‘Conviction rate is very low in commercial sexual exploitation’

ST Correspondent
Friday, 17 August 2018

A study recently conducted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) commissioned by Free a Girl, an international organisation, has revealed that commercial sexual exploitation cases (CSEC) in India have an alarmingly disproportionate and low rate of convictions. 

Pune: A study recently conducted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) commissioned by Free a Girl, an international organisation, has revealed that commercial sexual exploitation cases (CSEC) in India have an alarmingly disproportionate and low rate of convictions. 

The research identifies the gaps in conviction, beginning with the survivor and all others involved in the process of delivering justice - lawyers, NGOs that work with survivors, social activists and social workers.

The report mentions commercial sexual exploitation as the worst form of human slavery. It further attempts to share recommendations from important stakeholders within the system that can enable perpetrators criminally accountable for their actions, through a more effective justice process. The first-of-its-kind study is based on in-depth discussions with several stakeholders in the sector, including victims and survivors.

The research identifies the gaps in conviction, beginning with the survivor, and all others involved in the process of delivering justice - lawyers, NGOs that work with survivors, social activists and social workers.

The report reveals that the main targets of the organised crime are minors and young girls, in particular. Traffickers are motivated by high profits and low risks considering the abysmally low conviction rates. 
Additionally, various NGOs involved in the rescue and rehabilitation process face challenges finding committed lawyers at an affordable cost.

Around 82 per cent of the brothel owners admitted to selling girls younger than 16 years of age. Despite the magnitude of the problem, there were only 55 convictions that took place in 2015.

Shikha Phillips, India Director, Free a Girl, said, “The comprehensive focused study discusses new strategies to ensure speedy and timely justice and systematically combat CSEC in India. We hope that the recommendations will help establish a robust, responsive and accountable institutional framework of prevention, protection and rehabilitation.”

Recommendations by study

 Special courts that address the sexual exploitation of children should be set-up in line with the POSCO Act 2012 thus providing a child-friendly trial process. These courts should have facilities like video conferencing to protect survivors of child rape and commercial sexual exploitation.
 There is a need for privacy in the courtroom as the mass can shake the survivor’s confidence right before her testimony.
 There is a need for speedier trials to avoid delays.
 The medical examination should be done on a priority of minor sexual exploitation survivors.
 Need for mandatory counselling: provisions for psycho-social support from the State will ease the burden on NGOs to make provisions for counselling.
 A fundamental paradigm shift in the role of the survivor in the legal system is the need of the hour: survivors are the prime witnesses in the case and it is imperative to ensure their comfort, security and dignity.
 Urgent and compelling need to invest in the systems of justice: the police, experts, prosecutors, and the judiciary, as well as sufficient investment in their infrastructure.
 Need for experts: forensic experts should be employed by the State to assist the police who will identify, collect and store.

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