‘Treat sexual exploitation of children as organised crime’

Date: October 13, 2019

Location: Mumbai, India

Conference highlights lack of an explicit penal provision and interpretation of existing provisions

Child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) of children has been a cause of concern across the country. Retired Justice Roshan Dalvi of the Bombay High Court did not mince words when she said that CSE of children is an organised crime and needs to be dealt with in an organised way.

She was speaking on Saturday at a National Consultation on Deterring Demand for Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children organised by NGO, International Justice Mission that works with victims of trafficking.

The concern and need for a systematic crackdown, and to treat CSE as an organised crime can be understood when one goes through the last National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report in 2016 which shows that of the 15,379 victims trafficked across India, 9,034 were below the age of 18. As many as 4,911 were girls. And the statistics for the same year shows that of the 23,117 victims who were rescued, 14,193 were minors. This puts the percentage of children being trafficked in the country at a staggering 61.3%.

The criticality of the issue has also been highlighted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development from time to time, which estimates the number of women and children in sex work in India to be 3 million.

Ms. Dalvi spoke on the procedure followed after a rescue, and said that bail is the most important element in a speedy trial. She said, “When the accused files for bail, the victim needs to be represented appropriately.” She also said that apart from applying appropriate sections on the accused, recording evidences should be kept in mind. “In court, the accused should stand behind the victim. This really goes a long way in comforting the victim,” she added.

The speakers discussed why and how any customer, dealing with CSE of children, should be brought under the ambit of being an offender. They also discussed on the application, correct interpretation of existing provisions, and the need for new provisions.

Judges, advocates, police officials and social workers shared opinion on how the demand can be curbed through the arrest of customers as it would act as a deterrent, and lead to reduction in trafficking of children.

Justice Kaushal J. Thaker of Allahabad High Court spoke about child sex tourism. He said, “Girls are procured, and there are consumers. So we need to attach more liability to the existing laws.”

The conference highlighted the lack of an explicit penal provision and the lack of interpretation of existing provisions and their applications. Customers are left outside the sphere of offenders and often escape the crime. Former chief public prosecutor of Bombay High Court S.P. Borulkar, said present legal machinery is lubricated enough to deliver justice. However, “In Maharashtra we have ad hoc judges, ad hoc courts, ad hoc prosecutors and ad hoc police officials to deal with such cases.”

He said in Maharashtra even after a rescue is conducted, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act is not registered and the accused is only charged with The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act. He added, “The police has not grasped that both the laws have to be applied together.” He said we still use old techniques of investigation and that when a raid is conducted a team of doctors and forensic experts have to be present at the spot of crime.

Advocate Ashutosh Kulkarni of HC said for cases of CSE of children the burden of proof must shift from prosecution to the accused. “We need to change our focus from victim to the customer. We need clear laws that can be followed by the courts, police and prosecutors which will not leave any scope for interpretation,” said Mr. Kulkarni. He also said that anticipatory bail in such cases should be disallowed.

Read the Hindu (Source) Article here.

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