The Women and Child Development Minister said that she would help take forward the petition that aims to bring offenders to book.

Justice even if it is late Maneka on helping adult survivors of child sexual abuseManeka Gandhi/PTI
news Child Sexual Abuse Saturday, February 03, 2018 - 14:04

Four months after Purnima Govindarajulu started an online petition to allow adult survivors of child sexual abuse report their offenders, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi has responded.

Her reply comes four days after Purnima and Rajya Sabha MP from Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Kanimozhi met with her to discuss the issue in Delhi.

Purnima’s petition was published on change.org.

Maneka on Saturday acknowledged that children who are sexually abused do not find the courage to bring the offenders to justice until they become adults. And this can make the abuser more confident and victimise other children as well.

“We are looking at whether the statute of limitation on reporting incidents such as molestation can be removed, allowing survivors to complain later in life. This will prove to be a deterrent for child abusers because they will know that they can’t get away with their crimes. We are considering the proposal to see how we can take it forward,” Maneka wrote in her response to Purnima’s petition.

She added that she had referred the matter to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, who would look into the issue and revert to her.

“I think such survivors should get justice too, even if it is late in life,” Maneka said.

The law, in its present form, does not allow adult survivors of child sexual abuse report their abusers. TNM reported earlier:

“First, because the POCSO Act, which came into force in 2012, cannot be applied retrospectively. And second, at the time of the alleged abuse, penetration by finger or tongue did not fall under the definition of rape under IPC 376. What Purnima was subjected to, therefore, would only be termed molestation – for which the maximum punishment is less than three years.

“This would mean that under section 468 of CrPC, the crime can no longer be tried in court. The code says that any offence which is punishable by imprisonment between one and three years, cannot be taken cognizance of more than three years after the crime.”

TNM also spoke to Purnima on January 29, when she was in Delhi to meet Maneka Gandhi. The 53-year-old is now working as a biologist in Canada, and has been there for over two decades.

The decision to take up this issue again in India came after a visit home in 2013 when she saw that children were still going to her abuser’s house, who is based in Chennai. Determined not to let other children go through what she did at the hands of her abusers, Purnima started the petition.

While this has reopened Purnima’s wounds, she believes she is doing what is necessary. “Life has been good to me – I am able to take a stand publicly today. Many others don’t have that. Sometimes, fate gives you an opportunity to make a difference. And though it’s hard, it’s important. Because these child abusers won’t stop. We have to ensure that no more children fall prey to them,” she told TNM.

Show us some love! Support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.