Tuesday, May 27, 2014
It's time for India to bring back our girls – 40,000 are abducted every year
Even as the world expresses concern about the mass abductions of schoolgirls in Nigeria, Indian crime statistics show an alarming growth in the number of women and children kidnapped over the last eight years.
Vishad Sharma and Aarefa Johari
It has been more than a month since 276 schoolgirls were abducted by the radical Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram. The Nigerian government's inability to rescue the missing girls has drawn outrage both in Nigeria and around the world. The kidnappings have even caused alarm in India. Last fortnight, an artist in Puri created asand sculpture calling for the girls to be released.
It isn't as if India's record on the matter is stellar. Over the past nine years, 300,000 Indian women and 64,000 girls have been abducted – and that's the cases that have been reported. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, from 2005 to 2012, the number of women being abducted increased by 11.73% every year, while the number of girl child kidnappings soared 23.2% each year. Minor girls account for almost 85% of all kidnappings in the country, says the crime bureau. (In the official records, children are "kidnapped", while adults are "abducted".)
Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Punjab Rajasthan, Delhi and Haryana see the most kidnappings and abductions of women: each of these states recorded more than 2,000 abductions in 2012. Most abductees were between the ages of 18 and 30 years. While abductions for ransom form a relatively small proportion of the cases, the most common reason for kidnapping or abducting women is listed in the records as "marriage". But activists believe that these marriages are most often a front for human trafficking across state borders.
While statistics suggest that the level of human trafficking has dropped or is not increasing significantly, most people working in the field agree that when women and young girls are kidnapped, it is most often for purposes of sexual trafficking. Unsurprisingly, trafficking takes place largely in poverty-stricken districts. “There is hardly any real development in Indian villages, so it is easy for agents to lure desperate families into sending their children away for 'work',” said Zarine Gupta, convener of the non-profit Coordination Committee for Vulnerable Children.
Poverty serves as a double bind for most Indian women and children who go missing, because they are often completely ignored by the police. “The police system is affected by the power relations that people have with them, and class inequality is definitely one of the factors that plays a role,” said Alex George, head of child rights at Action Aid India, a non-profit organisation based in Mumbai.
This might be the reason why in 2012, the country-wide conviction rate for people accused of abducting women was just 21.2%, while it was just 25.1% for people accused of kidnapping. “If a child or a woman from a middle- or upper-class family is kidnapped, the police makes every attempt to trace them, but not if one is poor,” said Preeti Patkar, founder of Prerna, an NGO working with vulnerable women.
When it comes to missing women or children, ex-IPS officer turned lawyer YP Singh admits that police across the country tend to avoid registering cases until they have some indication that it is a confirmed case of abduction. “Often, they assume that girls run away willingly, and unfortunately end up delaying investigations and searches for the missing person,” said Singh.
This is in violation of the general police manual, which clearly states that cases of missing persons should be investigated rigorously. Last year, while addressing a writ petition by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan, the Supreme Court also asserted that every complaint about a missing child has to be put into a first information report immediately and that the police must carry out prompt investigations. “There is a definite need for the police to put these things into practice more sincerely,” said Singh. (Source)