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Maharashtra: Four tribal children hacked to death!

Their parents, who were attending a funeral at Madhya Pradesh,   rushed back to their village on hearing news that their four minor children had been killed in their home.

17 Oct 2020

Violence

Four tribal children were allegedly hacked to death with an axe at a village in Jalgaon, Maharashtra on October 16, 2020, said an Indian Express report.

According to Nashik’s Inspector General of Police Pratap Dighavkar and Jalgaon Superintendent of Police Pravin Mundhe, police rushed to the village after the family’s landlord Mushtaq Shaikh found the bodies at 8 AM on Friday.

Shaikh, who had been looking after the children at their parents’ behest, went to their room to wake them up but instead saw all four children lying in a pool of blood and an axe on the floor. An FIR for murder was lodged at Raver police station against an unidentified person. Assistant Superintendent of Police Kumar Chintha will head the Special Investigation Team, said Mundhe.

The bodies of the four children, all under 15 years, were taken to the Jalgaon District Civil Hospital for a post-mortem. The children belonged to Pawara tribe, a subdivision of Bhil Adivasi community spread across western, central and north-eastern India.

They lived with their parents, Mehtab and Rumali Bai Bhilala at Borkheda Shivar village. Mehtab and Rumali had left for their family home at Gadhi village, Madhya Pradesh on October 15 morning to attend a funeral.

According to the Police Patil of Borkheda Shivar Arun Patil, the low-income family lived in a shack consisting of bare essentials and a tin roof on the outskirts of the village. They left Madhya Pradesh eight years ago in search of work. Moreover, they were the only tribal family in the village of 350 people.

State Minister of Water Supply and Sanitation and Jalgaon Rural MLA Gulabrao Patil asked police to consider the possibility of fast-tracking the case once it goes to trial.

“We will also seek assistance from (Special Public Prosecutor) Ujjwal Nikam since he hails from Jalgaon,” he said in the report.

Related:

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Bihar police shower bullets and lathis on Adivasis in Kaimur!

MP: Adivasi activists illegally detained and tortured by forest officials

Three decades on, many Sardar Sarovar Dam affected persons still await rehabilitation

Maharashtra: Four tribal children hacked to death!

Their parents, who were attending a funeral at Madhya Pradesh,   rushed back to their village on hearing news that their four minor children had been killed in their home.

Violence

Four tribal children were allegedly hacked to death with an axe at a village in Jalgaon, Maharashtra on October 16, 2020, said an Indian Express report.

According to Nashik’s Inspector General of Police Pratap Dighavkar and Jalgaon Superintendent of Police Pravin Mundhe, police rushed to the village after the family’s landlord Mushtaq Shaikh found the bodies at 8 AM on Friday.

Shaikh, who had been looking after the children at their parents’ behest, went to their room to wake them up but instead saw all four children lying in a pool of blood and an axe on the floor. An FIR for murder was lodged at Raver police station against an unidentified person. Assistant Superintendent of Police Kumar Chintha will head the Special Investigation Team, said Mundhe.

The bodies of the four children, all under 15 years, were taken to the Jalgaon District Civil Hospital for a post-mortem. The children belonged to Pawara tribe, a subdivision of Bhil Adivasi community spread across western, central and north-eastern India.

They lived with their parents, Mehtab and Rumali Bai Bhilala at Borkheda Shivar village. Mehtab and Rumali had left for their family home at Gadhi village, Madhya Pradesh on October 15 morning to attend a funeral.

According to the Police Patil of Borkheda Shivar Arun Patil, the low-income family lived in a shack consisting of bare essentials and a tin roof on the outskirts of the village. They left Madhya Pradesh eight years ago in search of work. Moreover, they were the only tribal family in the village of 350 people.

State Minister of Water Supply and Sanitation and Jalgaon Rural MLA Gulabrao Patil asked police to consider the possibility of fast-tracking the case once it goes to trial.

“We will also seek assistance from (Special Public Prosecutor) Ujjwal Nikam since he hails from Jalgaon,” he said in the report.

Related:

157 attacks on Christians in 3rd quarter of 2020: Persecution Relief

Bihar police shower bullets and lathis on Adivasis in Kaimur!

MP: Adivasi activists illegally detained and tortured by forest officials

Three decades on, many Sardar Sarovar Dam affected persons still await rehabilitation

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Is the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights now looking for anti-CAA children?

Children’s welfare homes, once connected with civil rights activist Harsh Mander, have been raided by NCPCR

03 Oct 2020

Khushi Rainbow Home

When the nation is coming together to protest the unabated rapes and murders of Dalit children, teenagers, and the government’s apathy, and often targeting the victims, activists, and media, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, the continued nationwide witchhunt against anti-CAA-NRC-NPR activists seems to have diversified towards focussing on minors it appears.

Social activist Harsh Mander on Thursday shared that the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had conducted a “surprise raid” on two children’s welfare homes with which he had once been associated. Strangely, the raiding party, according to Mander, who has been quoted in the media, asked the welfare home workers if the ‘children had participated in the anti-CAA protests’. The women-led protests which began in December were largely women of all ages, who were then joined by men, and a few of the protesting mothers, sometimes brought their children along. However the NCPCR, according to reports has decided that the children who they ‘assume’ may be living in welfare homes that give shelter to mostly abandoned kids.

Harsh Mander, shared that the NCPCR conducted a surprise ‘raid’ on two children’s homes in Delhi with which he had been associated in the past, the homes named Ummeed Aman Ghar and Khushi Rainbow Home, were raided on October 1. According to Mander, who issued a detailed statement, the raid “was led by chairperson of the NCPCR himself.”

However, the Indian Express reported that the NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo said “he wasn’t aware the homes were associated with Mander”. Kanoongo states that it was “only after reading his statement that I have got to know about it. There are more than 7,000 such homes, and we had gone to them as part of our routine audits,” he said. The IE asked if the NCPCR officials had asked about children’s participation in anti-CAA protests, as alleged by Mander, Kanoongo said, “I can only tell you once I have the report in front of me.” Kanoongo dismissed Mander’s allegations saying, “He can say whatever he wants”

But Mander has put on record and stated that the raid had “four central focuses” and the most important was if “the children participated in anti-CAA protests”. The second was about his association with the homes and the last one was if there was any “foreign funding”. Mader has said that “Ummeed is entirely funded from Indian donors. Khushi also is largely supported by Indian donors, but has some foreign donors as well.” He added that the “fourth question was if we had given shelter to any Rohingya children. My colleagues said… we don’t focus on the identity of any child; the only thing important for us is that she or he is homeless and in need of care and protection.” 

 

This is the complete text of Harsh Mander’ statement issued on October 1, 2020.

 

I learnt today that the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) descended on a surprise 'raid' on two children's homes in Delhi with which I have been associated in the past, Ummeed Aman Ghar and Khushi Rainbow Home, this morning on 1 October. This was led by the Chairperson of the NCPCR himself. 

A brief context may be useful. After I left the IAS, I felt that one of the things I must try to do was to find humane highly scalable public systems of protection for homeless street children. Their neglect by public policy for more than half a century I regarded as an unconscionable public crime. My colleagues and I developed the idea for homeless children to share existing school spaces, where they would study with other children in the day and sleep in safety at night. These were open, voluntary, non-custodial stay homes for children without homes and families, with high standards of comprehensive care, and high focus on child participation. This was accepted as a model by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan policy framework in 2011, it is continued even in Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan in 2018. This idea has been replicated over the last 13 years by dedicated people and organisations in various cities in our country, reached out to over 10000 children, presently taking care of 5000 former street children. 

I am no longer formally associated with these homes. But I have close bonds of great love with the children especially in Delhi, who call me Harsh Papa. I visit them when I can, to assure myself about their welfare, speak to them about the world and leading a good life, and sing songs together.

The NCPCR team in its "raids" on the two homes had four central focuses. The most important was whether the children participated in the anti-CAA protests. The second focus was about my association with the homes. The children spoke about the occasional visits  to meet them. The third focus was on foreign funding. As it happens, Ummeed is entirely funded from Indian donors. Khushi also is largely supported by Indian donors, but has some foreign donors as well. The fourth question was whether we had given shelter to any Rohingya children. My colleagues said that for us, we don't focus on the identity of any child; the only thing important for us is that she or he is homeless and in need of care and protection. 

It is no secret that the Union government, using various official agencies which fall under its control, has launched a massive campaign against those who participated in the peaceful non-violent protests against the CAA/NRC/NPR from December 2019 to March 2020. It has been made amply clear by the actions of the state machinery that I am one of those targeted.

In its affidavits to the High Court and Supreme Court, and in a number of its charge-sheets, the Delhi Police has charged me with the fantastical allegation that I was part of a group that fomented hate under the 'facade of peace', referring to my address to anguished students in Jamia Millia Islamia University on December 16, and that I committed contempt of the Supreme Court by criticising its failures to defend minority rights and freedoms. The full recording of this address, and indeed all my speeches and public writings make apparent that instead I spoke about the centrality of love and the Constitution, the importance of non-violence, and that the soul of the freedom struggle and the constitution was the idea of a humane and inclusive nation of equal citizenship for people of all faiths,  castes and genders. 

This morning of 1 October  it was evident that the government was using one more of its agencies, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to advance its campaign against the peaceful protesters and dissenters, to defame me. I have no idea about the spin that the NCPCR may give to their investigation. The NCPCR is India's apex body for child rights, and is well within its rights to enquire about the welfare of children in any context. But the timing, mode and questions raised by them are unconventional and raise doubts about the motivation of the agency, whether it will be just one more willing tool for the witch-hunt that is ongoing against independent dissenters in India today.    

It is apparent that the objective behind this hydra-headed witch-hunt of wild police charges and defamatory innuendos to damage reputations and shut down organizations - using a range of official agencies -is to intimidate and discredit dissenters who are committed to the defence of the constitution into silence. My former colleagues are deeply committed to standing by the most vulnerable homeless child whatever it may take.  I am convinced that our republic is passing through one of its darkest times, dominated by the politics of hate and the crushing of freedoms. Therefore it is my foremost duty, as also the duty of all those who love this country and its people, to not be silenced, to continue to resist, to continue to speak out and organize for love, fraternity and justice.

Harsh Mander

1 October 2020


SabrangIndia has reported extensively on the continued harassment and vilification of all activists opposing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) by the various government agencies and departments. By the time the protests rolled into the New Year, politicians from the ruling party and the media aligned to right wing ideologies had vilified minorities and degraded their fight, calling them to be traitors. In February 2020, orchestrated violence against the minorities, took place in the capital, with the police allegedly complicit in the attacks, according to fact finding reports. This violence, which was clearly provoked after RW leaders incited public sentiment through hate speech, was soon connected by the authorities to speeches made by civil rights activists. One of those targeted then was Harsh Mander, leader of Karwan-e-Mohabbat. Mander was accused of denigrating the Supreme Court of India and inciting violence. A case was filed against him with the Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, presenting clipped versions of his speech to the Supreme Court. 

Many, including former civil servants spoke up in his defence. However, in early March this year, the Supreme Court refused to proceed with hearing his petition to file FIRs in hate speech cases, until he clarified if he had made statements against the court. NDTV reported Chief Justice SA Bobde as saying, “You made statements against the Supreme Court. We will not hear you now... If this is what Harsh Mander feels about the Supreme Court, then we will have to decide on that first.”

Mander has been a thorn in the regime’s side for many years, as SabrangIndia has reported earlier. He spearheaded a petition against the inhuman conditions in Assam’s infamous detention camps, he also filed a petition in the Delhi High Court to seek directions to the police to file FIRs against BJP leaders Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma. He is also one of the petitioners against the CAA along with Aruna Roy, Nikhil De, Irfan Habib and many others. This latest move against Mander is not new, and unfortunately, as the pattern of targeting activists has shown, it may not be the last.

 

Related: 

I should have remembered Gandhians have lost favour with this regime: Julio Ribeiro

An officer and a gentleman

Why do investigations into the Delhi riots appear to be a conspiracy in itself?

Ex-civil servants decry vilification of Harsh Mander for speech during anti-CAA protests

Is the Delhi Pogrom 2020 really over?

Is the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights now looking for anti-CAA children?

Children’s welfare homes, once connected with civil rights activist Harsh Mander, have been raided by NCPCR

Khushi Rainbow Home

When the nation is coming together to protest the unabated rapes and murders of Dalit children, teenagers, and the government’s apathy, and often targeting the victims, activists, and media, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, the continued nationwide witchhunt against anti-CAA-NRC-NPR activists seems to have diversified towards focussing on minors it appears.

Social activist Harsh Mander on Thursday shared that the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had conducted a “surprise raid” on two children’s welfare homes with which he had once been associated. Strangely, the raiding party, according to Mander, who has been quoted in the media, asked the welfare home workers if the ‘children had participated in the anti-CAA protests’. The women-led protests which began in December were largely women of all ages, who were then joined by men, and a few of the protesting mothers, sometimes brought their children along. However the NCPCR, according to reports has decided that the children who they ‘assume’ may be living in welfare homes that give shelter to mostly abandoned kids.

Harsh Mander, shared that the NCPCR conducted a surprise ‘raid’ on two children’s homes in Delhi with which he had been associated in the past, the homes named Ummeed Aman Ghar and Khushi Rainbow Home, were raided on October 1. According to Mander, who issued a detailed statement, the raid “was led by chairperson of the NCPCR himself.”

However, the Indian Express reported that the NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo said “he wasn’t aware the homes were associated with Mander”. Kanoongo states that it was “only after reading his statement that I have got to know about it. There are more than 7,000 such homes, and we had gone to them as part of our routine audits,” he said. The IE asked if the NCPCR officials had asked about children’s participation in anti-CAA protests, as alleged by Mander, Kanoongo said, “I can only tell you once I have the report in front of me.” Kanoongo dismissed Mander’s allegations saying, “He can say whatever he wants”

But Mander has put on record and stated that the raid had “four central focuses” and the most important was if “the children participated in anti-CAA protests”. The second was about his association with the homes and the last one was if there was any “foreign funding”. Mader has said that “Ummeed is entirely funded from Indian donors. Khushi also is largely supported by Indian donors, but has some foreign donors as well.” He added that the “fourth question was if we had given shelter to any Rohingya children. My colleagues said… we don’t focus on the identity of any child; the only thing important for us is that she or he is homeless and in need of care and protection.” 

 

This is the complete text of Harsh Mander’ statement issued on October 1, 2020.

 

I learnt today that the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) descended on a surprise 'raid' on two children's homes in Delhi with which I have been associated in the past, Ummeed Aman Ghar and Khushi Rainbow Home, this morning on 1 October. This was led by the Chairperson of the NCPCR himself. 

A brief context may be useful. After I left the IAS, I felt that one of the things I must try to do was to find humane highly scalable public systems of protection for homeless street children. Their neglect by public policy for more than half a century I regarded as an unconscionable public crime. My colleagues and I developed the idea for homeless children to share existing school spaces, where they would study with other children in the day and sleep in safety at night. These were open, voluntary, non-custodial stay homes for children without homes and families, with high standards of comprehensive care, and high focus on child participation. This was accepted as a model by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan policy framework in 2011, it is continued even in Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan in 2018. This idea has been replicated over the last 13 years by dedicated people and organisations in various cities in our country, reached out to over 10000 children, presently taking care of 5000 former street children. 

I am no longer formally associated with these homes. But I have close bonds of great love with the children especially in Delhi, who call me Harsh Papa. I visit them when I can, to assure myself about their welfare, speak to them about the world and leading a good life, and sing songs together.

The NCPCR team in its "raids" on the two homes had four central focuses. The most important was whether the children participated in the anti-CAA protests. The second focus was about my association with the homes. The children spoke about the occasional visits  to meet them. The third focus was on foreign funding. As it happens, Ummeed is entirely funded from Indian donors. Khushi also is largely supported by Indian donors, but has some foreign donors as well. The fourth question was whether we had given shelter to any Rohingya children. My colleagues said that for us, we don't focus on the identity of any child; the only thing important for us is that she or he is homeless and in need of care and protection. 

It is no secret that the Union government, using various official agencies which fall under its control, has launched a massive campaign against those who participated in the peaceful non-violent protests against the CAA/NRC/NPR from December 2019 to March 2020. It has been made amply clear by the actions of the state machinery that I am one of those targeted.

In its affidavits to the High Court and Supreme Court, and in a number of its charge-sheets, the Delhi Police has charged me with the fantastical allegation that I was part of a group that fomented hate under the 'facade of peace', referring to my address to anguished students in Jamia Millia Islamia University on December 16, and that I committed contempt of the Supreme Court by criticising its failures to defend minority rights and freedoms. The full recording of this address, and indeed all my speeches and public writings make apparent that instead I spoke about the centrality of love and the Constitution, the importance of non-violence, and that the soul of the freedom struggle and the constitution was the idea of a humane and inclusive nation of equal citizenship for people of all faiths,  castes and genders. 

This morning of 1 October  it was evident that the government was using one more of its agencies, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to advance its campaign against the peaceful protesters and dissenters, to defame me. I have no idea about the spin that the NCPCR may give to their investigation. The NCPCR is India's apex body for child rights, and is well within its rights to enquire about the welfare of children in any context. But the timing, mode and questions raised by them are unconventional and raise doubts about the motivation of the agency, whether it will be just one more willing tool for the witch-hunt that is ongoing against independent dissenters in India today.    

It is apparent that the objective behind this hydra-headed witch-hunt of wild police charges and defamatory innuendos to damage reputations and shut down organizations - using a range of official agencies -is to intimidate and discredit dissenters who are committed to the defence of the constitution into silence. My former colleagues are deeply committed to standing by the most vulnerable homeless child whatever it may take.  I am convinced that our republic is passing through one of its darkest times, dominated by the politics of hate and the crushing of freedoms. Therefore it is my foremost duty, as also the duty of all those who love this country and its people, to not be silenced, to continue to resist, to continue to speak out and organize for love, fraternity and justice.

Harsh Mander

1 October 2020


SabrangIndia has reported extensively on the continued harassment and vilification of all activists opposing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) by the various government agencies and departments. By the time the protests rolled into the New Year, politicians from the ruling party and the media aligned to right wing ideologies had vilified minorities and degraded their fight, calling them to be traitors. In February 2020, orchestrated violence against the minorities, took place in the capital, with the police allegedly complicit in the attacks, according to fact finding reports. This violence, which was clearly provoked after RW leaders incited public sentiment through hate speech, was soon connected by the authorities to speeches made by civil rights activists. One of those targeted then was Harsh Mander, leader of Karwan-e-Mohabbat. Mander was accused of denigrating the Supreme Court of India and inciting violence. A case was filed against him with the Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, presenting clipped versions of his speech to the Supreme Court. 

Many, including former civil servants spoke up in his defence. However, in early March this year, the Supreme Court refused to proceed with hearing his petition to file FIRs in hate speech cases, until he clarified if he had made statements against the court. NDTV reported Chief Justice SA Bobde as saying, “You made statements against the Supreme Court. We will not hear you now... If this is what Harsh Mander feels about the Supreme Court, then we will have to decide on that first.”

Mander has been a thorn in the regime’s side for many years, as SabrangIndia has reported earlier. He spearheaded a petition against the inhuman conditions in Assam’s infamous detention camps, he also filed a petition in the Delhi High Court to seek directions to the police to file FIRs against BJP leaders Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma. He is also one of the petitioners against the CAA along with Aruna Roy, Nikhil De, Irfan Habib and many others. This latest move against Mander is not new, and unfortunately, as the pattern of targeting activists has shown, it may not be the last.

 

Related: 

I should have remembered Gandhians have lost favour with this regime: Julio Ribeiro

An officer and a gentleman

Why do investigations into the Delhi riots appear to be a conspiracy in itself?

Ex-civil servants decry vilification of Harsh Mander for speech during anti-CAA protests

Is the Delhi Pogrom 2020 really over?

Related Articles


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No cases of child sexual violence in Gujarat since 2017?

The Ministry of Women and Child Development’s data showed that as many as 41 child sexual violence complaints were reported in last three years, but none in Gujarat.

24 Sep 2020

child abuse

Gujarat, the state that was recently criticised for its rising crimes against children, reported zero cases of child sexual violence in the last three years, said the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

When Member of Parliament Rajeshbhai Chudasama, asked about the number of cases of child torture and sexual exploitation at shelter homes, Union Minister Smriti Irani said, “As per the information provided by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), they have received 41 complaints relating to torture, sexual exploitation and violence against children in Child Care Institutions including Shelter Homes during the last three years.”

As per the data, nine cases were reported in 2019-20 while 2018-19 had as many as 26 reported cases of violence against children. Uttar Pradesh has reported the highest number of such cases with two cases reported in 2019-20, nine cases reported in 2018-19 and three cases reported in 2017-18.

However, other areas such as Gujarat, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Lakshadweep islands, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Puducherry, Punjab, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand and West Bengal reported no cases at all in the last three years.

“The primary responsibility of implementation of the JJ [Juvenile Justice] Act lies with the State Government/UT Administration and the Ministry of Women and Child Development has issued necessary advisory to them in this regard. Besides, the NCPCR and State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) created as statutory bodies under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005 (CPCR), oversee the implementation of the JJ Act in the country,” she said.

The MP also asked about the total number of shelter homes and Child Care Institutions (CCIs) currently functional across the country along with the number of children residing in them. In reply, Union Minister Smriti Irani said that 1,544 institutional care homes, 262 open shelters and 356 specialised adoption agencies are functional in 2019-2020. As many as 67,332 children, 6,802 children and 3,631 children have benefitted from these care homes, shelter and adoption agencies respectively.

West Bengal that 23 specialised adoption agencies reported 326 beneficiaries, the highest in the country. Similarly, 1,226 children benefited from the 49 beneficiaries in West Bengal. Tamil Nadu had the highest number of beneficiaries – 12,864 children – from the 198 institutional care homes across the state.

Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh all had as many as 25 specialised adoption agencies.

Meanwhile in Gujarat, 1,707 children benefited from 52 institutional care homes, 60 children benefited from 3 open shelters and 128 children benefited from 13 specialised adoption agencies.


Related:

Now, Smriti Irani says no data on anganwadi workforce!

WCD Ministry gives unsatisfactory answers on efforts to protect women and children

3 In 5 People Trafficked Were Children

Gujarat's sexually-abused children will have to wait for 55-200 years for getting justice, more than any Indian state

No cases of child sexual violence in Gujarat since 2017?

The Ministry of Women and Child Development’s data showed that as many as 41 child sexual violence complaints were reported in last three years, but none in Gujarat.

child abuse

Gujarat, the state that was recently criticised for its rising crimes against children, reported zero cases of child sexual violence in the last three years, said the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

When Member of Parliament Rajeshbhai Chudasama, asked about the number of cases of child torture and sexual exploitation at shelter homes, Union Minister Smriti Irani said, “As per the information provided by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), they have received 41 complaints relating to torture, sexual exploitation and violence against children in Child Care Institutions including Shelter Homes during the last three years.”

As per the data, nine cases were reported in 2019-20 while 2018-19 had as many as 26 reported cases of violence against children. Uttar Pradesh has reported the highest number of such cases with two cases reported in 2019-20, nine cases reported in 2018-19 and three cases reported in 2017-18.

However, other areas such as Gujarat, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Lakshadweep islands, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Puducherry, Punjab, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand and West Bengal reported no cases at all in the last three years.

“The primary responsibility of implementation of the JJ [Juvenile Justice] Act lies with the State Government/UT Administration and the Ministry of Women and Child Development has issued necessary advisory to them in this regard. Besides, the NCPCR and State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) created as statutory bodies under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005 (CPCR), oversee the implementation of the JJ Act in the country,” she said.

The MP also asked about the total number of shelter homes and Child Care Institutions (CCIs) currently functional across the country along with the number of children residing in them. In reply, Union Minister Smriti Irani said that 1,544 institutional care homes, 262 open shelters and 356 specialised adoption agencies are functional in 2019-2020. As many as 67,332 children, 6,802 children and 3,631 children have benefitted from these care homes, shelter and adoption agencies respectively.

West Bengal that 23 specialised adoption agencies reported 326 beneficiaries, the highest in the country. Similarly, 1,226 children benefited from the 49 beneficiaries in West Bengal. Tamil Nadu had the highest number of beneficiaries – 12,864 children – from the 198 institutional care homes across the state.

Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh all had as many as 25 specialised adoption agencies.

Meanwhile in Gujarat, 1,707 children benefited from 52 institutional care homes, 60 children benefited from 3 open shelters and 128 children benefited from 13 specialised adoption agencies.


Related:

Now, Smriti Irani says no data on anganwadi workforce!

WCD Ministry gives unsatisfactory answers on efforts to protect women and children

3 In 5 People Trafficked Were Children

Gujarat's sexually-abused children will have to wait for 55-200 years for getting justice, more than any Indian state

Related Articles


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Public order a state subject: Smriti Irani on gov't measures against gendered crimes

While presenting dismal numbers of rising crimes against women, the Minister of Women and Child Development displays shocking callousness.

19 Sep 2020

Image Courtesy:noticebard.com

The Ministry of Women and Child Development said that police and public order are a state subject and thus the state’s responsibility when asked about measures to address the evil of violence against women.

When asked about government measures to contain the menace of violence against women, Union Minister Smriti Irani said, “’Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are State subjects under the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. The responsibilities to maintain law and order, protection of life and property of the citizens rest primarily with the respective State Governments.”

This statement came along with data that showed a growing rate of crimes against women. Similarly, the Department records also showed that most States had failed to utilise even half of the Nirbhaya Funds released. In December 2019, Parliament data showed that many States had failed to effectively use Nirbhaya Funds.

For example, Maharashtra was recorded as the only large State that had used zero funds provided by the scheme. The data resulted in severe criticism of both Central and state governments for their general apathy towards a prevalent social issue.

During this year’s monsoon session, the Centre’s records showed yet again that states had utilised less than half the funds provided under this scheme. The only exceptions were Delhi, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. Moreover, in stark contrast to the 2019 data, the Centre now said that Maharashtra had utilised Rs. 179.36 crores out of Rs. 295.93 crores funds released.

Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh had only used Rs. 42.72 crores out of Rs. 123.37 crores funds released despite being the state with the highest women suicides due to dowry-related issues – 496 deaths in 2019. Among Union Territories, Delhi ranked the highest with 59 such deaths in 2019. Overall, 1,815 dowry-related suicides were registered in India in 2019.

Similarly, the newly-created Union Territory of Ladakh had used no money from the Rs 0.27 crores funds released.

When Member of Parliament (MP) Adoor Prakash asked about proposals received by the Centre under this scheme and government measures to enable faster implementation, Irani said:

“A total of 35 schemes/ projects have been appraised and recommended by the EC so far. The EC reviews the status of implementation of the approved projects from time to time in conjunction with the concerned Ministries/ Departments/ Implementing Agencies (IAs). The Ministries/ Departments/ IAs also review and monitor the progress of their respective schemes/ projects for faster implementation at their level.”

MP Amar Singh asked the Centre about the increasing violence against women and the continuing prevalence of the social evil of dowry in India.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data from 2016-2018 showed that crimes committed against women had increased from 3,38,954 cases in 2016 to 3,78,277 cases in 2018. The maximum number of cases were filed under ‘Cruelty by husband or his relatives’ in 2018. As many as eight cases were registered in 2018 under the crime of ‘buying minor girls.’

The Union Minister said that the Government considers safety and security of women as its highest priority and listed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 among the many government legislations.

Related:

NHRC, Delhi High Court spring into action, pull up governments on women’s safety measures, utilisation of Nirbhaya Fund
Now, Smriti Irani says no data on anganwadi workforce!
No data, so no compensation: Centre’s shocking revelation on migrant labourer deaths!
WCD Ministry gives unsatisfactory answers on efforts to protect women and children

Public order a state subject: Smriti Irani on gov't measures against gendered crimes

While presenting dismal numbers of rising crimes against women, the Minister of Women and Child Development displays shocking callousness.

Image Courtesy:noticebard.com

The Ministry of Women and Child Development said that police and public order are a state subject and thus the state’s responsibility when asked about measures to address the evil of violence against women.

When asked about government measures to contain the menace of violence against women, Union Minister Smriti Irani said, “’Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are State subjects under the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. The responsibilities to maintain law and order, protection of life and property of the citizens rest primarily with the respective State Governments.”

This statement came along with data that showed a growing rate of crimes against women. Similarly, the Department records also showed that most States had failed to utilise even half of the Nirbhaya Funds released. In December 2019, Parliament data showed that many States had failed to effectively use Nirbhaya Funds.

For example, Maharashtra was recorded as the only large State that had used zero funds provided by the scheme. The data resulted in severe criticism of both Central and state governments for their general apathy towards a prevalent social issue.

During this year’s monsoon session, the Centre’s records showed yet again that states had utilised less than half the funds provided under this scheme. The only exceptions were Delhi, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. Moreover, in stark contrast to the 2019 data, the Centre now said that Maharashtra had utilised Rs. 179.36 crores out of Rs. 295.93 crores funds released.

Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh had only used Rs. 42.72 crores out of Rs. 123.37 crores funds released despite being the state with the highest women suicides due to dowry-related issues – 496 deaths in 2019. Among Union Territories, Delhi ranked the highest with 59 such deaths in 2019. Overall, 1,815 dowry-related suicides were registered in India in 2019.

Similarly, the newly-created Union Territory of Ladakh had used no money from the Rs 0.27 crores funds released.

When Member of Parliament (MP) Adoor Prakash asked about proposals received by the Centre under this scheme and government measures to enable faster implementation, Irani said:

“A total of 35 schemes/ projects have been appraised and recommended by the EC so far. The EC reviews the status of implementation of the approved projects from time to time in conjunction with the concerned Ministries/ Departments/ Implementing Agencies (IAs). The Ministries/ Departments/ IAs also review and monitor the progress of their respective schemes/ projects for faster implementation at their level.”

MP Amar Singh asked the Centre about the increasing violence against women and the continuing prevalence of the social evil of dowry in India.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data from 2016-2018 showed that crimes committed against women had increased from 3,38,954 cases in 2016 to 3,78,277 cases in 2018. The maximum number of cases were filed under ‘Cruelty by husband or his relatives’ in 2018. As many as eight cases were registered in 2018 under the crime of ‘buying minor girls.’

The Union Minister said that the Government considers safety and security of women as its highest priority and listed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 among the many government legislations.

Related:

NHRC, Delhi High Court spring into action, pull up governments on women’s safety measures, utilisation of Nirbhaya Fund
Now, Smriti Irani says no data on anganwadi workforce!
No data, so no compensation: Centre’s shocking revelation on migrant labourer deaths!
WCD Ministry gives unsatisfactory answers on efforts to protect women and children

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In Madhya Pradesh, eggs blur the line between religion and nutrition

SabrangIndia talks to people from both sides of the argument to understand the long-stretched debate on egg-consumption in Madhya Pradesh.

16 Sep 2020

Image Courtesy:huffingtonpost.in

There can be no greater culinary tragedy than the denial of eggs in Madhya Pradesh. For years, the majority of people in Madhya Pradesh have opposed the consumption of eggs due to its largely vegetarian cuisine. The irony is in the fact that Madhya Pradesh, one of the most malnourished States in India denies the intake of this prime source of protein.

Eggs contain all 22 amino acids, providing around 70 calories and 7gs of protein. The Recommended Dietary Allowance report of 2019 by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) stated that children between the ages of one to three years require 16.7gs of protein. Thus, simply two eggs per meal could greatly improve a child’s health.

As per the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4) of 2015-16, 42 percent children in the State are stunted, nearly 26 percent are wasted, 9 percent are severely wasted and nearly 43 percent are underweight. Moreover, 69 percent of children between 6-59 months are anaemic.

All of these figures would reduce drastically if the State government would accept Women and Child Welfare Minister Imarti Devi’s proposal of including eggs in anganwadi meals. However, the proposal has met with constant opposition ever since its introduction in 2009. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has gone as far as to say that the inclusion of eggs in anganwadi meals would never become a reality as long as he remained in power.

To understand the legitimacy of such a dramatic statement, one only needs to talk to one of the vegetarians in Madhya Pradesh.

“Eating eggs is a matter of dharma [religious conduct.] It is different from following rituals. How can we allow it?” said co-President of the Jain Social Group (JSG) in Ratlam Lalit Kanthed.

Kanthed said that he does not mind other people eating eggs. However, the inclusion of eggs in anganwadis would be too drastic because even Hindu children visit these places. He said parents who follow vegetarian diet would be scared to send their children to anganwadis on the off-chance that they ate the food item. Kanthed also made the argument that there were many other nutritious alternatives to eggs.

When asked about rumours that said egg consumption resulted in cannibalism, he rubbished the idea but insisted that eggs should not be a part of meals.

On the other hand, Dr. Preeti Shukla has long been a staunch advocate for high-protein food such as eggs. Over the years, she infrequently visited different anganwadis to raise awareness about nutrition and diet. In 2006, she conducted a survey for her doctorate wherein a group of young anganwadi girls consumed a high-protein diet that included eggs. She noted that their health drastically improved over the following six months.

Shukla said that eggs are a complete meal with high biological value proteins. Therefore, it is a good supplement for underprivileged children. However, even she could not fight against the dissent of the vegetarian community. She acknowledged that the majority of people in the State were vegetarian and thus opposed the introduction of eggs in meals. In the same vein, she also stated that most people who came to anganwadis were Maharashtrians or non-vegetarians who did not mind eating eggs. For these people she said that eggs should be allowed as a rich source of protein. She said that providing these 0-5 year children with an egg diet could address their protein requirement to a large extent.

Similarly, for vegetarians, she argued that meals could include alternatives such as ladoos made from peanuts or other nuts. Even so, eggs seem to be a cut above its vegetarian alternatives because the shelled-commodities are hardly ever contaminated. Among vegetarian alternatives, paneer (cottage cheese) can compete with eggs in terms of nutrition but there are chances of contamination with such proteins.

In ‘Community Traditional Food Resource Mapping Study’ by an NGO called Vikas Samvad, it was discovered that 99 percent of the Madhya Pradesh OBC tribes surveyed liked the consumption of non-vegetarian food. Moreover, eggs were consumed more than any meat product. Pregnant women consumed five to seven eggs per month, lactating mothers ate nine eggs per month while adolescent children 10 eggs per month. The data indicated that eggs, although not a part of the majority population’s diet, are still an important part of the State’s cuisine.

According to Market.TodayPriceRates, the product is also sold at an affordable rate of Rs. 5 per egg as of September 15. This makes it cheaper than milk, pulses or any other vegetarian alternative.

Yet the social constraints keep this food group from becoming a part of mainstream diet. There was hope for its normalisation in April 2020. However, once the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power, the question of nutrition has once again become politicised.

Related:

Feeding Mothers, Fighting Malnutrition: The East Godavari Experience
BJP States Most Resistant To Eggs In Mid-Day Meals, Cite Vegetarian Sentiments
Daal and Eggs critical to stem hunger in drought areas: Swaraj Abhiyan

In Madhya Pradesh, eggs blur the line between religion and nutrition

SabrangIndia talks to people from both sides of the argument to understand the long-stretched debate on egg-consumption in Madhya Pradesh.

Image Courtesy:huffingtonpost.in

There can be no greater culinary tragedy than the denial of eggs in Madhya Pradesh. For years, the majority of people in Madhya Pradesh have opposed the consumption of eggs due to its largely vegetarian cuisine. The irony is in the fact that Madhya Pradesh, one of the most malnourished States in India denies the intake of this prime source of protein.

Eggs contain all 22 amino acids, providing around 70 calories and 7gs of protein. The Recommended Dietary Allowance report of 2019 by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) stated that children between the ages of one to three years require 16.7gs of protein. Thus, simply two eggs per meal could greatly improve a child’s health.

As per the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4) of 2015-16, 42 percent children in the State are stunted, nearly 26 percent are wasted, 9 percent are severely wasted and nearly 43 percent are underweight. Moreover, 69 percent of children between 6-59 months are anaemic.

All of these figures would reduce drastically if the State government would accept Women and Child Welfare Minister Imarti Devi’s proposal of including eggs in anganwadi meals. However, the proposal has met with constant opposition ever since its introduction in 2009. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has gone as far as to say that the inclusion of eggs in anganwadi meals would never become a reality as long as he remained in power.

To understand the legitimacy of such a dramatic statement, one only needs to talk to one of the vegetarians in Madhya Pradesh.

“Eating eggs is a matter of dharma [religious conduct.] It is different from following rituals. How can we allow it?” said co-President of the Jain Social Group (JSG) in Ratlam Lalit Kanthed.

Kanthed said that he does not mind other people eating eggs. However, the inclusion of eggs in anganwadis would be too drastic because even Hindu children visit these places. He said parents who follow vegetarian diet would be scared to send their children to anganwadis on the off-chance that they ate the food item. Kanthed also made the argument that there were many other nutritious alternatives to eggs.

When asked about rumours that said egg consumption resulted in cannibalism, he rubbished the idea but insisted that eggs should not be a part of meals.

On the other hand, Dr. Preeti Shukla has long been a staunch advocate for high-protein food such as eggs. Over the years, she infrequently visited different anganwadis to raise awareness about nutrition and diet. In 2006, she conducted a survey for her doctorate wherein a group of young anganwadi girls consumed a high-protein diet that included eggs. She noted that their health drastically improved over the following six months.

Shukla said that eggs are a complete meal with high biological value proteins. Therefore, it is a good supplement for underprivileged children. However, even she could not fight against the dissent of the vegetarian community. She acknowledged that the majority of people in the State were vegetarian and thus opposed the introduction of eggs in meals. In the same vein, she also stated that most people who came to anganwadis were Maharashtrians or non-vegetarians who did not mind eating eggs. For these people she said that eggs should be allowed as a rich source of protein. She said that providing these 0-5 year children with an egg diet could address their protein requirement to a large extent.

Similarly, for vegetarians, she argued that meals could include alternatives such as ladoos made from peanuts or other nuts. Even so, eggs seem to be a cut above its vegetarian alternatives because the shelled-commodities are hardly ever contaminated. Among vegetarian alternatives, paneer (cottage cheese) can compete with eggs in terms of nutrition but there are chances of contamination with such proteins.

In ‘Community Traditional Food Resource Mapping Study’ by an NGO called Vikas Samvad, it was discovered that 99 percent of the Madhya Pradesh OBC tribes surveyed liked the consumption of non-vegetarian food. Moreover, eggs were consumed more than any meat product. Pregnant women consumed five to seven eggs per month, lactating mothers ate nine eggs per month while adolescent children 10 eggs per month. The data indicated that eggs, although not a part of the majority population’s diet, are still an important part of the State’s cuisine.

According to Market.TodayPriceRates, the product is also sold at an affordable rate of Rs. 5 per egg as of September 15. This makes it cheaper than milk, pulses or any other vegetarian alternative.

Yet the social constraints keep this food group from becoming a part of mainstream diet. There was hope for its normalisation in April 2020. However, once the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power, the question of nutrition has once again become politicised.

Related:

Feeding Mothers, Fighting Malnutrition: The East Godavari Experience
BJP States Most Resistant To Eggs In Mid-Day Meals, Cite Vegetarian Sentiments
Daal and Eggs critical to stem hunger in drought areas: Swaraj Abhiyan

Related Articles


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Whatever happened to ‘zero tolerance’ for child abuse by 'godmen' and priests?

All religions need to unite to ensure that sexual predators don't use their position as religious leaders to sexually assault children

09 Sep 2020

children

The Ministry of Women and Child Development displays on its public page, the ‘Model Guidelines under Section 39 of The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012'. The Act, reffered to as POCSO, is a comprehensive law to provide for the “protection of children from the offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography, while safeguarding the interests of the child at every stage.”

It covers any form of sexual abuse committed by “a person in a position of trust or authority vis-à-vis the child, like a family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor.” A religious teacher, maulvi, priest, or guru is also seen as a teacher, and to the child they have the same level of authority and command similar levels of respect, and often generate the same levels of fear of punishment.

The act also makes it mandatory to report sexual offences committed against children. It is the “legal duty upon a person who has knowledge that a child has been sexually abused to report the offence; if he fails to do so, he may be punished with six months imprisonment and/ or a fine,” it states. Something that religious heads and establishments should always be aware of, and immediately report when one of their own priests, mauvis, babas, gurus etc are suspected of being child abusers.

Some however, groom children in other ways, some others brainwash and scare children to steal from their homes. All of this can lead to other crimes, including sexual assault.

Recently an incident of threatening children and forcing them to get gold from their homes by a madarsa teacher has been reported from Kerala. According to a report in the portal Dailyhunt, the accused was arrested “suspecting that he abused a child.” The man was allegedly “luring” the children under his tutelage with lines such as “let Prophet Muhammad be shown in a dream”. 

The Madrasa teacher identified as Abdul Kareem (50), from Ulikkal, Kannur was arrested on suspicion of child abuse, as well as allegations of stealing money and gold from them. He convinced the children to “donate money and gold if they wanted to go to heaven”. He also allegedly threatened the children by saying that “their parents would be beheaded if they disclosed that the gold had been taken from the house.” The man’s plan was exposed after a complaint was filed about the loss of gold from a child's house said the news report. 

Kareem reportedly told the child’s family that a “jinn” or spirit had possessed her body.  He added that the missing gold would be returned if the evil spirit was cleared. As news about this incident spread in the area, more information came out that gold had been lost from many houses of other children going to the madrassa. As more people came to the scene with complaints. The role of the madrassa teacher became clear in the ensuing police investigation. According to the police Kareem was teaching in the madrassa allegedly without adequate qualifications.

In another case reported from Kerala, a former madarsa teacher was booked for sexualy molesting his minor daughter. Six other men were also booked for sexually abusing this minor girl. The girl’s father, a former madrassa teacher, was booked for abusing four boys in 2017 reported Express News Service.

The 50-year-old man was arrested on Monday for sexually abusing his 16-year-old daughter repeatedly over the past two years. Local police also booked six youths in their early twenties for sexually abusing the girl and arrested three of them – Riyas, 19, Ijaz, 20, and Mohammed Ali, 20 reported ENS. All seven men have been booked under the POCSO Act. According to the report that quotes P R Manoj, the investigating officer, the girl was impregnated and underwent an illegal abortion two months ago. “The doctor who performed the abortion is also under investigation as he failed to report the crime,” the report quotes a senior police officer adding that the crime came to light after the girl’s maternal uncle (mother’s brother) found something amiss with her behaviour. It is reported that the girl’s relatives stood by her and encouraged her to approach the police against her father and other abusers. The police will reportedly declare the house “unsafe for children”, and the survivor will be provided with counselling and support, stated the report.

According to the Investigating officer, the girl’s father was a repeat sexual offender and was accused of sexually assaulting four minor boys under the Bekal police station limits in 2017. Though four cases were registered against him under the POCSO Act, he received bail as the legal proceedings dragged on in court stated ENS news report. He is a native of Sulliya in the Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka and has another wife and five children there. He came to Kasaragod to teach in the madrasa. After the alleged sexual assault in Bekal, he was sacked, said an officer.

The case is one of many similar cases reported from the state. In January this year, three men held for sexual assault of a minor. According to an Express News Service report, the accused were identified as Palerikkundil Ali alias Eethapazham Ali, 36, and Mattathuveetil Kunju Muhammed alias Manuppa,40, both from Mattummal and Annath Muhamamdali alias Bhava from Athavanad. The culprits were presented before the court and remanded to judicial custody. They were arrested in connection with the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) case, in which 16 persons allegedly sexually abused a 16-year-old boy in the district. A total of 10 people have been arrested till January. According to the ENS report, Malappuram had registered the highest number of POCSO cases last year.

The rott runs deep across religions when it comes to sexual abuse of minors, and the rights of the survivor. According to an opinion written by well known legal expert and activist Flavia Agnes in The Wire, the application filed by Robin Vadakkumchery, a former Catholic priest belonging to the Syro Malabar tradition before the Kerala high court seeking two months’ parole to marry the rape survivor, has once again put the spotlight on “the rampant sexual exploitation of vulnerable women and girls by the clergy, in Kerala and elsewhere.” 

Agnes noted that the Kerala high court is where the priest’s appeal against his conviction is pending. “The former priest, Robin Vadakkumchery, is now 52. He was convicted by the district and sessions court at Telassery on February 16, 2019, for raping and impregnating a 16-year-old who was studying in Class XI in the parish school, of which he was the manager. He was also the priest of the St. Sebastian’s parish in Kottiyoor, a position of high status and immense power and authority.”

According to Ages, “the influence which he could exert was such that though three members of the District Child Welfare Committee (a priest and two religious sisters) were aware of the crime, they did not report it to the police as they were bound to under the stringent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act of 2012. On the contrary, they ‘managed the pregnancy and delivery’ in a missionary hospital and on the very next day, shifted the infant to St. Agnelo’s Foundling Home, without preparing the necessary documents and without obtaining the required permissions, so that no paper trail is left behind. The priest was arrested on February 28, 2017, just weeks after the teenager gave birth to the child, amid allegations of church officials attempting to cover up this scandal.”

SabrangIndia had an in depth report on Robin Vadakkumchery’s shocking case of impunity, when he moved court asking for a two-month parole to marry the woman he was convicted of raping. At the time of the abuse, the survivor was 16-years-old and a student of 11th standard. The crime took place in May 2016. The accused in the case was arrested in 2018 as he tried to flee to Canada. He was convicted by a Thalassery POCSO court and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and also fined Rs 2 lakh. But there was more to the case than sexual exploitation of a minor girl. The survivor delivered a baby in February 2017, who was sent to an orphanage and six people allegedly assisted Vadakkumchery in the case; Thangamma Nelliyani, Wayanad Child Welfare Committee (CWC) Chairman Fr Thomas Joseph Therakam, CWC committee member Sister Betty Jose and Superintendent of an orphanage in Wayanad Sister Ophelia, along with Sister Liss Mariya and Sister Anita. However, the court acquitted them all.

Several Christian women’s groups are extremely agitated over these developments, wrote Flavia Agnes, calling it “an ingenious ploy and a carefully crafted legal strategy devised by astute lawyers to get the priest out of the 20-year jail term which he is currently serving.”

A plea of willingness to marry the survivor made by the accused is nothing new, she stated, noting that “it is a worn-out strategy often used as an escape route in rape trials and appeals. The high premium placed on marriage in our society renders even judges to view this offer sympathetically.”

Meanwhile, two more priests have been defrocked in Kerala following allegations of sexual abuse, in this case the victim was an adult. However it is noteworthy because in this case the Church sacked the two accused and made a public statement. Joseph Poothotatil and Mathew Mullapally were priests at the Tellicherry Archdiocese at Kannur district in Kerala before they were defrocked in the wake of sexual allegations, reported Deccan Herald in June. The archdiocese also tendered an apology to the believers for the wrong doings from the part of the priests, according to the news report. This is perhaps one of the most public punishments issued by a Church against sexual abusers from within the priest community.

The latest case of a child abuser is that of a Pastor from Ahmedabad who has been booked for luring, and sharing indecent photos of a 16 year old girl after luring her to send them to him. The 38-year-old  Pastor identified as Gulab Chandra Masih was booked last week, under provisions of the POCSO Act, for stalking and intimidating the child. The 16-year-old Class 11 student who lives with her parents, was allegedly pressured by the man to undress herself during video calls he would make. The complaint also states that he threatened her, and would also allegedly urge her to convert to Christianity. He was arrested after he shared those sensitive photo’s with the girl’s relative.

The most well known case of sexual abuse of a minor by a religious ‘guru’ is that of Asaram, who in 2018 was found guilty of raping a minor girl, and was sentenced to life in prison. The girl who is originally from Shahjahanpur, was raped at an ashram near Jodhpur in 2013. Asaram was charged under sections of the POCSO Act and the Juvenile Justice Act. Such assaults however seem to have continued. Many as expected, remain unreported.

 

Related: 

How the Church needs to change the way it addresses Sexual and Gender-based abuse

Cultures of Death: Pope Francis, Apology and Child Abuse

Did UP police sexually torture minors in custody?

Harper Collins moves Delhi HC, seeks permission to publish book on Asaram Bapu 

 

Whatever happened to ‘zero tolerance’ for child abuse by 'godmen' and priests?

All religions need to unite to ensure that sexual predators don't use their position as religious leaders to sexually assault children

children

The Ministry of Women and Child Development displays on its public page, the ‘Model Guidelines under Section 39 of The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012'. The Act, reffered to as POCSO, is a comprehensive law to provide for the “protection of children from the offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography, while safeguarding the interests of the child at every stage.”

It covers any form of sexual abuse committed by “a person in a position of trust or authority vis-à-vis the child, like a family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor.” A religious teacher, maulvi, priest, or guru is also seen as a teacher, and to the child they have the same level of authority and command similar levels of respect, and often generate the same levels of fear of punishment.

The act also makes it mandatory to report sexual offences committed against children. It is the “legal duty upon a person who has knowledge that a child has been sexually abused to report the offence; if he fails to do so, he may be punished with six months imprisonment and/ or a fine,” it states. Something that religious heads and establishments should always be aware of, and immediately report when one of their own priests, mauvis, babas, gurus etc are suspected of being child abusers.

Some however, groom children in other ways, some others brainwash and scare children to steal from their homes. All of this can lead to other crimes, including sexual assault.

Recently an incident of threatening children and forcing them to get gold from their homes by a madarsa teacher has been reported from Kerala. According to a report in the portal Dailyhunt, the accused was arrested “suspecting that he abused a child.” The man was allegedly “luring” the children under his tutelage with lines such as “let Prophet Muhammad be shown in a dream”. 

The Madrasa teacher identified as Abdul Kareem (50), from Ulikkal, Kannur was arrested on suspicion of child abuse, as well as allegations of stealing money and gold from them. He convinced the children to “donate money and gold if they wanted to go to heaven”. He also allegedly threatened the children by saying that “their parents would be beheaded if they disclosed that the gold had been taken from the house.” The man’s plan was exposed after a complaint was filed about the loss of gold from a child's house said the news report. 

Kareem reportedly told the child’s family that a “jinn” or spirit had possessed her body.  He added that the missing gold would be returned if the evil spirit was cleared. As news about this incident spread in the area, more information came out that gold had been lost from many houses of other children going to the madrassa. As more people came to the scene with complaints. The role of the madrassa teacher became clear in the ensuing police investigation. According to the police Kareem was teaching in the madrassa allegedly without adequate qualifications.

In another case reported from Kerala, a former madarsa teacher was booked for sexualy molesting his minor daughter. Six other men were also booked for sexually abusing this minor girl. The girl’s father, a former madrassa teacher, was booked for abusing four boys in 2017 reported Express News Service.

The 50-year-old man was arrested on Monday for sexually abusing his 16-year-old daughter repeatedly over the past two years. Local police also booked six youths in their early twenties for sexually abusing the girl and arrested three of them – Riyas, 19, Ijaz, 20, and Mohammed Ali, 20 reported ENS. All seven men have been booked under the POCSO Act. According to the report that quotes P R Manoj, the investigating officer, the girl was impregnated and underwent an illegal abortion two months ago. “The doctor who performed the abortion is also under investigation as he failed to report the crime,” the report quotes a senior police officer adding that the crime came to light after the girl’s maternal uncle (mother’s brother) found something amiss with her behaviour. It is reported that the girl’s relatives stood by her and encouraged her to approach the police against her father and other abusers. The police will reportedly declare the house “unsafe for children”, and the survivor will be provided with counselling and support, stated the report.

According to the Investigating officer, the girl’s father was a repeat sexual offender and was accused of sexually assaulting four minor boys under the Bekal police station limits in 2017. Though four cases were registered against him under the POCSO Act, he received bail as the legal proceedings dragged on in court stated ENS news report. He is a native of Sulliya in the Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka and has another wife and five children there. He came to Kasaragod to teach in the madrasa. After the alleged sexual assault in Bekal, he was sacked, said an officer.

The case is one of many similar cases reported from the state. In January this year, three men held for sexual assault of a minor. According to an Express News Service report, the accused were identified as Palerikkundil Ali alias Eethapazham Ali, 36, and Mattathuveetil Kunju Muhammed alias Manuppa,40, both from Mattummal and Annath Muhamamdali alias Bhava from Athavanad. The culprits were presented before the court and remanded to judicial custody. They were arrested in connection with the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) case, in which 16 persons allegedly sexually abused a 16-year-old boy in the district. A total of 10 people have been arrested till January. According to the ENS report, Malappuram had registered the highest number of POCSO cases last year.

The rott runs deep across religions when it comes to sexual abuse of minors, and the rights of the survivor. According to an opinion written by well known legal expert and activist Flavia Agnes in The Wire, the application filed by Robin Vadakkumchery, a former Catholic priest belonging to the Syro Malabar tradition before the Kerala high court seeking two months’ parole to marry the rape survivor, has once again put the spotlight on “the rampant sexual exploitation of vulnerable women and girls by the clergy, in Kerala and elsewhere.” 

Agnes noted that the Kerala high court is where the priest’s appeal against his conviction is pending. “The former priest, Robin Vadakkumchery, is now 52. He was convicted by the district and sessions court at Telassery on February 16, 2019, for raping and impregnating a 16-year-old who was studying in Class XI in the parish school, of which he was the manager. He was also the priest of the St. Sebastian’s parish in Kottiyoor, a position of high status and immense power and authority.”

According to Ages, “the influence which he could exert was such that though three members of the District Child Welfare Committee (a priest and two religious sisters) were aware of the crime, they did not report it to the police as they were bound to under the stringent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act of 2012. On the contrary, they ‘managed the pregnancy and delivery’ in a missionary hospital and on the very next day, shifted the infant to St. Agnelo’s Foundling Home, without preparing the necessary documents and without obtaining the required permissions, so that no paper trail is left behind. The priest was arrested on February 28, 2017, just weeks after the teenager gave birth to the child, amid allegations of church officials attempting to cover up this scandal.”

SabrangIndia had an in depth report on Robin Vadakkumchery’s shocking case of impunity, when he moved court asking for a two-month parole to marry the woman he was convicted of raping. At the time of the abuse, the survivor was 16-years-old and a student of 11th standard. The crime took place in May 2016. The accused in the case was arrested in 2018 as he tried to flee to Canada. He was convicted by a Thalassery POCSO court and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and also fined Rs 2 lakh. But there was more to the case than sexual exploitation of a minor girl. The survivor delivered a baby in February 2017, who was sent to an orphanage and six people allegedly assisted Vadakkumchery in the case; Thangamma Nelliyani, Wayanad Child Welfare Committee (CWC) Chairman Fr Thomas Joseph Therakam, CWC committee member Sister Betty Jose and Superintendent of an orphanage in Wayanad Sister Ophelia, along with Sister Liss Mariya and Sister Anita. However, the court acquitted them all.

Several Christian women’s groups are extremely agitated over these developments, wrote Flavia Agnes, calling it “an ingenious ploy and a carefully crafted legal strategy devised by astute lawyers to get the priest out of the 20-year jail term which he is currently serving.”

A plea of willingness to marry the survivor made by the accused is nothing new, she stated, noting that “it is a worn-out strategy often used as an escape route in rape trials and appeals. The high premium placed on marriage in our society renders even judges to view this offer sympathetically.”

Meanwhile, two more priests have been defrocked in Kerala following allegations of sexual abuse, in this case the victim was an adult. However it is noteworthy because in this case the Church sacked the two accused and made a public statement. Joseph Poothotatil and Mathew Mullapally were priests at the Tellicherry Archdiocese at Kannur district in Kerala before they were defrocked in the wake of sexual allegations, reported Deccan Herald in June. The archdiocese also tendered an apology to the believers for the wrong doings from the part of the priests, according to the news report. This is perhaps one of the most public punishments issued by a Church against sexual abusers from within the priest community.

The latest case of a child abuser is that of a Pastor from Ahmedabad who has been booked for luring, and sharing indecent photos of a 16 year old girl after luring her to send them to him. The 38-year-old  Pastor identified as Gulab Chandra Masih was booked last week, under provisions of the POCSO Act, for stalking and intimidating the child. The 16-year-old Class 11 student who lives with her parents, was allegedly pressured by the man to undress herself during video calls he would make. The complaint also states that he threatened her, and would also allegedly urge her to convert to Christianity. He was arrested after he shared those sensitive photo’s with the girl’s relative.

The most well known case of sexual abuse of a minor by a religious ‘guru’ is that of Asaram, who in 2018 was found guilty of raping a minor girl, and was sentenced to life in prison. The girl who is originally from Shahjahanpur, was raped at an ashram near Jodhpur in 2013. Asaram was charged under sections of the POCSO Act and the Juvenile Justice Act. Such assaults however seem to have continued. Many as expected, remain unreported.

 

Related: 

How the Church needs to change the way it addresses Sexual and Gender-based abuse

Cultures of Death: Pope Francis, Apology and Child Abuse

Did UP police sexually torture minors in custody?

Harper Collins moves Delhi HC, seeks permission to publish book on Asaram Bapu 

 

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August 5, 2020 and thereafter

One wonders if this is the same Hinduism that Gandhi, Ramkrishna, Vivekanand and Tagore preached.

10 Aug 2020

Ram mandir

December 6, 1992 – The day India lost its secular character and opted for majoritarionism as its ruling philosophy. The quilt of India made from its myriad beliefs, religions, languages, customs and traditions was torn to shreds by an insane crowd of zealous fanatics egged on by a short-sighted selfish leadership of Bhartiya Janata Party and Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh. It was a day of mourning, never to be forgotten, written in history of this country as an act of repudiation for all that this nation had stood for – a nation for all its population despite the differing beliefs.

August 5, 2020 – The day we put a final seal of approval on our denial of this nation encompassing all with sympathy, humility and brotherhood.

NO MORE.

This country is for devout Hindus and all should accept the same no matter what they have been falsely believing so far. The Bhoomi Pooja by our elected Prime Minister signifies that this is Hindu religion that gets priority over all other beliefs and the rest will be given second class status in our scheme of things. It’s almost like saying that you be a devout Hindu or seek solace in some other country. One wonders if this is the same Hinduism that Gandhi, Ramkrishna, Vivekanand and Tagore preached. Where is the sympathy, sensitivity, non-violence, humility of Hinduism which welcomes all faiths and beliefs to co-exist peacefully in a world created by the Almighty? 

 Does Hinduism become superior by killing of other non-believers? Did Emperor Ashoka become great because of Kalinga war or he is greater still because he embraced non-violent Buddhism? Do we as a people become famous by shouting “Jai Shri Ram” or we need to embrace people of all diversity to create a peaceful world? Today daggers are drawn, non-Hindus are threatened, liberal Hindus are persecuted, Muslims and Christians are a foreign entity who have wrongly invaded our shores and we must act fast enough to create a Hindu paradise.

 August 5, 2019 – Another black day for this country when we abrogated Section 370 for Kashmir and downgraded the paradise of Kashmir into two Union Territories – all by an autocratic nation calling itself a democracy. The significance of August 5 being also the day of Bhoomi Puja of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya cannot be lost on a heady population which considers Kashmir subjugation and Ram Mandir construction as two pillars of enactment of Hindu majoritarianism. The choice of August 5 – the day the Muslim majority Kashmir was taught a good lesson – as the day of Ram Mandir is not a coincidence but a well thought out programme to subjugate the Muslim minority to the wishes of Hindu majority. Gandhiji’s lessons and preachings that it is the duty of the majority to protect the minority have been thrown to the winds and going to Rajghat on October 2 and January 30 has become a fashion to fool the public about our commitment to non-violence.

 Mother India cries out for peace and amity among all its population and appeals against divisive tendencies so rampant and being promoted in the country today. Hopefully saner minds will prevail and the Hindi-Muslim fabric of our multi-coloured quilt, so rich in inter-culture relationship in novels, art, music, etc. will remain intact for future generations to enjoy.

 The threat to and silencing of minorities will continue unless we as a nation realise that India’s greatness lies in its diversity of religions, languages, traditions, customs, etc. All of us have benefitted immensely  from this cultural potpourri. Let us not copy the American way by becoming similar in all respects in food habits, in religion practices, in dress, in thinking. We are a nation of many varieties and opinions and the openness of the society which welcomes criticism is the bulwark of real democracy.

*The author is Convenor, Nagrik Prayas, a concerned citizens group, Jharkand   

 

Also by Prem Verma:

Free universal healthcare for all in India
Fight against Commercial Mining of Coal in Jharkhand

August 5, 2020 and thereafter

One wonders if this is the same Hinduism that Gandhi, Ramkrishna, Vivekanand and Tagore preached.

Ram mandir

December 6, 1992 – The day India lost its secular character and opted for majoritarionism as its ruling philosophy. The quilt of India made from its myriad beliefs, religions, languages, customs and traditions was torn to shreds by an insane crowd of zealous fanatics egged on by a short-sighted selfish leadership of Bhartiya Janata Party and Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh. It was a day of mourning, never to be forgotten, written in history of this country as an act of repudiation for all that this nation had stood for – a nation for all its population despite the differing beliefs.

August 5, 2020 – The day we put a final seal of approval on our denial of this nation encompassing all with sympathy, humility and brotherhood.

NO MORE.

This country is for devout Hindus and all should accept the same no matter what they have been falsely believing so far. The Bhoomi Pooja by our elected Prime Minister signifies that this is Hindu religion that gets priority over all other beliefs and the rest will be given second class status in our scheme of things. It’s almost like saying that you be a devout Hindu or seek solace in some other country. One wonders if this is the same Hinduism that Gandhi, Ramkrishna, Vivekanand and Tagore preached. Where is the sympathy, sensitivity, non-violence, humility of Hinduism which welcomes all faiths and beliefs to co-exist peacefully in a world created by the Almighty? 

 Does Hinduism become superior by killing of other non-believers? Did Emperor Ashoka become great because of Kalinga war or he is greater still because he embraced non-violent Buddhism? Do we as a people become famous by shouting “Jai Shri Ram” or we need to embrace people of all diversity to create a peaceful world? Today daggers are drawn, non-Hindus are threatened, liberal Hindus are persecuted, Muslims and Christians are a foreign entity who have wrongly invaded our shores and we must act fast enough to create a Hindu paradise.

 August 5, 2019 – Another black day for this country when we abrogated Section 370 for Kashmir and downgraded the paradise of Kashmir into two Union Territories – all by an autocratic nation calling itself a democracy. The significance of August 5 being also the day of Bhoomi Puja of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya cannot be lost on a heady population which considers Kashmir subjugation and Ram Mandir construction as two pillars of enactment of Hindu majoritarianism. The choice of August 5 – the day the Muslim majority Kashmir was taught a good lesson – as the day of Ram Mandir is not a coincidence but a well thought out programme to subjugate the Muslim minority to the wishes of Hindu majority. Gandhiji’s lessons and preachings that it is the duty of the majority to protect the minority have been thrown to the winds and going to Rajghat on October 2 and January 30 has become a fashion to fool the public about our commitment to non-violence.

 Mother India cries out for peace and amity among all its population and appeals against divisive tendencies so rampant and being promoted in the country today. Hopefully saner minds will prevail and the Hindi-Muslim fabric of our multi-coloured quilt, so rich in inter-culture relationship in novels, art, music, etc. will remain intact for future generations to enjoy.

 The threat to and silencing of minorities will continue unless we as a nation realise that India’s greatness lies in its diversity of religions, languages, traditions, customs, etc. All of us have benefitted immensely  from this cultural potpourri. Let us not copy the American way by becoming similar in all respects in food habits, in religion practices, in dress, in thinking. We are a nation of many varieties and opinions and the openness of the society which welcomes criticism is the bulwark of real democracy.

*The author is Convenor, Nagrik Prayas, a concerned citizens group, Jharkand   

 

Also by Prem Verma:

Free universal healthcare for all in India
Fight against Commercial Mining of Coal in Jharkhand

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ILO Child Labour Convention unanimously ratified by all members!

Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999 (No. 182) becomes most rapidly ratified convention in the history of the organisation

06 Aug 2020

[Omar Havana/Getty Images]
Image: Omar Havana/Getty Images
 

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has achieved universal ratification for its Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999 (No. 182) with all 187 member states accepting it. The Convention calls for the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including slavery, forced labour and trafficking. It prohibits the use of children in armed conflict, prostitution, pornography and illicit activities such as drug trafficking, and in hazardous work.

It is one of the ILO’s eight Fundamental Conventions. These cover the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced labour, the abolition of work-related discrimination and the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. These principles are also covered by the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998).

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said, “Universal ratification of Convention 182 is an historic first that means that all children now have legal protection against the worst forms of child labour.” He added, “It reflects a global commitment that the worst forms of child labour, such as slavery, sexual exploitation, the use of children in armed conflict or other illicit or hazardous work that compromises children’s health, morals or psychological wellbeing, have no place in our society.”

The ILO estimates that there are 152 million children in child labour, 73 million of whom are in hazardous work. Seventy per cent of all child labour takes place in agriculture and is mostly related to poverty and parents’ difficulties finding decent work.

According to Article 3 of the Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999 (No. 182), the term the worst forms of child labour comprises:

  • (a) all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;

  • (b) the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances;

  • (c) the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;

  • (d) work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

According to Article 7 (2) of the same convention, “Each Member shall, taking into account the importance of education in eliminating child labour, take effective and time-bound measures to:

  • (a) prevent the engagement of children in the worst forms of child labour;

  • (b) provide the necessary and appropriate direct assistance for the removal of children from the worst forms of child labour and for their rehabilitation and social integration;

  • (c) ensure access to free basic education, and, wherever possible and appropriate, vocational training, for all children removed from the worst forms of child labour;

  • (d) identify and reach out to children at special risk; and

  • (e) take account of the special situation of girls.”

The entire convention may be read here: https://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C182


Related:

Covid-19 impact: Child Labour likely to increase

Covid-19 pandemic has cost one in six young people their jobs: ILO

ILO Child Labour Convention unanimously ratified by all members!

Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999 (No. 182) becomes most rapidly ratified convention in the history of the organisation

[Omar Havana/Getty Images]
Image: Omar Havana/Getty Images
 

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has achieved universal ratification for its Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999 (No. 182) with all 187 member states accepting it. The Convention calls for the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including slavery, forced labour and trafficking. It prohibits the use of children in armed conflict, prostitution, pornography and illicit activities such as drug trafficking, and in hazardous work.

It is one of the ILO’s eight Fundamental Conventions. These cover the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced labour, the abolition of work-related discrimination and the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. These principles are also covered by the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998).

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said, “Universal ratification of Convention 182 is an historic first that means that all children now have legal protection against the worst forms of child labour.” He added, “It reflects a global commitment that the worst forms of child labour, such as slavery, sexual exploitation, the use of children in armed conflict or other illicit or hazardous work that compromises children’s health, morals or psychological wellbeing, have no place in our society.”

The ILO estimates that there are 152 million children in child labour, 73 million of whom are in hazardous work. Seventy per cent of all child labour takes place in agriculture and is mostly related to poverty and parents’ difficulties finding decent work.

According to Article 3 of the Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999 (No. 182), the term the worst forms of child labour comprises:

  • (a) all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;

  • (b) the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances;

  • (c) the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;

  • (d) work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

According to Article 7 (2) of the same convention, “Each Member shall, taking into account the importance of education in eliminating child labour, take effective and time-bound measures to:

  • (a) prevent the engagement of children in the worst forms of child labour;

  • (b) provide the necessary and appropriate direct assistance for the removal of children from the worst forms of child labour and for their rehabilitation and social integration;

  • (c) ensure access to free basic education, and, wherever possible and appropriate, vocational training, for all children removed from the worst forms of child labour;

  • (d) identify and reach out to children at special risk; and

  • (e) take account of the special situation of girls.”

The entire convention may be read here: https://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C182


Related:

Covid-19 impact: Child Labour likely to increase

Covid-19 pandemic has cost one in six young people their jobs: ILO

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21 years to be minimum legal age of marriage in India for women too?

A task force, chaired by veteran politician and activist Jaya Jaitly, has begun deliberations. Will submit report by July 31.

29 Jun 2020

Legal AgeImage Courtesy:indiatvnews.com

In another month, a high powered task force set up by the Parliament, will submit its report on whether the minimum legal age for marriage for women in India needs to be changed from the current 18 years. The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development had notified the committee chaired by veteran politician and activist Jaya Jaitly. The committee has been formed under the Women Welfare Division, of the ministry and was notified in the Gazette on June 4.

The taskforce is mandated to study the implications of the age of marriage of girls, age of childbirth on the health and mortality rates of both infants and mothers, in India. It is expected to submit its findings by July 31. The meetings have begun, and inputs on various elements have been sought from subject experts from across the country. 

Chairperson Jaya Jaitly, told SabrangIndia that the broad issues that are being examined include legislative measures, the various existing laws and how they intertwine, perhaps even contradict each other. “We will study the social inputs, as well as the laws and status on  health and education. For example the impact on education of girls, of Swacch Bharat, the mid day meal schemes,” she said. The committee has already held two meetings, and in its future meetings will also study the international precedents on what the ideal age of marriage is in various countries. “We need to look at best practices,” says Jaitly, “we can’t just give a wishlist and idealism.” She says the task force will study the following broad elements, “We need to look at health,  law, primary education, secondary education etc.” The proposal, once accepted, may be discussed in Parliament, and eventually become law. 

According to sources, the task force’s recommendations may pave the way for the amendments of  key laws including Protection of Children from Sexual Offences; Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).  

The issue was highlighted by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech this year. She is quoted in the Gazette saying, “Women’s age of marriage was increased from fifteen years to eighteen years in 1978, by amending erstwhile Sharda Act of 1929. As India progresses further, opportunities open up for women to pursue higher education and careers. There are imperatives of lowering MMR as well as improvement of nutrition levels. Entire issue about the age of a girl entering motherhood needs to be seen in this light. I propose to appoint a task force that will present its recommendations in six months’ time..” 

The taskforce members include: Dr. Vinod Paul, Member (Health), Niti Aayog, Dr  Najma Akhtar (VC Jamia),  Vasudha Kamath (VC, SNDT Univ, Maharashtra), Dr  Dipti Shah (leading gynaecologist, Gujarat) as well as secretaries from the ministries of Health and Family Welfare, Women & Child Development, Higher Education, School Education & Literacy, and Legislative Department. 

The task force will also invite experts from other fields, especially those working on child rights’ issues, to consult with them in future meetings. The meetings remain virtual under the Covid-19 conditions, and the task force has been provided secretarial assistance by the NITI Aayog. 

The official terms of reference for  the task force are:

Examine the correlation of age of marriage and motherhood with (a) health, medical well-being and nutritional status of mother and (b) neonate/infant/child, during pregnancy, birth and thereafter

Suggest measures for promoting higher education among women

Suggest suitable legislative instruments and/or amendments in existing laws to support its recommendations

Work out a detailed roll-out plan with timelines to implement its recommendations 

The reason health is foremost on the list is the expert opinion that motherhood at a younger age increases infant and maternal mortality. Some others argue that an older woman has lesser reproductive years ahead of her. 

According to a report in the Economic Times, Indian government’s move to revise the legal age of marriage for women, may have been triggered by a 2017 Supreme Court ruling on marital rape “exemption”. The ET reffers to the said judgment "which held that child marriages should be rendered void-ab-initio (invalid from the outset) to shield women from marital rape, had set the ball rolling for the Centre to amend the existing law to declare child marriages invalid." 

The Hindu then had also reported that, “Exception clause to the heinous offence of rape allows a man to have sex with his wife who is not aged below 15.”  According to a PTI report carried by The Indian Express, “The apex court, however, sought to know as to whether Parliament debated the aspect of protecting married girls, between the age group of 15-18 years, from the forced sexual acts by their spouses. It also asked whether the court could intervene to protect the rights of such married girls who may be sexually exploited by their spouses. The apex court also said that marriage of a girl, who is below the age of 15 years, was 'illegal'”.

“Yes, many contradictions already exist,” said the veteran leader, "the minimum age of marriage was raised from 16 to 18." She added the task force still needs to study again the marriage age, in relation to the changes in education and health, beyond what the law on age is. There may also be a discussion on the parity between genders and the legal marriageable ages for each. At the moment young men who are 21, and young women who are 18 years of age can marry under the law. According to sources, the recommendations are likely to propose that the minimum age of marriage for women in India be raised 21, at par with the men. 

Though Jaitly herself has said that the task force’s discussions are in an early stage yet, and many factors, laws, precedences are yet to be examined. She says, the “best practises” need to be drawn from.

The focus should now be on “incentives rather than punishments,” said Jaitly when asked about the flouting of the existent anti child-marriage law, among some socio-ethnic groups in the country. The committee will also closely look at the various clauses in Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006. It may also consider if it is better to have the same age of marriage for both genders and what that age should be. “After all, the voting age is the same, but I look at my grandson who is almost 18 years old, and I can’t imagine him thinking about marriage. Teenagers have many other worries...” said Jaitly, on a lighter note.

In the early inputs, the figures on the application of various government welfare schemes aimed at the girl child, especially her education, have been submitted and are being studied. More reports, especially on health are expected to be submitted to the task force soon. According to sources, it has also been suggested that the members of the task force perhaps invite the major stakeholders: the young women and men who will be directly impacted, to offer their opinions. In the current situation, this may be done over video conferencing, or a virtual town hall. Though this too is just an idea that one of the task force members have voiced and needs to be discussed further. 

“Yes, a member suggested we reach out to the stakeholders, (perhaps via) the youth, and sports ministry. We need to (hear from) young voices,” confirmed Jaitly.

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 has a number of punishments, such as:

Solemnising a child marriage—Whoever performs, conducts, directs or abets any child marriage shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to two years and shall be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.

Promoting,  permitting, attending, participating in the solemnisation of child marriages shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend up to one lakh rupees.

The marriage of a minor child is declared to be void if the child is:

Taken or enticed out of the keeping of the lawful guardian; or by force compelled, or by any deceitful means induced to go from any place.

Is sold for the purpose of marriage; and made to go through a form of marriage or if the minor is married after which the minor is sold or trafficked or used for immoral purposes. 

According to UNICEF, India has the highest absolute number of child brides in the world. The situation is explained in detail by Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of non government organisations that work to end child marriage. Their studies elucidate that child marriage in India is driven by gender inequality, level of education, and poverty. Points that Jatly also said will be examined. 

Girls Not Brides, also adds other social factors that lead to marriage of young girls such as ‘to preserve the purity’, or ensuring that there is no ‘risk’ of pre marital sex, or worse, sexual assault. However, the partnership adds that “child brides in India are at greater risk of sexual and physical violence within their marital home.” According to the website India has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

21 years to be minimum legal age of marriage in India for women too?

A task force, chaired by veteran politician and activist Jaya Jaitly, has begun deliberations. Will submit report by July 31.

Legal AgeImage Courtesy:indiatvnews.com

In another month, a high powered task force set up by the Parliament, will submit its report on whether the minimum legal age for marriage for women in India needs to be changed from the current 18 years. The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development had notified the committee chaired by veteran politician and activist Jaya Jaitly. The committee has been formed under the Women Welfare Division, of the ministry and was notified in the Gazette on June 4.

The taskforce is mandated to study the implications of the age of marriage of girls, age of childbirth on the health and mortality rates of both infants and mothers, in India. It is expected to submit its findings by July 31. The meetings have begun, and inputs on various elements have been sought from subject experts from across the country. 

Chairperson Jaya Jaitly, told SabrangIndia that the broad issues that are being examined include legislative measures, the various existing laws and how they intertwine, perhaps even contradict each other. “We will study the social inputs, as well as the laws and status on  health and education. For example the impact on education of girls, of Swacch Bharat, the mid day meal schemes,” she said. The committee has already held two meetings, and in its future meetings will also study the international precedents on what the ideal age of marriage is in various countries. “We need to look at best practices,” says Jaitly, “we can’t just give a wishlist and idealism.” She says the task force will study the following broad elements, “We need to look at health,  law, primary education, secondary education etc.” The proposal, once accepted, may be discussed in Parliament, and eventually become law. 

According to sources, the task force’s recommendations may pave the way for the amendments of  key laws including Protection of Children from Sexual Offences; Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).  

The issue was highlighted by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech this year. She is quoted in the Gazette saying, “Women’s age of marriage was increased from fifteen years to eighteen years in 1978, by amending erstwhile Sharda Act of 1929. As India progresses further, opportunities open up for women to pursue higher education and careers. There are imperatives of lowering MMR as well as improvement of nutrition levels. Entire issue about the age of a girl entering motherhood needs to be seen in this light. I propose to appoint a task force that will present its recommendations in six months’ time..” 

The taskforce members include: Dr. Vinod Paul, Member (Health), Niti Aayog, Dr  Najma Akhtar (VC Jamia),  Vasudha Kamath (VC, SNDT Univ, Maharashtra), Dr  Dipti Shah (leading gynaecologist, Gujarat) as well as secretaries from the ministries of Health and Family Welfare, Women & Child Development, Higher Education, School Education & Literacy, and Legislative Department. 

The task force will also invite experts from other fields, especially those working on child rights’ issues, to consult with them in future meetings. The meetings remain virtual under the Covid-19 conditions, and the task force has been provided secretarial assistance by the NITI Aayog. 

The official terms of reference for  the task force are:

Examine the correlation of age of marriage and motherhood with (a) health, medical well-being and nutritional status of mother and (b) neonate/infant/child, during pregnancy, birth and thereafter

Suggest measures for promoting higher education among women

Suggest suitable legislative instruments and/or amendments in existing laws to support its recommendations

Work out a detailed roll-out plan with timelines to implement its recommendations 

The reason health is foremost on the list is the expert opinion that motherhood at a younger age increases infant and maternal mortality. Some others argue that an older woman has lesser reproductive years ahead of her. 

According to a report in the Economic Times, Indian government’s move to revise the legal age of marriage for women, may have been triggered by a 2017 Supreme Court ruling on marital rape “exemption”. The ET reffers to the said judgment "which held that child marriages should be rendered void-ab-initio (invalid from the outset) to shield women from marital rape, had set the ball rolling for the Centre to amend the existing law to declare child marriages invalid." 

The Hindu then had also reported that, “Exception clause to the heinous offence of rape allows a man to have sex with his wife who is not aged below 15.”  According to a PTI report carried by The Indian Express, “The apex court, however, sought to know as to whether Parliament debated the aspect of protecting married girls, between the age group of 15-18 years, from the forced sexual acts by their spouses. It also asked whether the court could intervene to protect the rights of such married girls who may be sexually exploited by their spouses. The apex court also said that marriage of a girl, who is below the age of 15 years, was 'illegal'”.

“Yes, many contradictions already exist,” said the veteran leader, "the minimum age of marriage was raised from 16 to 18." She added the task force still needs to study again the marriage age, in relation to the changes in education and health, beyond what the law on age is. There may also be a discussion on the parity between genders and the legal marriageable ages for each. At the moment young men who are 21, and young women who are 18 years of age can marry under the law. According to sources, the recommendations are likely to propose that the minimum age of marriage for women in India be raised 21, at par with the men. 

Though Jaitly herself has said that the task force’s discussions are in an early stage yet, and many factors, laws, precedences are yet to be examined. She says, the “best practises” need to be drawn from.

The focus should now be on “incentives rather than punishments,” said Jaitly when asked about the flouting of the existent anti child-marriage law, among some socio-ethnic groups in the country. The committee will also closely look at the various clauses in Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006. It may also consider if it is better to have the same age of marriage for both genders and what that age should be. “After all, the voting age is the same, but I look at my grandson who is almost 18 years old, and I can’t imagine him thinking about marriage. Teenagers have many other worries...” said Jaitly, on a lighter note.

In the early inputs, the figures on the application of various government welfare schemes aimed at the girl child, especially her education, have been submitted and are being studied. More reports, especially on health are expected to be submitted to the task force soon. According to sources, it has also been suggested that the members of the task force perhaps invite the major stakeholders: the young women and men who will be directly impacted, to offer their opinions. In the current situation, this may be done over video conferencing, or a virtual town hall. Though this too is just an idea that one of the task force members have voiced and needs to be discussed further. 

“Yes, a member suggested we reach out to the stakeholders, (perhaps via) the youth, and sports ministry. We need to (hear from) young voices,” confirmed Jaitly.

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 has a number of punishments, such as:

Solemnising a child marriage—Whoever performs, conducts, directs or abets any child marriage shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to two years and shall be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.

Promoting,  permitting, attending, participating in the solemnisation of child marriages shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend up to one lakh rupees.

The marriage of a minor child is declared to be void if the child is:

Taken or enticed out of the keeping of the lawful guardian; or by force compelled, or by any deceitful means induced to go from any place.

Is sold for the purpose of marriage; and made to go through a form of marriage or if the minor is married after which the minor is sold or trafficked or used for immoral purposes. 

According to UNICEF, India has the highest absolute number of child brides in the world. The situation is explained in detail by Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of non government organisations that work to end child marriage. Their studies elucidate that child marriage in India is driven by gender inequality, level of education, and poverty. Points that Jatly also said will be examined. 

Girls Not Brides, also adds other social factors that lead to marriage of young girls such as ‘to preserve the purity’, or ensuring that there is no ‘risk’ of pre marital sex, or worse, sexual assault. However, the partnership adds that “child brides in India are at greater risk of sexual and physical violence within their marital home.” According to the website India has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

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Students with disabilities, those from underprivileged households and women left out of online learning during pandemic

The half-baked approach by the education department has left out most of the children from access to education during the lockdown

09 Jun 2020

LockdownImage Courtesy:deccanherald.com

The travails of the lockdown have come for many in many forms. During this time, the foundation of our society – education, has taken a backseat and taken a severe hit. With educational institutions shutting doors due to the pandemic, with no knowledge of when they will be safe to reopen, the futures of millions of children are at stake.

Children from marginalized sections of society

The pandemic has exposed various problems with the education system. The socio-economic digital divide being the starkest of the gamut. A recent incident of a Standard 9 student belonging to the scheduled caste community allegedly committing suicide due to not being able to attend online classes shook was proof of that. The 14-year-old, a resident of Kerala’s Malappuram, allegedly set herself ablaze on June 1. Her family didn’t have any access to the facilities needed for digital education – neither a functioning TV, nor a mobile phone with internet.

In Kerala, the KITE Victers channel has been broadcasting lessons on television through cable and online as well under the project ‘First Bell’. However, a survey by the General Education Department found out that out of the data recorded from over 43.76 lakh students in the state government schools, more than 2.6 lakh students had no provisions for online classes, reported SheThePeople.

With an incident like this and the evidence of millions of other marginalized children left without access to education, it is apparent that the government doesn’t have a wholesome understanding of the demography of its own residents and is only adept at issuing orders without checking for ground reality.

Only after a child lost her life, did the Kerala government decide to take corrective measures. In Ernakulam, six anganwadis threw open their doors to students from financially weaker sections of society to help them attend online classes, reported The New Indian Express (TNIE). Maya Lakshmi, district project officer, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) told TNIE, “Since the Malappuram incident on Monday, six anganwadis in the district have been opened up to help students gain access to online classes. The anganwadis are made available as per the request of the ward members. At present, the centres are all closed since classes for the little ones can’t be held until further notice. Hence, they can be used to conduct online classes for students who don’t have access to the same at their homes.”

In Kochi, under the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, pending a final nod from education department officials and local government officials, anganwadis and libraries are set to turn into classrooms for students who have no access to TV, computers and smartphones, reported Mathrubhumi.

However, with different states adopting one channel to disseminate information, there is no plan on how they will strive to address the diversity of languages.

The All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) how the move towards digital education was only going to widen the gap between the affluent and the marginalized, apart from creating a profitable edu-market for corporate producers of digital technology.

Apart from not having access to television or internet access, the psychological and physical environment for children from marginalized sections of society is rarely conducive to their growth. Living in homes with bare necessities, higher responsibilities and large families, it is difficult for students to concentrate on their studies if they do manage to get access to online classes.

While the current online education module, puts the onus on parents to ensure the learning of children, but children from backwards sections of society have nobody to aid their learning. Also, not all content is issued in regional languages which makes the problems more complex for both, parents and children. With no access to guidance, where are these students to go?

Children with disabilities

However, while these efforts take place on a micro level, at the macro level, scores of children, especially with disabilities and special needs are not even being thought of. As per the 2019 State of Education Report for India: Children with Disabilities, there are 7,864,636 children with disabilities in India. Out of these, 61 percent aged between 5 and 19 were attending educational institutions. The Wire reported that a study by the Javed Abidi Foundation which studied the responses of several students to the order of operating online classes, showed that, in particular, students with visual disabilities weren’t able to access the study material and classes. If they did, it was with the help of family members. Students with hearing difficulties couldn’t access the classes at all as there were no sign language interpreters during the video calls. There were no transcripts or subtitles to help them learn too.

Gender divide

UNESCO showed that out of the 320,713,810 learners affected due to school closures in India, 158,158,233 were females. A study by McKinsey in 2018 had reported that unpaid care work was one of the biggest contributors to the gender gap in secondary school completion, with girls who did two hours of housework per day having a 63% probability of completing secondary school against that of 84% for boys.

A report by Internet and Mobile Association of India and Neilsen in 2019 points out that the female internet population in India is half of the 258 million male internet population. All over India, 67 percent of males have access to the internet as opposed to 33 percent females. In rural areas, 72 percent males have access to the internet as against 28 percent females. In urban areas, only 38 percent females have access to the internet as opposed to 62 percent males.

In India, for women, especially from the weaker sections of society, schools aren’t just grounds for learning, but also a means for nutrition and health and hygiene. A report by News 18 showed that experts estimated that after the closures caused by the pandemic, girls from disadvantaged families might lose 50 percent of their total years of education and remain in the thick of being pushed in child labour and early marriage.

It is evident that online learning is neither a sustainable nor a long-term answer to the pandemic. With evidences and research of the glaring insufficient digital infrastructure, the digital divide, the gender gap and the insufficiency in teaching methodologies, will the government wake up to create a more wholesome approach or will it continue to let the marginalized sections move away further to the periphery?

Related:

E-learning is corporate driven; not the way to go during lockdown and after

Students with disabilities, those from underprivileged households and women left out of online learning during pandemic

The half-baked approach by the education department has left out most of the children from access to education during the lockdown

LockdownImage Courtesy:deccanherald.com

The travails of the lockdown have come for many in many forms. During this time, the foundation of our society – education, has taken a backseat and taken a severe hit. With educational institutions shutting doors due to the pandemic, with no knowledge of when they will be safe to reopen, the futures of millions of children are at stake.

Children from marginalized sections of society

The pandemic has exposed various problems with the education system. The socio-economic digital divide being the starkest of the gamut. A recent incident of a Standard 9 student belonging to the scheduled caste community allegedly committing suicide due to not being able to attend online classes shook was proof of that. The 14-year-old, a resident of Kerala’s Malappuram, allegedly set herself ablaze on June 1. Her family didn’t have any access to the facilities needed for digital education – neither a functioning TV, nor a mobile phone with internet.

In Kerala, the KITE Victers channel has been broadcasting lessons on television through cable and online as well under the project ‘First Bell’. However, a survey by the General Education Department found out that out of the data recorded from over 43.76 lakh students in the state government schools, more than 2.6 lakh students had no provisions for online classes, reported SheThePeople.

With an incident like this and the evidence of millions of other marginalized children left without access to education, it is apparent that the government doesn’t have a wholesome understanding of the demography of its own residents and is only adept at issuing orders without checking for ground reality.

Only after a child lost her life, did the Kerala government decide to take corrective measures. In Ernakulam, six anganwadis threw open their doors to students from financially weaker sections of society to help them attend online classes, reported The New Indian Express (TNIE). Maya Lakshmi, district project officer, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) told TNIE, “Since the Malappuram incident on Monday, six anganwadis in the district have been opened up to help students gain access to online classes. The anganwadis are made available as per the request of the ward members. At present, the centres are all closed since classes for the little ones can’t be held until further notice. Hence, they can be used to conduct online classes for students who don’t have access to the same at their homes.”

In Kochi, under the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, pending a final nod from education department officials and local government officials, anganwadis and libraries are set to turn into classrooms for students who have no access to TV, computers and smartphones, reported Mathrubhumi.

However, with different states adopting one channel to disseminate information, there is no plan on how they will strive to address the diversity of languages.

The All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) how the move towards digital education was only going to widen the gap between the affluent and the marginalized, apart from creating a profitable edu-market for corporate producers of digital technology.

Apart from not having access to television or internet access, the psychological and physical environment for children from marginalized sections of society is rarely conducive to their growth. Living in homes with bare necessities, higher responsibilities and large families, it is difficult for students to concentrate on their studies if they do manage to get access to online classes.

While the current online education module, puts the onus on parents to ensure the learning of children, but children from backwards sections of society have nobody to aid their learning. Also, not all content is issued in regional languages which makes the problems more complex for both, parents and children. With no access to guidance, where are these students to go?

Children with disabilities

However, while these efforts take place on a micro level, at the macro level, scores of children, especially with disabilities and special needs are not even being thought of. As per the 2019 State of Education Report for India: Children with Disabilities, there are 7,864,636 children with disabilities in India. Out of these, 61 percent aged between 5 and 19 were attending educational institutions. The Wire reported that a study by the Javed Abidi Foundation which studied the responses of several students to the order of operating online classes, showed that, in particular, students with visual disabilities weren’t able to access the study material and classes. If they did, it was with the help of family members. Students with hearing difficulties couldn’t access the classes at all as there were no sign language interpreters during the video calls. There were no transcripts or subtitles to help them learn too.

Gender divide

UNESCO showed that out of the 320,713,810 learners affected due to school closures in India, 158,158,233 were females. A study by McKinsey in 2018 had reported that unpaid care work was one of the biggest contributors to the gender gap in secondary school completion, with girls who did two hours of housework per day having a 63% probability of completing secondary school against that of 84% for boys.

A report by Internet and Mobile Association of India and Neilsen in 2019 points out that the female internet population in India is half of the 258 million male internet population. All over India, 67 percent of males have access to the internet as opposed to 33 percent females. In rural areas, 72 percent males have access to the internet as against 28 percent females. In urban areas, only 38 percent females have access to the internet as opposed to 62 percent males.

In India, for women, especially from the weaker sections of society, schools aren’t just grounds for learning, but also a means for nutrition and health and hygiene. A report by News 18 showed that experts estimated that after the closures caused by the pandemic, girls from disadvantaged families might lose 50 percent of their total years of education and remain in the thick of being pushed in child labour and early marriage.

It is evident that online learning is neither a sustainable nor a long-term answer to the pandemic. With evidences and research of the glaring insufficient digital infrastructure, the digital divide, the gender gap and the insufficiency in teaching methodologies, will the government wake up to create a more wholesome approach or will it continue to let the marginalized sections move away further to the periphery?

Related:

E-learning is corporate driven; not the way to go during lockdown and after

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