11-year-old, encouraged by a lecture on ill-treatment of children, called child helpline

A special court on Wednesday sentenced a 35-year-old man to 10 years in prison for raping his minor daughter, who, encouraged by a school awareness lecture on ill-treatment and harassment of children, approached the child helpline 1098 herself.

In 2014, the child helpline got a call from the 11-year-old survivor, narrating the torture she was facing at home. She had attended an awareness camp on child rights and remedies in her school and wanted to reach out to someone who could help her. Narrating how her alcoholic father slept with their neighbour and beat her and her brother every night, she said her mother wasn’t there to help so she called the helpline.

Special judge Milind Kurtadikar relied on the statements of several witnesses, including an NGO worker, to convict and sentence the man, a resident of western suburbs, for molestation and rape under the Indian Penal Code and aggravated sexual assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act.

The prosecution, led by Shankar Erande, examined seven witnesses, to prove the guilt of the child’s father.

Sequentially narrating her experience, the victim said that when she first called up the child helpline and spoke about the harassment meted out to her and her brother, the social worker came over the same afternoon and heard them out. She promised to speak to her father and left. The next day, the girl called the helpline with urgency, as they were being beaten up again.

When the NGO worker spoke to the father, he denied ill-treating his children but later continued his misbehaviour. The NGO worker then brought along the co-ordinator. This time the man gave an undertaking in writing that he would treat his children well.

The 11-year-old girl told the court that as soon as the worker and the co-ordinator left the house, her father threatened to leave her alone; he said he would go away with her brother. The NGO worker visited every month and the man behaved himself for some time.

Suddenly one day, she found him sleeping beside her. He sexually assaulted the child and buried her screams with his hands. Extremely disturbed, she narrated the incident to her neighbour and then to the NGO worker, who encouraged her to lodge a police complaint.

The man denied the assault and alleged that the child was being tutored by the NGO worker. He claimed that his daughter was jealous that he was spending money on his lover’s children instead of his own and this was her way of getting back. However, these claims were rejected by the judge.