In extremely distressful news, NCRB data shows that instances of child rape increased by 82% in 2016 compared to the previous year. Some of this increase would be attributable to greater focus on sexual crimes ensuring improved registration of cases, which is an important step in safeguarding our children. And some of these would actually be cases of consensual sexual activity amongst adolescents, which is injudiciously criminalised in India, so that parents file rape cases just because their child has entered a relationship without their approval. The law needs reforming to secure greater respect for adolescent sexual autonomy.
Even granted these caveats, an 82% spike in cases of rape of children – overall crimes against children have also increased – is a matter of grave concern. It suggests an urgent need to make homes and schools more secure. This requires measures ranging from doing thorough background checks on teachers to teaching children about ‘right touch and wrong touch’.
There has been a lot of emphasis on laws against sexual crimes. But this won’t help if the justice system falls short on proper implementation of these laws. Low conviction rates are a telling sign of this failure. Special courts where child rape cases are fast-tracked and dedicated investigation teams who are more sensitised than general police would ensure that child rapists get swift punishment. This would be potent deterrence. Unlike adults, children cannot speak for themselves. Civilised society must therefore speak all the more louder for them.