In most cases, once these young girls are trafficked, the pimps make a fresh set of false papers for them, which is how they are able to travel abroad with no trouble. Clearly, there is an entire system working in collusion: among the 148 men that slept with the young girl in Kerala, who had been trafficked by her father, there was an NRI doctor, an actor, a retired naval officer and various businessmen.
It is no surprise then that these children â the ones who are not the subject of Facebook pages and popular protests â should have learned to think like adults, to weigh morals against money and choose the latter. âThe younger you are, the more you can charge,â Reshma says matter-of-factly, pointing to Bilquis, a dimpled 14-year-old who had her first abortion last month.
IN WHICHEVER diabolic form it comes â rapist fathers or rapist strangers, rape within the home or in brothels, whether it is with prepuberty children or adolescent girls â there is a systemic failure that needs urgent redressal.
Inevitably, the police is the first interface. And inevitably, like most stories in India, the story of police response to rape is a complex one.
At one level, there is plain brutishness and malevolent prejudice. A TEHELKA sting last year, The rapes will go on by G Vishnu and Abhishek Bhalla, 20 December 2012, captured the venomous chauvinism with which many police officers and constables view women and rape. Shockingly, this sometimes extends to children as well. Some of the cases mentioned in this story already illustrate that. But, depressingly, there are thousands more.
Sudha Tiwari, a child rights activist, recalls a case from the 1990s, when a 13-year-old was raped by her father. The parents had had a fight and the mother had gone to her parentsâ place leaving her daughter behind. At night, the father climbed onto his daughter, stripped her naked and raped her. Hearing her screams, the neighbours came in and dragged the father to the police. They refused to register a case. The next day, Tiwari and other activists got involved and took the father to the police station again, forcing them to file a case. They did file the case but not before taunting the mother. âYou are frigid,â they told her, âthatâs why your poor man has no choice but to go to his daughter to satisfy himself.â
According to Tiwari, they see less of that level of criminal boorishness in the police now (though activists elsewhere in the country have different experiences). But, contrary to the clamour in the media and public domain, there are seemingly no shortcuts.
The presence of women cops, for instance â one of the great demands of all street protests â is no automatic safeguard. Bharti Ali, of HAQ, has some sobering insights. âWe often have serious issues with women police officers,â she says. âThey want to hush things up and refuse to register cases because they are facing so much brutality in their own personal lives, they have no empathy for others.â She speaks of how women cops are scared to go home wearing uniforms because they have no power within their own homes. âYou canât be walking in uniform into a place where an hour later the neighbours can hear screams of you getting beaten up.â
But frustration, prejudice and entrenched social bigotry do not account for the whole police story either. In the curious twists that India can be replete with, it appears the police are wrongly incentivised.
During Mayawatiâs reign, the Uttar Pradesh Police were infamously loath to register any cases against Dalit atrocities because she had wanted the crime rate to be brought down: the only way to create such miracle change was to keep the books clean and pretend there was no crime.
In Delhi this week, the cops allegedly tried to bribe the parents of the five-year-old to bury the case. Itâs unclear whether they were merely being venal and exploitative or were scared of having such a brutal crime happen on their watch.
Either way, Ganguly, also of HAQ, points out how ill-thought-out the incentives are. âThe police are rewarded for being crime free. No one gives them credit for reporting cases in a timely and competent way; for lodging sound FIRs and investigating a case well. So where is their motivation to investigate and prosecute these cases? They would rather just stay out of trouble and wash their hands off it. Pretend their areas of jurisdiction have no crime.â
|Child E – AGE 14 |Â Maliwada, Maharashtra
Occurred 2006 | Â Convicted in 2010
An autorickshaw driver approached Childline when his 14-year-old daughter went missing. It took three years to rescue the girl, during which she had been sold into prostitution and taken to various places in the state and Goa. After a four-year battle, 20 high-profile individuals, including politicians and traders, were sentenced to two life-terms each.
|Child FÂ - AGE 14 |Â Mumbai
Occurred 2009 | Accused at large
She complained to the police twice that a 14- year-old girl in her slum was being sexually harassed by a neighbour. The police laughed it off, asking her to call when an actual rape took place. A month later, the girlâs naked body was found cut to pieces and dumped in a gutter. The boy had disappeared overnight.
Bharti Ali points out other imponderables. âPolice sensitisation has been happening,â she says, âbut though a lot of the rules are now in writing, all of it is contingent on how receptive a particular DCP is. For instance, we were having a monthly meeting with all stakeholders â the Child Welfare Committees, the Juvenile Justice Boards, social workers, the magistrate and the police â in the Outer Delhi district. But itâs all stopped now because the new DCP doesnât think it is useful.â