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TNN | Feb 11, 2014, 05.08 AM IST
MUMBAI: In what may well be a telling comment on the impact of Mumbai's dysfunctional law and order situation on children, there has been a more than 100% increase in juvenile rape cases from 11 in 2012 to 28 in the first 10 months of 2013. Molestations have increased by nearly 100% while instances of sexual harassment are up from 1 to 10 during the period. However, the largest number of cases were filed for hurt, grievous hurt and theft.
The data was provided by the Mumbai police in response to an RTI filed by social activist Anil Galgali.
The city witnessed an overall 15% jump in registered cases of juvenile crime between 2012 and the first 10 months of 2013. While 700 cases were registered against children in 2012, 802 were registered between January and October 2013. This works out to more than two cases a day. Had the available data included all of 2013, chances are the increase in crime rates would have been higher still.
"The information points to a complete failure on the part of the government as well as the police to prevent juvenile crime and understand the psyche of the children involved," says Galgali.
Psychiatrist and child rights activist Harish Shetty, who has fought several legal battles for children across India, says there has been a somewhat perverse trend in the aftermath of the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case. "While the Nirbhaya case has led to an increased awareness on the administration's part to record evidence in such instances, the hype around such cases sends out an entirely different message to some young people who want to emulate the rapists and 'better the rape'. The rapists become heroes for some," says Shetty.
Maharashtra is a failing state, he adds, pointing to the complete lack of fear for the law, with increasing scams and lady cops being molested, with no arrests made. This percolates down to children.
"We're living in an environment conducive to psychopathic behaviour," adds Shetty.
The numbers, though, can be misleading, says Asha Mukundan, assistant professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and director of the Resource Cell for Juvenile Justice.
"These are police figures for cases registered, and hence the data points only to allegations of crime. The police can very well catch hold of a bunch of children who are innocent and accuse them of things they may not have done. When a young couple under the age of 18 runs away from their parents and is later caught by the police, the girl's parents often file a case of kidnapping and rape against the boy, even though he may not have violated the girl in any way," says Mukundan.