news Monday, January 05, 2015 - 05:30
Keerthi Prakasam| The News Minute| May 13, 2014| 4:03 PM IST On April 25, a nine year old girl, who came to fetch “good clothes” to wear for her first communion, was raped for three days by a priest. The priest from a church in Thrissur also recorded visuals of the girl on his mobile. A complaint was filed in the station by her parents, and the priest has been thrown out of the church. Father Raju Kokken was arrested a week later. The Kerala media’s attention on this case was very limited. Two years ago, the country was shell shocked as details of the brutal Delhi gang rape case surfaced. Just a month before that, media attention was focused on the story of a 13 year old girl from Kerala who was sexually harassed by her father, brother and uncles for over two years. Sporadically, such cases of rape, brutality, incest and child sexual abuse are covered by the media. But the story is much more grave. Statistics of crime against children in Kerala is alarming. There has been more than two hundred percent increase in the crime rate against children, over a span of five years. This is something that Kerala, the most literate and progressive state in the country, still doesn't find the need to acknowledge. The total number of crime against children in the year 2008 was 549. By 2013 November, the number shot up to 1654. The percentage of crime increase, in a five year period is 200 percent i.e. 40 percent increase per year. And let’s not forget, these are just the reported figures. Child rape statistics too have increased rapidly. Over the past five years, on an average there was a 30 percent increase in child rape figures annually.The Deputy General of Police in the state does not find these statistics alarming. DGP KS Balasubramaniam says that the number of reported cases has gone up and statistics are reflecting that. This in turn is because of increased awareness among the public. Laws have also become more stringent, he says. There are volunteers, counselors and even teachers who work for awareness in the case of sexual crime against children. Childline is the only organisation for children that has a prominent presence in Kerala. Father Thomas P.D, Director of Thiruvananthapuram Childline believes that the increase in numbers is cannot be exclusively attributed to the increased reporting. According to Thomas, alcoholism, increased drug use, influence of media and easy access of adult materials to everyone, adults and children alike are the main reasons.He out rightly blames media and movies for the increase in crimes. When asked whether the child victims are investigated as per the protocol, Balasubramaniam says if it isn't for a woman constable some other women will be there like teachers or volunteers. He says that “The number of women constables in the state, is very less, I cannot deny that. However, children have never came and complained to me about any kind of intimidation that was directed towards them.” A news report on Asianet News had claimed that almost 90 percent of such crime against children cases, registered since 2012, has not been closed by investigating authorities yet. Father Thomas says though state and police department are pursuing cases better than before, many influential are getting away. He adds, "How a case is pursued largely depends on who the accused in the case is. If it's someone influential, they easily get away with things". The state government has not only failed to close many cases within one year, but lags behind in providing rehabilitation also. Thomas says that the state government simply does not have enough resources to deal with the rapidly increasing rates. According to Thomas, Thiruvananthapuram Child Line gets information about 80 cases in a month. "But when it comes to police cases getting registered, the number comes down to 383 cases or so every year," says Father Thomas. Of these, only a few get translated into FIRs. The state government fails in giving shelter to a number of these children, who cannot go home or do not have a home, he says. "They have told us that such centres for children are coming up soon, but we do not know. There are only five Nirbhaya homes in the state, the only government home to provide shelter and counselling to children who were victims of sexual crimes. And even here there is the issue of insufficient staffing", he says. In Kerala, there are six juvenile homes under the government, 14 observation homes and three other special homes. There is a total of 1800 Private charitable institutions, including orphanages and old age homes. There are a number of other institutions too, which are not registered. When such institutions work outside of the Juvenile Justice Act, the children are not ensured the minimum standards of accommodation, food, infrastructure or health care. In October 2012, children of the Thiruvanchyoor Juvenile Home in Kottayam said that they were being sexually abused by the caretakers. The Juvenile Home housed 65 children at that time. For a state which boasts of top digits in social indices in terms of welfare, things have desperately gone wrong as far as children in the state go.

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