'Set up one-stop crisis centres for sexually-abused children'

Kolkata, May 26 (IANS) With India witnessing over 300 percent increase in child sexual offences in the last decade, child rights experts Monday called for setting up of one-stop crisis intervention centres that provide multiple forms of support under one roof for the victim.

In addition, emphasis should be laid on strengthening infrastructure in Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) courts, according to the experts.

"There has been a 300 percent increase in child sexual offences in the last decade. There is this whole talk about crisis intervention centres," said Bharati Ali, director, HAQ - Centre for Child Rights - at a state consultation on the POCSO Act.

"The good thing about it is that a child doesn't have to repeat the statement over and over again at different points of time. Once the statement is recorded by police, and if there is a support person present at the time, then that is the statement which others are supposed to use," she said.

"The Supreme Court and the ministries are talking about it but we do not know how soon we will see the results," she said at the consultation organised by the West Bengal government in collaboration with UNICEF.

Ali also stressed the importance of psychological support and immediate medical attention to victims, which could be provided at such hubs as "need of the hour"."

Equally important is to ensure the mental well-being of the parents of the child victim, said clinical psychologist Piya Nandi of the organisation Savera.

"Most damaging effects are when parents do not believe their children. After they come to terms with the fact that their wards have been abused, they themselves go through mental trauma which must be looked into," she said.

Nandi also pointed out that alternative techniques like art therapy can be used to encourage the child to narrate what exactly transpired without getting unsettled.

According to the POCSO Act, the child welfare committees (CWCs) are mandated to provide necessary care and protection to the child. However, the law doesn't say anything on protecting the abused child from the day of the complaint to the day of trial.

"Also the infrastructure, like curtains or dividers between the victim and the perpetrator, should be in place at the courts. The Juvenile Justice Boards should act as POCSO courts," Ali said.