AP Chief Minister breaks law? Posts photo with 13-year-old alleged sexual abuse survivor

The teenager was abducted by a former BSF jawan and taken to Kashmir.
AP Chief Minister breaks law? Posts photo with 13-year-old alleged sexual abuse survivor
AP Chief Minister breaks law? Posts photo with 13-year-old alleged sexual abuse survivor
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For 13-year-old Asha*, the last 50 days has been one long nightmare. On April 21, the teenager was abducted by Nageshwar Rao (45), a former BSF jawan and taken to Kashmir. Rao claims he had married her and had forcibly kept her. Asha* was finally rescued by the Guntur Police after 45 days of operation.

After Asha was brought back to her native, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu and Nannapaneni Raja Kumari, AP Women’s Commission Chairperson met the survivor who was accompanied by her parents.

However, a picture of the Chief Minister posing with Asha, posted on the CM’s social media accounts has upset activists in the state. Since Asha is a minor and a victim of sexual abuse it is against the law to reveal her identity in public. The post on social media also identifies the girl by her name.  Naidu’s post states that the CM has extended financial support to the girl. 

“This is mainly because the victim might get stigmatised in the future," says Shantha Sinha, a renowned child rights activist and the first chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). 

The Battiprolu police have filed a case against Nageshwar Rao under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including Section 376 (Rape), 376 (i), (m), sections under POCSO and Nirbhaya Act.

"The media can't carry her photo and neither can any other public platform. The girl may not realise the consequences now and may have posed with the Chief Minister, but tomorrow she may not like the photo, and may change her mind," Shantha adds.  

Taking the Nirbhaya case as an example, Shantha Sinha points out that the minor accused in the case had his face covered during the trial and his identity was not revealed. 

"Similarly, minor victims should also get equal protection," she added. 

According to Section 23 (2) of the POCSO Act, 'No reports in any media shall disclose, the identity of a child including his name, address, photograph, family details, school, neighbourhood or any other particulars which may lead to disclosure of identity of the child'. The only exception is if a Special Court, competent to try the case under the Act, may permit such disclosure.'

"Sex with any person under the age of 18 according to Indian law is rape, irrespective of the question of consent. Now as far as publishing the photo of the victim, it is a violation of the Juvenile Justice Act. There are provisions that any child in need of parents protection can't have their name or identity revealed," says Sunitha Krishnan, a well known rights activist and co-founder of Prajwala, an NGO that rescues rehabilitates and reintegrates sex-trafficked victims into society. 

Stating that she herself had put the minor's photo on Twitter, she adds, "We were all looking for the missing girl, and circulated photos of her and the accused, which is legally permitted, as long as we can justify the reason. Thereafter, however, the photo can't be posted for publicity and other things like this. This is a violation of the JJ Act and POSCO.”

Section 74 of the Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act, 2015 says, ‘No report in any newspaper, magazine, news-sheet or audio-visual media or other forms of communication regarding any inquiry or investigation or judicial procedure, shall disclose the name, address or school or any other particular, which may lead to the identification of a child in conflict with law.’  

"While there is no doubt that the Andhra police did an excellent job and put in a lot of effort to rescue the girl, we have to understand what this girl went through. She spent two months with this man, living like a wife and must be traumatised right now," Sunitha says.

"I would also suggest that she can be temporarily put in a shelter home, till things cool down. She will need a little more psycho-social support and counselling before she can readjust to normal life," she adds.

However, Achyuta Rao, child rights activist differs, he told TNM,  “Chief Minster can allow the photo to be posted on social media since it was in the interest of the survivor.”

*Name changed

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