NCRB data shows COVID-19 pandemic made children more vulnerable to crime

Over 400 crimes against children happened every day in 2021; 16% increase compared with 2020

By Abhik Bhattacharya
Published: Thursday 01 September 2022
Fears that the COVID-19 pandemic may have left children far more exposed and vulnerable to crime have been proved right by the NCRB data. Photo: iStock

The latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) revealed 149,404 crimes against children, according to a quick analysis by non-profit Child Rights and You (CRY). Every hour, there were 17 crimes against children in India — translating to a whopping 409 crimes every day. 

There is a worrying rise in crimes against children compared with the year before. In 2020, 128,531 cases were recorded, according to the NCRB data. In 2021, the number saw a 16.2 per cent increase.

A close look at the decadal scenario also pointed to an alarming upward trend. Crimes against children increased sharply by 351per cent between 2011 and 2021.

Read more: Post COVID-19 complication among children worries pediatricians

Sexual offences against children, especially girls, are steadily rising, suggested further analysis. A third of the crimes against children was registered under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012 (53,874 out of 149,404 — ie 36.1 per cent of total crimes against children).

More importantly, sexual crimes against children showed a strong gender tilt as adolescent girls aged 12 to 16 were the victims in more than 99 per cent of cases under the POCSO Act. 

State-wise distribution of crimes against children suggested that Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha account for nearly half of the crimes committed against children (47.4 per cent) in India.

Puja Marwaha, CRY chief executive, said:

It’s heartening to see that there is increased public awareness, which possibly translates into higher reporting of cases. But it should also be kept in mind that in our country, many cases often go unrecorded, especially in remote areas.

The actual scale of crimes committed against children may be higher than the numbers apparently reflect, said Marwaha. “It proves beyond doubt that, despite many government measures, our children are nowhere close to a safe and protected childhood,” she said.

Fears that the COVID-19 pandemic may have left children far more exposed and vulnerable have been proved right by the NCRB data. Especially when it comes to issues related to child protection, it may have increased risks for children manifold at multiple levels.

While the country is set to come out of the shadows of the pandemic, it’s time, more than ever, that urgent measures are needed to strengthen India’s child protection systems. We need to ensure that efforts during humanitarian crises are swift, well-planned and responsive to children’s and families priorities.

Read more: Left to starve: How COVID-19 is hitting India’s children

Such a system would enable the following of due processes within stipulated timelines and adequately utilise the strengths of a dedicated cadre of child protection officials.

But to ensure all these, it needs to have more resources at both systemic and financial levels. This is not attainable without adequate budget allocations for child protection and safety.

We at CRY believe that the Village Level Child Protection Committees can play a critical role as the first ports of call to link with the formal system and can go a long way in maintaining vigilance and identifying vulnerable children and families at the community levels.

Also, Legal Services Clinics of National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) at the village levels and the Legal Literacy Club of NALSA at the high school levels should be fully functional to ensure access to justice for children. 

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth

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