The rape of innocence

The rape of innocence

The right place for toddlers and small girls is play pens and pre-schools, not hospitals. But, every day, an increasing number of innocent children...

The right place for toddlers and small girls is play pens and pre-schools, not hospitals. But, every day, an increasing number of innocent children are ending up on hospital beds, not because they are involved in accidents or down with serious illnesses but because of a disease called juvenile rape spreading fast among men of all ages across the country.

The recent brutal rape of a five-year-old by a neighbour and his friend in Delhi and similar incidents being reported from other areas speak volumes about rape of children as little as a few months old, mostly by known males. In some cases, the bodies were thrown into the bush or dumped in a bin after the beastly act.

Why is there a sudden spurt in juvenile molestations? Is it because the media is reporting such cases more openly or parents of the victims are going to the police to complain against the perpetrators of the crime when social taboos and community curbs had curbed them from doing so in earlier days? Either way, the incidence of child-rape has been increasing along with sexual crimes against women.

According to a report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights, a total of 48,338 child rape cases were recorded between 2001 and 2011. It was a 336 per cent rise from 2,113 to 7,112 in that decade. Since the figures were based on National Crime Records Bureau, they were official. Unofficially, there might have been thousands of cases unreported and unaccounted for, particularly from rural areas where the poor man's voice is seldom heard. Even if we go by the official statistics, child rapes have been substantially increasing and the trend seems to have intensified in the last couple of years if daily reports are any indication.

It is a cause for concern and is symptomatic of many ills that are creeping into society. The increasing incidence also exposes the government and law-enforcing agencies' inability to nab the culprits and book them as soon as possible. Even if the rapists are caught, it takes ages for the courts to punish them, and in many cases they get away with simple fines and a few years of imprisonment. While the offenders lead normal life, the victims, traumatized by the events, lead a sullied life. In the absence of rehabilitation programmes, they often face social boycott by own family and community members. The stigma stuck to the rape victims will become so unbearable for them that they often think of ending their lives.

These are all psycho-sociological aspects of a life ruined in the early stages of development. Who is responsible for the plight of girls? Obviously, the rapists who robbed them of their innocence when they were too young even to realize what it was all about; the society which is increasingly failing to inculcate moral values among the young, the law enforcers who are corrupt and act only when people with political and financial clout goad them into action and the laws that are lax and not stringent enough to be deterrents and strike fear among the offenders. Individually and collectively, all are responsible and in a way they are failing the system that is supposed to protect and safeguard the innocence of girl child.

As a result, fear psychosis is spreading among ordinary people. They are afraid of sending girls to schools alone; everyone � from school bus driver to watchman of the building and neighbour -- is becoming a potential sex fiend; an uncle can suddenly turn into a rapist; a grandpa can be overtaken by lusty desires and try to satisfy them by luring a little girl from neighbourhood; and so on. In other words, the trust quotient is at stake and it doesn't portend well for the polity.

Remedial measures need to be taken before it goes out of hand at all levels. While politicians are worried over civil unrest that surfaces whenever there is a strong case for mass action like in the gang-rape of Nirbhay in December last and the five-year-old last week in Delhi, little has been done to stem the rot. On the other hand, their insensitive and asinine statements further estrange them from the people. Their general thinking is once new laws had been made post Nirbhaya incident, the law would take its own course to tackle sexual offences against women, including paedophiles and child-rapists.

It does, of course. But a grey area that needs to be looked at and given serious attention to is how to prevent child-rapes, particularly among economically lower classes which are found to be more vulnerable and whose children are exploited in every way. To deal with such offences, stringent punishments that are exemplary are the only way. If the intending offenders have no fear of law, it should be conveyed through tough sentences to culprits. A suggestion often touted by mothers and activists is to name and shame them wherever they go instead of throwing them into jail for a few years hoping to reform them.

It may have limited effect. A better option, probably, is to set up special courts to try child rapists under the new law. At the same time, the police too should be educated about the sensitivities of the cases involving girl children and their sensibilities and how important it is to file reports and swing into action when a child rape is brought to their notice.

Only collective responsible action will help protect the innocence of juvenile girls from being raped by brutes prowling among us. Mere statements of sympathy and monetary compensations won't heal the wounds of small girls caused by uncouth men.

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