Webinar on Protect Children from Sexual Abuse during this Covid-19 Pandemic, 10 July 2020

This webinar was organised by SabFree Foundation under the aegis of Gujarat Police Department with the support of Peace & Equality Cell, with the zoom meeting sponsored by World Vision.

Main Panellist: Anil Pratham (DGP – Director General of Police – Gujarat State)

Other Panellists: Sonal Kellogg, Prita Jha, Rev Anita Kirsty

Introduction by Sonal Kellogg

  • Introducing the panellists and itinerary of session
  • Presentation on Child Sexual Abuse – definition of CSA as a form of abuse which happens when a person uses a child for his/her sexual gratification. CSA is mostly committed by someone who is in a position of power and/or authority and sometimes, even in a position of trust. Around 31% of abusers were uncles, 10% of abusers were older male cousins, a high percentage of family members and trusted family friends, teachers and coaches can also be abusers so importance of protecting children.
  • How to protect children against CSA – teaching them about safe/unsafe touch, understanding the warning signs, teaching child “No, Go and Tell” strategy, not blaming the child, believing child and encourage them to report abuse.

Prita Jha – Peace & Equality Cell

  • PEC raising awareness
  • Background & History for the POCSO Law
    • Need for a law to cover children. Special legislation required which came into force 2017
    • 2007 Research due to statistics
    • Decision-making criteria to be best for the child
  • Why culture of silence? Ie. Reputation of family
  • Legal Infrastructure – shelters, Police, WCD, District Child Services
  • Offences: aggravated penetrative sexual assault is the most serious, then sexual assault, sexual harassment
  • Non-reporting of CSA is also a crime – it is mandatory to report such a crime
  • If someone is in a position of responsibility for children ie. Police, Shelter workers, Teachers etc this comes under aggravated sexual assault
  • Child-friendly procedure for taking a statement of a child
  • List of experts to be kept at Police Stations so that certain vulnerable children are supported in their report writing and through the Court process
  • Support Persons are appointed by Child Welfare Committee to support the child in all aspects of their case
  • Problematic area is age of “child” as under 18, adolescent “romantic” cases between ages 14-18 and criminalisation of these cases. Should be more awareness around adolescence and consent/rejection. In Delhi case, counselled both sets of parents, and the parties who then got married were supported and shown to be mature enough to be in a consensual relationship.

Rev Anita Kirsty

  • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the impact of Covid-19 is affecting 1.5 billion children worldwide, especially with school closures, movement restrictions, loss of family income, overcrowding and high levels of increased anxiety and stress, increasing the likelihood that children experience and observe physical, psychological and sexual abuse at home.
  • Consequences, signs, symptoms and psychological effects of CSA ie. neurobiological changes, developmental delays, depressive symptoms, anxiety, fear, anger, aggression, post—traumatic stress, behavioural issues, social isolation, low self-esteem, to name but a few.

Anil Pratham

  • Helpline 155260 for children who have experienced cyber-related and counsel in relation to pornography and digital media
  • Child Welfare Police Officer is present in each police station and are there to coordinate with the various other institutions
  • Govt. help with migrant labourers children
  • Street children are highly vulnerable, so Police look into how they help children and protect them7
  • JJ Act for safety of children s.77 & 78 these sections should be monitored (district and city level)
  • POCSO important act and child-friendly and ensuring female police officer is taking the child’s statement
  • Charge sheet should be brought within 60 days and in Gujarat Govt is monitoring
  • Home Dept. meeting every 15 days to monitor CSA in under 18s and they are doing this and the number of cases pending more than 60 days, have come down
  • If a victim has a problem and issues with not being processed etc, should go to the police station and meet with the main officers to push for investigations etc.
  • High Court has a committee to monitor JJ Act
  • Role of Childline – during lockdown any support worker were allowed to move around Gujarat to support case victim

World Vision by Shanthi Hopper

  • Campaign to raise awareness and to engage with political leaders
  • Reporting Responsibility

Q & A session

Several important questions were raised by members of the audience such as:

  • The factors which cause delay in legal proceedings
  • Specific and age-appropriate material to show children and raise awareness
  • Police to speed up cases but not compromise the investigation process
  • Mandatory reporting is compulsory and client privilege is only for lawyers and not psychologist/counsellors under the law
  • Child Welfare Officer – to implement civil dress, separate entrance, police station-based counsellors
  • Police accountability – senior police officers, WCD, judiciary, media, NGO/activist

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