The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), which sent a four-member team to Uttar Pradesh’s Deoria in August after 26 girls were rescued from an illegally run shelter home where they were allegedly subjected to physical and sexual abuse, has found glaring inadequacies and insensitivity in the rehabilitation of the traumatised victims.
For one thing, despite their distressed mental state, the inmates weren’t even provided a “gender-appropriate” and “secure” facility to move to, the country’s apex child rights body said in its report, which was submitted to the Union ministry of women and child development last week.
The NCPCR?sent the four-member team on August 9, three days after the rescue. The inmates of Maa Vindhyavasini Mahila and Balika Sanrakshan Grih in Deoria, being run illegally by a couple, were rescued after a 10-year-old girl escaped from the shelter and complained to the police.The girls complained of having been subjected to physical and sexual abuse.
Immediately after the rescue, the victims were housed in a children’s home for boys, called Rajkiya Bal Grih, in Deoria, and were forced to share the facility for a week, according to the report. They were later shifted to separate government-run homes in Varanasi, Ballia and Allahabad.
“Against the gravity of the gruesome incident, the sexually abused girls were restored to a children home for boys. Thus failing to provide a secure, safe and comfortable space for (the) girls to recover from the trauma,” (sic) said the report, a copy of which has been seen by HT.
The infrastructure at the shelter home where the girls were taken to lacked any recreational facilities and didn’t have adequate staff or a library, counselling room, store room and learning material. Nor did the premises maintain proper standards of hygiene and sanitation, the NCPCR team observed in its report.
The team, which was led by NCPCR member, RG Anand, also found that in the immediate aftermath of the incident, hardly any measures were taken to address the severe trauma suffered by the girls, highlighting how the state government lacked any plan to rehabilitate the victims.
“No appointment of a qualified counsellor or a mental health expert was ensured within the premises of shelter home, clinical assessment of the victims was not conducted and no effective post-traumatic therapy or counselling was ensured to the victims,” according to the report submitted to the women and child development ministry.
The shelter home lacked any provision of a separate counselling room in its premises, let alone a counsellor visiting it on a weekly basis. “…no necessary measures were taken to ameliorate the negative psycho-emotional and psycho-social impact on the children due to the gruesome incident,” the report said.
The victims, the report observed, did not have even a single session with a trained counsellor. “There were inconsistencies in the follow-up of cases with victims who were exposed to sexual abuse and harassment for a prolonged period of time,” The superintendent of the shelter home hadn’t yet prepared or initiated a “course of psychological aid and therapeutic intervention based on the individual profile of each victim.”
Rakesh Srivastava, secretary of the women and child development ministry, said the ministry was writing to the district administration, seeking an explanation for the inadequate rehabilitation measures provided to the victims.
NCPCR has laid down a detailed standard operating procedure on how to deal with sexual abuse of children in childcare institutions, mandating a medical examination of the victims, an assessment of his/her mental state and psychological intervention before they are questioned about their experience.
Another senior ministry official, who did not want to be named, said, “We are also seeking information from the state government about the current rehabilitation status of the girls.”
Amit Kishore, Deoria’s district magistrate, said the rescued girls had been shifted to government shelter homes in Ballia, Varanasi and Allahabad, but did not elaborate on the specific measures being taken to rehabilitate the victims after the trauma they had gone through.
Psychologists say that in cases such as the one in Deoria in which victims have gone through severe trauma, counselling should be provided immediately and they should be housed in a proper environment with sufficient recreational space.
“Also it’s important that authorities handle such cases with sensitivity. These are unusual incidents. Authorities can’t cover up their inefficiency with excuses such as lack of trained counsellors or psychologists. To start with, why can’t they train the staff available in the shelter home to counsel the victims?” said Rajat Mitra, a clinical psychologist and director of Swanchetan Society for Mental Health, a non-government organisation.
(With inputs from Chandan Kumar)
First Published: Sep 15, 2018 23:36 IST