Millennium Post

Is this the way to treat a child?

The response of the police to the 10-year-old victim of rape in Bulandshahr has been shocking with even the Supreme Court having take suo moto notice of it. Instead of immediately registering the complaint and sending her for medical examination, the traumatised child was not only not listened to but was also put behind bars by the police in an act that fatally delays the apprehension of the criminal. She was made to spend the night in the lock-up in the company of a woman criminal. This act shows gross insensitivity on the part of the police. It is all the more condemnable as the incident took place at a police station being run by women police personnel. It could well have been imagined that they would be more sensitive to a child of their own gender. The purpose, after all, of setting up of the all-mahila police stations has been to ensure that the complaints of women were not ignored and that a safe environment was created so that women did not feel any fear or disability in putting forward their complaints. It would seem that it is not just a patriarchal environment that causes the police to respond so negligently to rape victims but there are entrenched attitudes in society that have their roots elsewhere as well.

It could also be said that after the spate of rape cases in and around the capital in the last few months, the police around the country would have been sensitised in general about how to handle rape victims. However, this incident clearly shows that the police still does not take rape victims seriously. This remains one of the serious lacunae in police procedure and in police training to this day. The issue is not only one that concerns women but is also one of child rights. Children, particularly rape victims and victims of other criminal acts as well, are simply more vulnerable and deserve special treatment which is not given to them. They are not only more easily frightened but are also less articulate, less able to explain the crime. For all the talk of child rights and the special laws that are drafted for the welfare of children, there has been no perceptible change in attitudes towards them on the ground as should have been the case. There is, therefore, a need to further sensitise the police about gender and child rights.
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