ACKNOWLEDGING THAT “children who are abused don’t find the courage to report their abusers till they become adults”, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi has said that her ministry is looking at ways to ensure that such survivors “get justice too, even if it is late in life”.
Taking cognizance of the issue raised by Indian-origin Canadian scientist Purnima Govindarajulu on reporting of child sexual abuse by adult survivors, Maneka said they were working on removing the statute of limitation on reporting incidents such as molestation so that survivors can complain later in life.
In a note dated February 3, in response to Purnima’s petition on Charge.org that garnered support from more than a lakh people, the minister conceded that in many cases, like in Purnima’s, the survivor realises that they have been abused only after they become adults even though they carry the trauma with them all through their lives.
The Indian Express had reported on February 1 about the WCD Ministry’s decision for a relook at child sexual abuse laws in India after 53-year-old Purnima, who was sexually abused as a child, met Maneka last week to point out the gray area in the legal framework, which currently does not give adult survivors any recourse despite the repeat nature of the offence.
In her note, the minister said, “A one-time abuser can go on to become a repeat offender and target multiple children, because children don’t tend to report abuse. It gives the offender a sense of immunity that he will never be caught. We are looking at whether the statute of limitation on reporting incidents such as molestation can be removed, allowing survivors to complain later in life. This will prove to be a deterrent for child abusers because they will know that they can’t get away with their crimes.”
Purnima’s case has been documented by the Canadian police in a ‘General Occurrence Report’, which she is now using as evidence to get police in Chennai to register a complaint against her perpetrator, who is now in his seventies. However, with neither the POCSO or IPC explicitly having any provision for late reporting of child sexual abuse, she had to petition the WCD Ministry for a change in laws.