Need to look at conditions in child care homes: Report

Months after abuse cases at a Delhi children's home emerged last year, a human rights report released on Thursday has called for an urgent review of living conditions in all such welfare facilities.

The report by the Human Rights Watch, titled 'Breaking the Silence: Child Sexual Abuse in India', advocates a mechanism to allow children at these homes to speak up about their experiences without fear.

"The sexual abuse of children left in the care of institutions is disturbingly common. The law lacks clarity," the report reads.

The report recommends making it mandatory for all homes to register with the government and suggests amending laws to regulate homes and allow penalties on defaulters.

The report cites the sexual abuse of girls and boys at the Arya Anathalaya in Central Delhi that came to light last year. A watchman and a teenage resident were booked for raping a girl resident in the facility, while two wardens were arrested for sexually abusing a 11-year-old boy.

The report quotes one study that estimates at least two crore Indian children end up in institutional residential care, including those whose parents cannot support them and juveniles in conflict with law.

It cites the Delhi abuse case to point out ambiguities in the law that allows care homes a long handle to get away with irregularities.

The report quotes Anant Asthana, an expert on juvenile justice, as saying that the Juvenile Justice Rules applicable in Delhi do not clearly explain the implications of residential child care institutions being 'registered,' 'licenced,' or 'recognised' under the law.

"Nor do they clearly explain monitoring mechanisms applicable in various institutions. As a result, 'the existing laws on residential child care institutions leave scope for considerable confusion and possible manipulation'," it states.

The report states some facilities where these allegations were made have not registered under the Juvenile Justice Act, while one has challenged in court the principle that it should be inspected by child welfare committees.

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