How an Online Initiative Is Helping Children Fight Sexual Abuse
Cases of child abuse can be reported online through e-box, an initiative of the NCPCR.
A young girl in rural Haryana was suffering sexual abuse at the hands of her biological father. She was too scared to tell her mother fearing that the father might harm her. What makes this story extraordinary is that, a few months ago, the girl filed an online complaint through e-box, an initiative of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), to safeguard the rights of children.
The Commission contacted the child, counselled her and encouraged her to tell her mother. Within hours, the mother contacted the Commission. After initial reluctance, she filed a complaint against the father. He was subsequently arrested under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).
The girl had come to know about e-box through her schoolteacher. NCPCR started the facility eight months ago to provide easy and faster redressal to POCSO victims.
How Does E-Box Function?
When you visit the NCPCR website, right at the bottom you can find e-box as shown below.
Once you click the e-box button it leads to an animated video in which an elderly woman speaks in a compassionate way. She begins by saying “NCPCR aapka dost hai (NCPCR is your friend)” and goes on to mention circumstances under which a child should file a complaint to them.
The animated video leads to another page with 6 pictures illustrating the kinds of harassment a child may have faced. The victim has to select one of these pictures and fill in his/her details with a small description about his/her harassment.
E-box also provides a mobile phone no 9868235077, which is available 24/7. If a child is not comfortable sharing information, he/she can directly contact the NCPCR through this number.
We have given a safe and non-intrusive facility to a child to report an incident of sexual abuse. It is very easy to use.Maneka Gandhi, ministry of women and children
POCSO Cases On the Rise In Schools
A few POCSO cases have shocked the Commission. It has released details of two such cases to bring out the gravity of the situation.
Case 1: Two young female teachers of a private school in Bihar were involved in raping several young girl students of the same school. One of the victims told her parents when she refused to go to school. Parents contacted the Commission through e-box. NCPCR members approached the state police for an FIR. During the investigation, police found that these two teachers were sexually abusing girls for several years. The teachers were immediately arrested and all victims underwent counselling.
Case 2: A cook of a school was the perpetrator in this incident. The victim in this case was a very young girl who had been going through the trauma for almost a year. Parents found out when the girl fell ill. Instead of contacting the police, they contacted the NCPCR because they were more comfortable with them and did not trust the cops. The cook is now in jail but the girl is still scared to go to school.
‘Rise in Involvement of Teenagers’
The NCPCR says they get an average of 3-4 complaints relating to POCSO daily, either through e-box, postal service or mobile phone. In the past few years, the Commission has seen a rise in the involvement of teenagers in rape cases.
We can’t be certain but the accessibility to porn videos online and the desire to explore further is one of the reasons. It could also be because the perpetrator had faced child abuse himself. Most of them are first-time offenders with no criminal background.Senior Officer, POCSO Committee, NCPRC
What Happens After A Survivor Contacts on e-box
Here are the steps followed by the Commission to aid POCSO victims:
- Once the sexual abuse survivor contacts the Commission online by sharing a small description of the incident, an officer contacts him/her.
- If the survivor has contacted directly, the officer, after listening to the grievance of the child, would request him/her to hand the phone to someone senior in the family. If he/she doesn’t agree to involve someone senior, then after evaluating the situation the officers would meet the survivor.
- If the survivor complains of threat to life then the officer will immediately call child helpline and approach local authority/police for assistance.
- After meeting and assessing the case, the officer approaches the police to register the case and ensure that the perpetrator is taken into custody immediately.
- The Commission will keep following the case until a chargesheet is filed by the police in the court.
- The Commission will also help the survivor with counselling, if required.
- An action taken report is given to the complainant for their feedback. The Commission will continue to follow the case until the survivor’s family is satisfied with the action taken.
Interestingly, the parents are no more shying away from reporting child abuse which was earlier a taboo in our society.Senior Officer, POCSO Committee, NCPRC
A young officer of the Commission said that in some cases, the abuse survivor and his/her parents have shown so much trust in the officers that even after the case is over, they continue to take advice from them.
NCPCR to Launch A Mobile App For POCSO Victims
Seeing the response of POCSO victims on e-box, the NCPCR has designed an app for mobile phones. Filing a complaint would then be just a click away. The NCPCR says the app has already been designed and is likely to be launched in a few months.
These days children have easy accessibility to internet and smartphones even in remote places. That’s why we decided to launch a mobile app for POCSO victims.Stuti Kacker, Chairperson, NCPCR
The National Crime Records Bureau data shows a steep rise in cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). There were 14,913 reported cases in 2015, according to the latest report, against 8,904 the previous year.
In the last 8 months, e-box has received over 300 hits of which 37 cases turned out to be genuine POCSO cases. So far in all 37 cases an FIR has been registered, in some cases trial has also begun after chargesheets were filed by the police. Till date, the youngest sexual abuse survivor contacted via e-box is two and a half years old.
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