A day after an expert committee set up by the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) visited a private shelter home for minor girls in the capital, an FIR has been registered against the home under Section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act.“The case has been registered at a local police station. No arrest has been made yet,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (Dwarka) Anto Alphonse said.
The committee’s findings pointed to alleged sexual assault, corporal punishment, domestic work, and poor and irregular meals, an official said.
“When we interacted with the younger girls at the home, two of them seemed scared. On counselling them further, they told us that chilli powder was put in their private parts publicly, as a form of corporal punishment, by the staff at the shelter home,” DCW chief Swati Maliwal said.
Older girls, said a DCW member, complained of being made to do domestic work such as cleaning rooms and toilets and washing clothes and utensils. “One older girl told us that if there was any defiant behaviour like leaving clothes on the bed, they would be hit with a stick or a scale six-eight times by the staff,” said Maliwal.
There are 22 girls at the home between the ages of six and 15 years, and the expert committee comprised three members of the DCW and one external member, Ritu Mehra, the founder of NGO Pardarshita.
After the audit, Maliwal visited the home on Thursday night and approached Delhi Police. “We also informed the Women and Child Development Minister about this. Our counselors are now stationed at the home 24×7, along with policemen in plain clothes. We don’t deem it fit to shift the girls to another shelter home as it can be unnerving. Also, some girls go to private schools nearby and putting them up in a different home might impact their education,” she said.
A committee member said: “Due to lack of adequate staff, the older girls were forced to take care of the younger ones. The home has only one cook and the children complained about the quality of food. It was also often served at irregular intervals.”
Earlier this month, nine women had gone missing from a shelter home in east Delhi, after which the DCW roped in Koshish, an external agency of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences which had exposed the Muzaffarpur shelter home scandal.