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JUN 2015

Plea for equal relief after boy's school assault

NEW DELHI: As a 12-year-old boy he was grabbed from inside his school and sexually assaulted by senior students. Faced with severe psychological trauma the boy was forced to change his school and shift home to another south Delhi colony.

His mother had to give up her job and the father is hard pressed to make ends meet with a driver's salary. Despite the hardship and trauma that he and his parents have undergone for the last two years following the brutal assault, the minor's troubles are far from over.

Delhi government's discriminatory victim compensation scheme allows him to be given a compensation of a mere Rs 50,000 as opposed to Rs 3 lakh for a female minor victim. Now a writ petition in the Delhi high court has challenged this order and demanded a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the child.

"The aim of the petition is to revise the compensation scheme so that it is in compliance with the constitutional guarantees of equal treatment and equality before law. There is no reason to treat minor male survivors of abuse on a different footing from minor female survivors. The law should not perpetuate damaging notions of masculinity that stigmatize reporting of sexual violence against boys,'' Swathi Sukumar, co-founder and country director, iProbono India said.

Ironically, the law protecting children against sexual abuse ``Protection of Children against Sexual Offences'' (POCSO) passed by Parliament in 2012 is gender neutral but the compensation scheme is not. While recognizing that an adult female survivor of sexual assault cannot be treated the same as an adult male survivor, lawyers and child activists argue that in the case of minors the law must be the same as all children are equally in need of care and protection. The Delhi government has been asked to respond to the HC notice in July.

The case also highlights the poor reporting of sexual assault on minor male survivors. Bharti Ali from Haq: Centre for Child Rights points out that most cases of abuse against minor boys are not reported unless the medical condition is so severe that it requires hospital care.

The article can be read online here.