International Girl Child Day: Crimes against girls on the rise in India, especially eastern states

Strenghening community-based child protection systems imperative

By Trina Chakrabarti
Published: Monday 10 October 2022
International Girl Child Day: Crimes against girls on the rise in India, especially eastern states Photo: iStock

As the country gears up to celebrate International Girl Child Day on October 11, 2022, it is important to look at some figures on how protected the girl children in India are. 

The recently published National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) report on the status of crimes against children posted a grim scenario, especially in the eastern states.

There were 9,523 cases of crimes against children recorded in West Bengal in 2021, as per the findings released by NCRB last year. This means that around 26 incidents of crime against children were recorded each day, according to an analysis by Child Rights and You (CRY), a non-governmental organisation that works on child health and protection.

Another shocker: 98.6 per cent of the victims were girls!

In neighbouring Odisha, there were 7,899 cases of crimes against children, which points to a daily average of 21 every day.  All the victims were girls, the analysis showed.

During 2017-2021, crimes against children in West Bengal have increased by 45.4 per cent, although the latest findings reveal a climb-down of 7 per cent from the number of cases in 2020. 

Odisha cuts a sorry figure in this category: Over the last half decade (2017-2021), crime against children in the state increased by 148 per cent, which is the highest recorded growth rate in the country in the period.

Both West Bengal and Odisha feature in the list of top five states — Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh being the others — that together account for close to half of the total crimes committed against children (47. 1 per cent) across the country. A dubious distinction that raises alarm bells, and calls for immediate action.

While these are official figures, in a country as large as ours, many cases of crimes against children often go unrecorded, especially in remote areas. Hence, the actual number may be much higher than those reported.  

West Bengal and Odisha recorded alarming numbers of cases of kidnapping and abduction of children (sections 363, 363A, 364, 364A, 365, 366, 366A, 367, 368, 369, 370 and 370A of the Indian Penal Code), according to the CRY analysis. 

Around 6,408 such cases have been recorded in West Bengal, which accounted for 67.3 per cent of the all the cases of crimes against children recorded in the state. 

Across the border, Odisha reported 5,195 cases in 2021, constituting 27.4 per cent of the total number of cases from here and a 3.7 per cent increase from the official count of 2020. 

Bihar and Assam also have thrown up worrisome statistics. In Bihar, 3,964 cases were reported in 2021, which made up for more than half (57.5 per cent) of the total number of incidents of crimes against children in the state and a 3.8 per cent rise from the official figure last year. 

Assam also saw a spike in kidnapping and abduction cases — from 2,312 in 2020 to 2759 in 2021.

The numbers are a grim pointer to the increasing vulnerability of children, especially in the post-pandemic era, despite the slew of initiatives to strengthen child protection in the states. 

Sexual offences on the rise

CRY analysed the cases under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, looking at the various age-groups. There is a rising trend in the incidence of crime with the age of victims, except for a couple of exceptions. 

Of the total 9,523 cases of crimes against children in West Bengal, 2,607 were registered under POCSO. The rate of increase from last year is 1.5 per cent. 

Odisha recorded 2,498 cases under POCSO, which constitutes 31.6 per cent of the total number of crimes against children in the state this year.

In all five states from the East where CRY has analysed data – West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam – around 99 per cent of the victims (across all age categories in 2021) were girls. 

In Bihar and Odisha, all are girls. In Jharkhand, the share of affected girls was 99.6 per cent, in Assam 99.9 per cent and West Bengal 98.6.

The numbers lay bare the vulnerability of the girl child in our country, despite the general discourse on empowerment and thrust on education. Also, they point to the possibility that in a patriarchal society, the incidence of crimes against boys is going largely unrecorded and unreported.

Urgent measures are needed to strengthen the country’s child protection system and to make the police, judicial and legal systems more proactive. 

These offences have a low conviction rate and a high pendency rate, the expert noted. Boosting community-based child protection mechanisms, such as village-level child protection committees can play a critical role.

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

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