Awful news has recently been coming out of Malappuram district of Kerala, these days. The district has been in the top of the crime ladder for high number of child abuse cases reported in the state. More than 747 child abuse cases have been reported in less than three years in the district and the same amount of cases are awaiting trial in the district court. The arrest of 13 people, including the father and mother of a 13-year old girl from Kottakkal village recently, for flesh trade, has shocked the public conscience of the state. Moreover, the alarming increase in the number of unnatural sexual abuse on children is proving to be worrisome for Childline, as well as the social workers of the district.
The Malappuram Police had arrested 13 people including the mother (43) and stepfather (50) of the girl based on the revelation the girl had made to the Child Line volunteers. Police have also further revealed that two more people identified in the case are absconding and have escaped abroad. Police have charged the parents under sections 5 and 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Act, Section 376 and 354 of IPC and Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act.
The girl had given the statement to the Child Protection Officer that 40 men molested her in less than two years. Medical Examination too proved that she was sexually abused. The girl also revealed that her mother took the photographs of her to the customers and fixed the deal. Her stepfather too took her to several places and used her. They took amounts from Rs 3000 to Rs 5000 according to the number of customers. The act has been taking place for the past two years and the family shifted their base every six months to new places and locations to lure new customers and to evade the public eye and the authorities. The racket was busted when the family was hastily preparing to relocate another place in the district.
Soon after the revelations, the Child Line volunteers, to their shock, had found that her 18 year stepbrother, who is a notorious history-sheeter, has also been abusing the girl and his 11-year old sister. A younger boy of the family revealed that, he was also subjected to the sexual perversion of his brother many times. Based on this, the children were taken to the safe custody of the Child Welfare Committee. Police have also taken the stepbrother into custody.
Tirur Police said that the woman has been into prostitution for a while, and is living with the man, who facilitated customers to her, for the last two years. Though the woman claimed that they were married 15 years ago, they failed to produce a marriage certificate. Police added that the woman has seven children in various marriages and except for an elder 24-year-old daughter, the remaining six were lived with her.
“The girl was introduced to sex trade through her mother. We have prepared the list of accused based on the testimonies by the parents and the victim girl. We have already arrested 13 of them and still, two are absconding”, said M Muhammed Haneefa, Inspector of Police.
The ordeal of the girl became known when one of the customers informed a local social worker after he found the sordid plight of the girl. Mumtaz, the social worker, based on the tip, visited the house where the girls were kept. She, after the visit, informed the Childline workers that the girl had been forced into flesh trade and the parents were not letting her to go school. The school authorities too confirmed to her that she and her sister were irregular to school. However, they failed to take note of this and did not inquire about their regular absence. “If the authorities have taken note of this, we would have rescued the girls much earlier”, said Mumtaz.
Sameer Machingal, Child Protection Officer, said to Tehelka, that the girl is still not aware of the intensity of the offense her mother, father and score others have done to her. “Since she was born and brought up in a most sordid atmosphere, she still doesn’t see anything unusual in the incident. She responds to our questions rather naively,” said Sameer. He added that the officers and social workers were shocked to find that the girl has not reached her periods yet.
Mumtaz, who has been into social work for the last 20 years, said to Tehelka, that, the changed attitude of the society and the large influx of migrant labourers to the place, are the main reasons behind the rise of sexual abuses in the district. “There are many cases reported in the past and many often get unreported. People of the place are not responding to these kinds of activities taking place in their neighborhoods. In majority of these cases, the accused are the one who are supposed to protect the child. The incidents of abusive parenting are on the rise and we have information regarding these types of ‘brothels’ ran by parents in parts of Puthuparampu and Kulathurparampu localities in the district. A collective effort needed in spreading awareness among the less educated parents to fight against the menace and the society should be made more responsive to these crimes. Otherwise, it would be difficult to curb this,” said Mumtaz .
She further adds that a group of social workers from the district is planning to conduct a survey and awareness campaign in the coming days, with the help of the District Administration. The District Police meanwhile had convened a meeting and a special cell has been formed to monitor the case.