India: Majlis Report exposes hurdles at every step for Child Sexual Abuse victims
Wednesday April 11, 2018
Child sexual abuse victims face hurdle at every step By Sonam Saigal
Report brought out by Majlis, an NGO, highlights the problems they face at police station, hospital, court, child welfare committee, and govt. dept.
Victims of child sexual abuse face hardships when they approach the police, hospital, child welfare committee (CWC), court, and even the department of women and child development. Majlis, a non-governmental organisation, which has been working with such cases for the last 25 years, released a report, highlighting the teething problems in the system, at Jan Sunvayi (public hearing) on Tuesday.
Hours at police station
The report says filing an FIR and recording the victim’s statement takes around seven hours. Even though the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) states the statement can be recorded at a venue of the victim’s choice, the child is still brought to the police station. The victim is taken for a medical examination in the middle of the night or early morning immediately after the registration of the FIR, even though there is no emergency or likelihood of loss of evidence. The police record the victim’s statement, take for a medical test, and then take the child to the place of offence, without a break, and this lasts about 15 hours. Besides, there is usually a delay of weeks in the submission of the FIR.
Trauma at hospitals
The medical examination, the report points out, takes about nearly eight hours to complete. There is no single window, and the child has to keep visiting different departments. In several hospitals, the process takes almost four days due to lack of doctors. If the victim goes directly to the hospital, there is an inordinate delay in informing the police. Many times, the victim is not given a copy of the medical examination. Many hospitals have one-stop-help centres to report CSA cases to the CWC, but they fail to do so.
No relief at court
Majlis says there is an inordinate delay in recording the evidence of the victim, which often results in the victim turning hostile or getting pressured by the defence. Special courts are designated to hear the POCSO cases, but some judges and prosecutors lack the specialised training to handle sensitive cases. Public prosecutors do not spend adequate time studying the facts due to which objections are not raised during cross-examination. A better coordination between the police and the public prosecutor is essential to ensure a strong charge sheet. Some judges and public prosecutors are not well-versed with the role of ‘support person’ (a person assigned by the CWC to assist the child through investigation and trial).
CWC has no time
A thorough home investigation report, care plan, and progress report for each case at a child care institution is the CWC’s priority. It is required to hold sittings at different children’s homes to ensure accessibility, which rarely occurs. Some CWCs do not have fixed days and timings for sittings, resulting in inconvenience to the victim and family. There is no standardised method of maintaining documents, records, and hearings before the committee, and lack of digitisation leads to a loss of dockets.
Delay in disbursement
Recent changes to the Manodhariya scheme have caused a delay in disbursement of compensation. The department of women and child development has failed to set up ‘district trauma teams’ in each district as per the government resolution. There are also issues like vacancies in the CWC, non-payment of honorarium to members, and lack of adequate infrastructure.