To begin with, hear the story of one child. On 17 December 2012 â€” just one day after the gangrape of a young paramedic in New Delhi shook the world â€” a three-and-a-half-year old baby girl returned from school with her clothes streaked with vomit and blood.
Her father, Gagan Sharma (name changed), had moved from Kolkata to a slum in west Delhi in 2003 in search of a better life. The little girl had been listless and reluctant to go to school for weeks. Now, when her mother asked her what had happened, she told the story haltingly, riven by fear.
She spoke of a bald man â€” the principalâ€™s husband â€” who had threatened to hang her from a ceiling fan if she dared to open her mouth. She spoke of how he had taken her to the bathroom, made her lie down, and inserted his penis and fingers into her vagina and her anus, blaring music in his room to drown any noise. She spoke of how he had done this to her many times before, forcing her to keep quiet by saying terrible things would happen to her parents if she talked about it.
The girlâ€™s mouth was full of ulcers from a drug the alleged perpetrator â€” a man called Pramod Malik â€” had forced her to take to render her unconscious while he raped her.
The fact of the rape is horrific enough. Hereâ€™s what came after. According to the parents, it took them 12 hours at the police station to get an FIR registered. They were taunted by a woman sub-inspector for living in a colony of â€śdisreputeâ€ť; their own reputation was questioned; the little girl was asked to recount her story in front of three policemen. The woman sub-inspector prefaced the inquiry by telling the little girl: â€śTell the truth or insects will crawl all over you and your mother and father will be beaten.â€ť
Despite these threats, the little girl repeated her story exactly as she had told it to her parents. In the magistrateâ€™s court, she was challenged again. She told her story again. The medical examiner, however, ruled out rape and left the report vague. The headmaster was let out on bail on 28 February. On the other hand, Gagan Sharmaâ€™s landlord asked him and his family to leave. They are still struggling with the case.
Now, hear the story of a second. Asha, an 18- year-old in Gowandi, a slum in Mumbai, is a volunteer with a community-based NGO called Aastha Parivar that helps slum-dwellers and sex workers â€” the poor and the marginalised â€” lodge complaints with the police. One day, her 14-year-old friend Neelima (name changed) complained about being harassed by a boy next door. Emboldened by her training at the NGO, Asha took her friend to the police to complain. They rebuffed the girls rudely. The boy stepped up his harassment, standing at his doorway and masturbating when Neelima passed. Asha went to the police again. This time the cop gave her a scrap of paper with a number: â€śJab rape hoga, tab bulana,â€ť he smirked, (â€śCall us when thereâ€™s an actual rape.â€ť)
A month later, Neelimaâ€™s naked body was found cut in pieces and dumped in a drain. Her neighbour â€” the boy she had been complaining about â€” had disappeared without a trace. Incensed, Asha went to the police again with a description of the neighbour. This time she was ordered to leave the slum and create no more trouble.
Hereâ€™s the story of a third. In Ahmednagar, a city in Maharashtra, a 13-year-old girl was forced to inhale chloroform by her own father so he could knock her out and rape her.
And a fourth. In 2010, in Paravoor in Kerala, another father filmed his own 14-year-old daughter taking a bath before he raped her. He then pimped her out to customers across the state, before selling her. Over the next two years, she was raped by 148 men.
And a fifth. In April this year, the 16- year-old daughter of a rich mining baron based in Gurgaon confessed to her teachers and principal that her father frequently took her on â€śbonding tripsâ€ť all by herself, raping her in anonymous hotel rooms across the country. Her father also used to beat her mother. A case was filed just as he was going to take her off to Dubai. By the time child welfare groups reached the girlâ€™s home, however, relatives had had their way: the shutters had come down. Though the father had been taken into custody, in the presence of her family, the adolescent refused to speak. Mother and daughter have now withdrawn their story before the magistrateâ€™s court.
And a sixth. A 50-year-old mother from Punjab speaks of how her husband sexually abused their daughter when she was four. He would lock her in a room and tell her that if she made a noise, her stuffed toy lion would eat her up. When she noticed the bite marks on her child, the mother began to ask questions and reported her husband to the police. The case took three years to reach the court. Since there had been no penile penetration, the case was registered under the arcane clause of â€śoutraging the modesty of a womanâ€ť; the father was let out on bail within one day. The mother, herself a survivor of childhood sex abuse, filed for divorce. The father agreed not to meet his daughter till she was 13. However, when she turned 15, he petitioned the courts for visitation rights. His daughter testified in court that she wanted to have nothing to do with her father. She is 19 now and still has nightmares.
|Child AÂ – AGE 14 | Paravoor, Kerala
Occurred 2010 | Convicted in 2012
The nightmare began in 2010, when her father filmed this 14-year-old having a bath, and then raped her. After that, he pimped her out to customers across Kerala, before finally selling her. In the span of two years, she was raped by 148 people, of whom 102 were finally arrested and 19 given life sentences.
|Child BÂ - AGE 13 | Ahmednagar, Maharashtra
OccurredÂ 2011 |Â Accused under trial
Her father would first sedate this 13-year-old with chloroform, then rape her. This Class VIII student was tortured, burnt and threatened with dire consequences if she dared tell anyone. She finally gathered the courage to talk to her uncle, who in turn contacted the NGO Childline. The father was charged and arrested.
Hear these stories and then imagine them amplified thousands of times â€” in every brutal variation â€” in every part of the country. Imagine 48,838 children raped in just 10 years. Imagine what it means when you are told this staggering figure â€” which is a National Crimes Record Bureau statistic â€” is possibly only 25 percent of the actual child rapes going on in the country. And that only 3 percent â€” a mere 3 percent â€” of these make it to the police. Imagine what it means when you are told child rapes have seen a chilling 336 percent jump from 2001 to 2011.