2013-14, he came to their house and urged the father that he would like to sleep beside the girl as she was just like his daughter. As soon as he got the hance, he started showing her obscene movies and pictures and even touched her inappropriately, followed by rape. The girl stated that she was too afraid to narrate this horrific incident to anyone and one night she started howling. Fearing the repercussions, she never shared the incident with anyone at home until she told a teacher at Snehalaya.

For a 15-year-old, who was threatened by her uncle to not reveal anything about his ‘actions’, it wasn’t easy confiding in her mother. In March, however, the uncle was sentenced to 10 years in jail for raping his niece at a park.

Empowered by DLSA

District Legal Services Authority (DLSA), Chandigarh, awards a compensation to minor rape survivors under the Victim Assistance Scheme, 2012. The legal body is empowered to examine such cases and verify contents of the claim with regard to loss or injury or both. The UT administration has framed this scheme to provide funds for the purpose of assistance to the survivors or their dependents who have suffered loss or injury or both as a result of the crime and for those who require rehabilitation. This scheme is funded through the Consolidated Fund of India. In four such cases, the DLSA awarded Rs 10 lakh compensation each to the minor rape survivors.

What they say

“Many are unaware that there is a legal binding that if you are told about abuse, you have to report it. Besides, child survivors gain confidence once they are out of their home environment and chances of confiding in others increase,” Neil Robert, child welfare committee, Snehalaya, said.

“It is the joint responsibility of the society to compensate minor rape survivors and provide all possible assistance.In many cases when the trial is on, if an application is moved, we even give separate compensation for the survivor’s treatment,” Amarinder Sharma, secretary-cum-chief judicial magistrate, DLSA, said.

A public prosecuter said that in many cases, survivors turn hostile due to pressure from family during the trial and a judge can’t help but acquit the accused. The psychological dilemma makes them change their decisions soon, especially under pressure.

First Published: Jul 26, 2017 11:17 IST