Haryana gets Children’s Courts

THE HINDU

The Haryana Government has decided to designate all courts of Sessions Judges and Additional Sessions Judges at each district, excluding Additional Sessions Judges (ad hoc) and Fast Track Courts, as Children’s Courts.

This move is aimed at expediting the trial of offences against children and violations of child rights under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005.

“Under Section 28 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, special courts under the relevant section of the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, shall also be special courts under it to try offences. The Act ensures a child-friendly judicial process. It encourages such children as having been victims of sexual abuse, to bring the offender to book and seek redressal for their suffering as well as to obtain assistance in overcoming their trauma. It makes such agencies of the State as the police, the judiciary and the child protection machinery, collaborators in securing justice to a sexually abused child,” said Sumita Misra, the director general of the Women and Child Development Department.

Saying that it was a “welcome step” and would “go a long way in ensuring justice to the children in time”, Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, a non-government organisation, cautioned that there is a need to sensitise the judiciary towards child-related issues to bring about a real change in the situation.

“It has been often seen that the offenders in children-related cases such as child labour are easily granted bail despite there being instances of violence against the victim. Also, the police on some occasions invoke lenient sections in such cases making it easy for the offenders to go scot-free. It is the job of the judiciary to ensure that relevant sections are invoked as per the extent of the crime committed to ensure complete justice,” argued Mr. Kant.

Minor molested by home caretaker

Minor molested by home caretaker

THE HINDU

The caretaker of a child care home has been arrested for allegedly molesting a minor at Inderpuri in South West Delhi. The accused is a native of Uttar Pradesh. Besides working as a caretaker, the accused also looked after the cattleshed at the child care home. The victim, who worked there and assisted the accused in taking care of the cattleshed, was molested continuously by the caretaker.

When the victim could not take the torture any more, she started working elsewhere. However, the accused did not leave her alone even at her new workplace. He visited there regularly and continued to harass her physically and mentally.The victim then brought the matter to the notice of a Non-Government Organisation, which reported the case to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). Taking cognizance of the matter, the CWC launched an inquiry. Based on the findings of the inquiry it conducted, the CWC directed the police to register a case. Following this, a case was registered under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code and the accused was subsequently arrested on Friday. Investigation in the case is on, according to the police.

KIDS BELONG IN SCHOOL NOT KITCHEN

MALLICA JOSHI IN THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

Talk to residents who have hired an underage domestic help and you will soon see them clamouring to justify their actions. “At least she is getting three square meals here. She would have died in her village”, “We treat her very well. We give her new clothes twice a year and also let her watch television. She wouldn’t get these things at home”, and “We take her along for all our vacations. Last year we took her to Singapore in an airplane”.

These are the usual protestations you would hear from those trying to justify their crime. “What most of these people do not understand, or choose to ignore, is that the girl should be in school, just like their children are. She should get the emotional support of her family and should be given the right to make informed choices,” said Rishi Kant, member, Shakti Vahini, an NGO.

What needs to change in the mindset of the middle and upper-middle class which is the primary employer of child domestic workers. Hindustan Times spoke to a number of families who have employed children to work in their homes most of these families have young children of their own. In fact the child domestic workers are hired primarily to take care of these children. But none of these families thought what they were doing was illegal.

“Unless this mindset does not change and the laws don’t become stricter, trafficking is here to stay,” Kant added.

Activists, NGOs root for stronger laws

Activists, NGOs root for stronger laws
Activists, NGOs root for stronger laws

MALLICA JOSHI IN THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

As voices centred on trafficking crimes are slowly becoming louder and questions marks over the lack of regulation of placement agencies being raised increasingly, the pressure on the Delhi government to come up with a regulatory law has increased. According to experts, however, Delhi government’s draft Delhi Private Placement Agencies (Regulation) Bill, 2012 leaves a lot to be desired.   “The draft Bill provides for no welfare mechanism for domestic helps nor does it stipulate minimum wages. It also does not talk of a monitoring mechanism in procurement areas. These are key areas which are central to the problem of trafficking and also to the betterment of the domestic helps,” said Rishi Kant, member, Shakti Vahini, an NGO working against child trafficking.

The draft Delhi Private Placement Agencies (Regulation) Bill, 2012, would be placed before the assembly in February 2013.

“The draft Bill has not clearly spelt out the rights of the domestic helps. It also does not seek to set up a mechanism whereby domestic workers can lodge complaint of sexual harassment/sexual assault by placement agents,” Kant added. Woman and child department of Delhi government is now planning to bring a new legislation to rein in trafficking of minors, especially girls, and women. “We are working on a separate law,” said Delhi social welfare minister Kiran Walia.

Concerted efforts will weed out trafficking

Concerted efforts will weed out trafficking

MALLICA JOSHI IN THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

Picked up from Simdega district in Jharkhand, Meena was first taken to Patna and then to Delhi by train. She stayed in the national Capital for a week after which she was put on a bus for Ahmedabad. In a story traversing four states, the 13-year-old found herself changing hands four times after which she was finally rescued by the police from a house where she was working as a domestic maid.

Meena’s story indicates how the challenge of trafficking needs coordinated efforts by different states. The growing menace of child trafficking can only be curbed if state agencies formulate laws and work together.

“Political will is very important. It will not help if Delhi alone follows all guidelines. We need a strong coordinated effort by the state governments and police force of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Delhi. The Juvenile Justice Act needs to be followed in letter and spirit in all states and the Child Welfare Committees need to be made functional,” said Raajmangal Prasad, child rights activist.

While child trafficking is an organised crime, the investigation and prosecution of traffickers is lackadaisical.”Inter-state investigation in such cases is very weak. They are not linked from the source states to the destination area,” said Rishi Kant, member, Shakti Vahini, an NGO working in the field of child rights.

While the union home ministry (MHA) has started Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTU) in 225 districts in the country, training and sensitisation of the police is yet to be completed.

“While the AHTUs have been instrumental in rescuing a large number of children, the network needs to be expanded. We have already held a number of training sessions for police personnel to sensitise them. We need to get the message out that the trafficked women are not the culprits. They are, rather, the victims of circumstances,” said Praveen Kumari Singh, director (SR), MHA. The non-implementation of the provisions of the Integrated Child Protection System (ICPS), which talks about identifying vulnerable families and supporting them, is also adding to the woes.

“ICPS can ensure that a lot of poor families and their children don’t have to migrate but its non-implementation remains a big drawback,” Prasad added.

Kept as slaves, minors are shown no mercy

Kept as slaves, minors are shown no mercy

MALLICA JOSHI IN THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

Stuti (name changed) would wake up at 5 every day to sweep, wash and dust the entire house, cook breakfast and pack lunch for the family of five and then go and drop the kids to the bus stop. But she is not the mother of these children; neither is she their caretaker.

Working at the home of a MNC executive, she was made to work at least 12-14 hours daily, given only two meals and beaten up badly if she made a ‘mistake’. When she was rescued at the instance of a neighbour who could not bear to see her regular trauma, she was found to be malnourished and scared.

But Stuti’s is not alone. Megha (name changed), 13, ran away from her employer’s house to be found by a policeman on the streets in Kalkaji. She had run away from a doctor’s house with a swollen ear, scratches on her face and bruises all over her body. The doctor’s wife, she said, hit her every day.

HOW YOU CAN HELPThere are thousands of minor domestic helps working in the homes of upper middle and middle class Indians who are meted out the same treatment daily. Child Welfare Committees, NGOs and police have rescued close to 200 minor domestic maids in the past six months.

Most tip-offs have been given by neighbours because these maids are regularly beaten up. “I was once hit with a ‘tawa’ because I broke a glass jar by mistake,” Stuti said.

Stuti came to Delhi as a nine-year-old from West Bengal. Her mother worked for the family’s parents in their ancestral village and her mother thought she would be in safe hands. “The working middle class is fuelling the child domestic help sector. We think that we are doing the girl and her family a favour by employing her. What we fail to understand is that this girl should be in a school instead of doing work that even a full-grown man would find daunting. Unless a girl is beaten up badly, no one complains,” said Rajasebastian Robertson, who runs a shelter home called Global Family and is currently taking care of Stuti.

“Employing a young boy or girl is not considered a crime. Unless this attitude changes, girls will continue to be trafficked and tortured,” he added.

SHE STILL HOPES TO MEET HER DAUGHTER

SHE STILL HOPES TO MEET HER DAUGHTER

Mallica Joshi in Hindustan Times

Rupa Devi will never forget the cold January afternoon seven years ago when she came home to find her daughter missing. The 13-year-old had not returned home from school and no one had seen her. It was only a week later that she found that her real sister had taken her daughter to Delhi to work as Domestic Maid. ”She told her that she could buy jeans and beautiful ear rings with her own money in Delhi. She lured her with promises of movies and money. My daughter was just 13,” she says.

Rupa Devi is one of the few mothers in Gumla who did not send her daughter to Delhi voluntarily. She has no idea where her daughter is, even after all these years.  For parents whose daughters have been trafficked without their knowledge, tracking their children is a near impossible task.Rupa Devi should know. She has been trying to track her daughter for the past seven years without any luck. Her sister, the trafficker, is long dead leaving no clue behind of where her daughter could be.

“Somewhere deep down, however, I know I have lost her. How much would she have changed in these seven years? Even if she comes and stands in front of me, I may not be able to recognize her.”What most parents like Rupa Devi don’t do is go to the police or the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) with their complaints.”People don’t trust the police at all and accuse it of extorting money to file an FIR. People are afraid to talk to the authorities,” said Tribhuvan Sharma, member, CWC, Gumla.

HOW YOU CAN HELPEasy Pickings have no source of sustenance

Deepak Kumar, a trafficker arrested by the Haryana Police from Faridabad in May, spoke to the Hindustan Times and explained the how children are trafficked. While he refuses to confess that he was involved in the trafficking of minors, the police found 11 children — six girls and five boys — stuffed in one room in his house, sleeping on the floor.

Trafficking girls from Jharkhand makes good business sense. The parents are pliable and the girls unfussy. It is their simple nature and inability to create trouble that keeps children from this region in such high demand. A trafficker should always be well known to the family from which he is planning to traffic a child. He or she has to be someone who the family knows and can trust; someone from their own village and preferably related to them.

It is not just poverty alone that pushes parents towards sending their children to Delhi or other big cities to work. If that were the case, whole families would migrate. Over and above poverty, there is a simple lack of job in the villages of Jharkhand. Farming has been largely unsuccessful and there is no other work to do.

We go to the villages and tell people how they can earn more money by simply sending their daughters away. The girls are hard working and easily take to the idea of building a life for themselves away from home.  When I started, I was a simple trafficker but I realised that it was much more profitable to start a placement agency. Now, the girls who I bring to Delhi undergo a week-long training in housework. Most agencies do not do this and simply place girls at homes.

For all the girls I bring to Delhi, I pay their parents Rs. 2,000 initially. I send half of their wages to the parents while the girls keep the remaining money. I, however, know of many others in the business who keep all the money and don’t give a penny to either the girl or her family. More than 90% of the children trafficked are girls. Orphans, children of single parents and those whose parents have re-married are at the highest risk and least likely to be found as nobody comes looking for them. I had come to Delhi 12 years ago to help a friend recover some money from a factory owner. The placement agency business had just started to boom and I decided to join in.