Hourly, 17 crimes against children were reported in India in 2021, with a total of 1,49,404 cases recorded during the year, rapid analysis of the latest report from the NGO’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) Child Rights and You (CRY) shows. This means that every day no less than 409 crimes against children have been committed in the country.
The number of crimes against children has witnessed a worrying increase of 16.2% compared to the previous year (2020) when according to the NCRB report, 1,28,531 cases were recorded.
The decade-long increase is more alarming, with a whopping 351% increase in crimes against children between 2011 (33,098 cases) and 2021 (1,49,404 cases), according to CRY analysis.
The population of India was 121 crore in 2011, while the projected population in mid-year 2021 was 136.7 crore (as considered by NCRB).
Sexual crimes on the rise
Further analysis of NCRB 2021 data suggests that sexual offenses against children, particularly girls, are steadily increasing, as one in three crimes against children (53,874 cases or 36.1%) are recorded under of the POCSO law. More importantly, child sex crimes show a very strong gender bias, as adolescent girls between the ages of 12 and 16 are said to be the victims in over 99% of cases recorded under the POCSO Act.
The breakdown of crimes against children by state suggests that Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha account for almost half of the crimes against children (47.4%) in India, said CRY.
Of these, Madhya Pradesh has reported the highest number of cases at 19,173 (12.8 percent)
“Covid-19 has left children exposed and vulnerable”
Commenting on the trends, Puja Marwaha, CEO of CRY, said: “While it is encouraging to see that there is increased public awareness which is perhaps translating into increased reporting of cases, it is also worth keep in mind that in our country many cases often go unrecorded, especially in remote areas, so the true scale of crimes committed against children may be higher than the figures apparently reflect . And this proves beyond any doubt that despite the many government measures taken, our children are far from having a safe and protected childhood.
“The fear was that in all likelihood the Covid pandemic has left children much more exposed and vulnerable in relation to child protection issues and may have increased risks to children on many levels; and current NCRB data has proven him right,” Marwaha added.
Commenting on the way forward, Marwaha suggested, “It is time, more than ever, that urgent action is needed to strengthen India’s child protection systems and ensure that efforts during humanitarian crises are timely, well-planned and tailored to the priorities of children and families. Such a system would allow due process to be followed within stipulated timeframes and adequate use of the strengths of a dedicated cadre of child protection officials. But to ensure all of this, it needs more resources – systemically and financially, and is not achievable without adequate budgetary allocations for child protection and safety.
She added that the CRY believes that village-level child protection committees can play a vital role as first ports of call to link up with the formal system, and can go a long way in maintaining vigilance. and identify vulnerable children and families at community levels. In addition, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) legal services clinics at the village level and the NALSA legal literacy club at the high school level should be fully functional to ensure access to justice for the children.