Guwahati: Children’s home official arrested for alleged sexual abuse
The assistant village director of the NGO SOS Children’s Village, Guwahati was arrested by the police on August 6 for allegedly sexually assaulting three minor girls.
The matter came to light when the girls, who are the inmates of the children’s home, confided in a few people from outside the NGO. The girls approached a few members of the Rotaract Club which was organising a six-day leadership camp at the SOS Children’s Village.
The girls, aged between 12 and 13 years, informed them that the assistant village director, Loon Vaiphai, had misbehaved and had touched them inappropriately in a locked car. Following this incident, the NGO suspended Vaiphai on August 3.
After getting to know about the matter, city-based child rights activist, Miguel Das Queah, lodged an FIR at the Azara police station.
SOS Children’s Village is an international childcare organisation for orphaned and abandoned children. The organisation provides family-based care to these children and has 32 such centers across the country at present.
“We have lodged a case under section 10 of the Protection of Children under Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the investigation is ongoing; the chargesheet will be prepared soon,” informed the officer-in-charge of the Azara police station, Ashok Dutta.
Further, officials at the SOS Children’s Village informed G Plus that the girls were produced before the Judicial Magistrate Kamrup (Metro) for recording of their statements on August 3. As per the girls’ request, the Judicial Magistrate ordered to send them back to the SOS Village.
“The girls are being provided with counselling and support at the village and we are also investigating the matter at the internal level,” Head, communication at SOS Children’s Village, Barnali Das told G Plus.
She added that the NGO has a zero-tolerance policy against any kind of abuse or misconduct against children under its care and thus they have undertaken the issue seriously.
Additionally, Queah informed, “The SOS Management was co-operative during the rescue. The assistant director has been arrested by the police and I hope that immediate measures are taken across all child care institutions, to ensure that children are protected all the time.”
SCPCR takes suo moto cognisance
Considering the gravity of the matter, the state commission for protection of child rights (SCPCR) has taken suo moto cognisance in the case, informed the chairperson of the commission, Sunita Changkakati.
“Our team met the police and also visited the SOS Village and met the director to find the facts of the case. We will now prepare a report based on the findings,” she said.
Pointing towards some of the gaps in the case which need answers, Changkakati said that they are trying to identify the type of assault and the intensity of the same.
“As far as the information we have received goes, the assault happened a long time ago but it wasn’t revealed to the authorities until recently. We will have to investigate the reasons behind the delay that occurred in bringing the case to the fore,” she further said adding that some more inquiry is needed and if the need arises, their team will again visit the village and prepare the report thereafter.
The matter has come on the heels of similar cases which were reported in Muzzafarpur in Bihar and Deoria, Uttar Pradesh.
In Bihar’s Muzzafarpur, at least 34 minor girls aged between 7-17 years were allegedly raped for months.
After the matter came to light, the women and child development ministry informed that the shelter home had been sealed after a sex racket was discovered and 46 minor girls were rescued after that.
A huge uproar followed the revelation of this case which was condemned by various sections of society. Further, several arrests were also made in this case.
A similar case was reported from Deoria in Uttar Pradesh where 42 girls were rescued from a shelter where they were allegedly being mistreated and sexually exploited.
Child rights activists have made a case for more stringent procedures at such shelter homes across the country, especially those which house minors.
The Supreme Court, on August 7, ordered a blanket ban on the publication of photographs and videos of victims of child sexual abuse after images of children who were sexually assaulted in Deoria surfaced in the media.
The three-judge bench expressed serious concern over the rising number of cases of rape in the country.
“What is to be done? Girls and women are being raped left, right and center. Figures suggest four rapes take place daily and these are reported statistics. God knows how many go unreported,” said Justice Lokur, who headed the bench.