The Supreme Court on Wednesday took suo motu cognisance of media reports about detention of a 10-year-old rape victim by the police in Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh recently.
The apex court has now sent notice to the state government, asking how the police put the rape victim in custody.
The callous response of police came to fore after the girl’s rape as she was put behind the bars by women personnel when she approached them to file a complaint along with her mother. The victim was rescued after several hours only after locals protested over the matter.
Two women constables have been suspended while two sub-inspectors, including the station-in-charge have been sent to police lines following the incident, SSP Gulab Singh said.
Anti-rape underwear which delivers a 3,800 kilovolt shock to any would-be attacker has been created by a team of Indian engineering students.
After disabling the assailant, the undergarment has been designed to automatically send a text message to police or family members containing the GPS location of the attempted crime.
Pressure sensors on the garment, sewn in around the bust area, detect unwanted force and trigger the powerful shock. It can deliver up to 82 electric shocks, more than enough to disable any attacker.
Manisha Mohan, who helped develop the product, told The Times of India: ‘The lingerie with global positioning system, global system for mobile communications and also pressure sensors is capable of sending shock waves of 3,800 kV as well as alerts to parents and police.
‘A person trying to molest a girl will get the shock of his life the moment pressure sensors get activated, and the GPS and GSM modules would send an SMS (to the Indian emergency number) as well as to parents of the girl’.
Details of the device, which were published on the Indian technology website Techpedia, show how the electric shock circuit board, is ‘placed near the bosom’ after a survey found that attackers usually grab a woman in that area as they initiate a rape attack.
Ms Mohan added: ‘Studying in a convent girls school, we were always taught to be good to everyone around and bear a cheerful smile.
‘After stepping into the real, cruel world we realized that our smile could not last for long as the threat to our purity and integrity always lingered on.
‘Since the law makers take ages to come up with just laws and even after that, women are unsafe. Hence, we have initiated the idea of self‐defense which protects the women from domestic, social and workplace harassment.’
India has seen a spate of rapes in recent months including the gang rape and beating of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student who later died.
That case sparked huge protests and widespread condemnation of the government and judiciary for their failure to protect women.
Creators: Indian engineering student Rimpi Tripathy (left) and Manisha Mohan (right) were part of the design team that created the unusual clothing
Last month a Swiss Woman was attacked and a British tourist told how she was forced to jump out of her hotel window when a man attempted to attack her.
The surge in violence against women is believed to be having a serious effect on the country’s tourism industry.
A recent study found that in the last three months, the number of foreigners travelling to India has fallen by 25 per cent with the number of female tourists down by 35 per cent.
On Wednesday, March 20, 2013, a person assaulted and knocked unconscious a 35-year-old Dalit woman returning home from the field around 9:30 pm. This incident happened in Karan Chapra village in Deoria’s Bankata area in Uttar Pradesh, India. On regaining her senses, she found herself raped. On reaching her home she informed her husband about it.
The following day, the woman and her husband went to the Bankata police station to lodge a complaint alleging that Santosh Kumar Singh of their village had molested her. The officer in-charge of the police station registered a case of eve-teasing and nothing more.
Dissatisfied with the Bankata police, the couple approached Keshav Chandra Goswami, Additional Superintendent of Police, Deoria, seeking his intervention.
After she narrated her ordeal to the ASP, he asked the people accompanying her how old she was and the number of children she has. On being informed that she was a mother of four children and that her eldest son was 17 years old, the insensitive officer, caught on camera, humiliated the rape victim by retorting: “Itni purani aurat se kaun balatkar karega (who will rape such an old woman)?”
When media people met the ASP, he said the woman’s husband had lodged a complaint at Bankata police station yesterday alleging that a person named Santosh Kumar Singh had molested her when she was returning home from the field around 9:30 pm on March 20th. The accused is still not arrested. He also said that the complainant had levelled a charge of eve-teasing and then gave a second complaint mentioning rape. The ASP added that medical examination of the woman did not confirm rape.
Women organizations of the district have condemned the police officer and have demanded action against him for his “insensitivity and insulting remarks”.
Meanwhile, A.C. Sharma (IPS) Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh, has offered an apology. He has sought an explanation from the ASP and has ensured strict action against him.
In Lucknow, R.K. Vishwakarma, Inspector General (IG) Law & Order apologised on behalf of the ASP. He referred to the statement of the ASP as unfortunate and said that the officer has to submit his explanation within two days. “The DGP also expressed regret over the hurt caused to the woman because of the insulting remarks,” the IG said adding the police have registered the case.
The IG added that the DGP Headquarters will hold a workshop on public relations for officers who have been recently promoted to Additional SP rank. Goswami was a deputy SP, promoted to Additional SP rank last month and posted in Deoria on March 11, 2013.
Every year, around 700,000 visitors from around the globe visit the Maldives, lured by its pristine beaches. However, this paradise nation has become increasingly conservative in recent years due to influence of more fundamental forms of Islam.
In the summer of 2012, in the remote Feydhoo island in the Maldives, a police investigation after finding the corpse of a baby buried beneath an outdoor shower area outside the home of an unfortunate 15-year-old girl revealed that the teenager gave birth to her stepfather’s baby, which he allegedly killed and buried.
The teenager reportedly confessed to the police that apart from her stepfather she had consensual sex with another male. It is unclear whether the police has identified or charged this person. The police have charged the girl’s stepfather for raping her for years and murdering the baby she bore.
On February 25, 2013, a juvenile court in the Maldives, instead of sympathizing with the plight of the 15-year-old girl, has found her guilty of having “sex outside marriage.” The Court sentenced her to spend eight months under house arrest and to receive 100 lashes according to the Sharia Law when she turns 18, unless she requests it earlier.
This incident has triggered widespread worldwide condemnation.
Under the current laws of the Maldives, pre-marital sex is a crime and those found guilty are often flogged. Flogging as a punishment for this ‘crime’ directly violates international law, which completely prohibits cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments. Yet, flogging remains all too common in the Maldives. In 2009, the courts sentenced over 180 people for flogging for the ‘crime’ of fornication. Almost 90 per cent of them were women.
However, under the international human rights laws and standards, to which the Maldives is a signatory, ‘fornication’ is not a recognisedoffence and member states must not criminalize or punish young people who engage in consensual sexual activity, or are victims of abuse.
While visiting the country in 2011, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Navi Pillay called flogging “one of the most inhumane and degrading forms of violence against women” and she requested the Maldives to stop this barbaric practice.
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said: “The girl is already a victim and is traumatized. The authorities should be trying to protect her, not punish her.”
President Mohammed Waheed Hassan of the Maldives is already feeling global pressure. The president’s office has released a statement saying that the girl is a victim to be protected and not punished by the government. A government spokesperson has also said that the Maldives are considering changing the law.
The Amnesty International UK / Blogs says:
If one good thing could come out of this case, it is that the international outrage prompted by this girl’s story and focus on the darker side of life in this seemingly idyllic holiday destination will convince the authorities to end the practice of flogging and decriminalise consensual sexual activity.
On Friday, March 15, 2013, six men attacked a Swiss woman aged about 40 and her husband. The Swiss couple was on a three-month holiday in India. They had visited the temple town of Orchha in Tikamgarh district of Madhya Prades. On their way to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal, the couple had stopped to camp for the night in the forest near a village in Datia district, Madhya Pradesh, India.
A local police official told the media the gang beat up the husband, tied him to a tree before raping the woman. The gang after assaulting the husband tied him to a tree before raping the woman. The couple was not sure of the exact number of assailants since it was dark. The gang robbed them of their cellphone, laptop, and 10,000 rupees ($185).
On Monday, March 18, 2013, the police produced in court six farmers from nearby villages. Dilip Arya, the deputy inspector general of police of the area, told reporters that the accused had confessed to the charge of gang-raping the Swiss woman tourist. They also face other charges such as robbing the Swiss couple. Police said they recovered the laptop and the cellphone from one of the suspects.
Reacting to the unfortunate incident, the Swiss embassy in India said the health and treatment of the victim was a priority for them at the moment. Distraught over the rape, the Swiss foreign ministry in Bern released a statement on Saturday expressing deep shock at the ‘tragic incident’. They sought a “swift” investigation into the incident so that the victim gets justice.
Last month, the Swiss government issued a travel notice for India that included a warning about “increasing incidences of rape and other sexual offenses in India.” The latest incident could prompt other countries to issue similar warnings as regards to travel within India.
This attack comes just three months after the fatal gang-rape of 23-year-old physiotherapy intern Jyoti Singh on a bus in New Delhi in December 2012, which spurred outrage over how the Indian society treats its women, and the way the Indian judicial system meets out punishment for rapists.
On Monday, March 11, 2013, Ram Singh the first of the six accused in the December 16, 2012 Delhi gang rape was found dead in his cell in the high-security Tihar Jail situated about seven km from Chanakya Puri, to the west of New Delhi. It appeared that Ram Singh had hanged himself at about 05:00 local time, with an improvised rope made from a blanket.
December 16, 2012, was a fateful day for Jyoti Singh Pandey, a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern and her 28-year-old friend Awindra Pratap Pandey. Around 9:30 pm, on that day, they were on their way home after seeing the movie “The Life of Pi” in Saket, South Delhi. At Munirka, in South Delhi, India, they saw a parked chartered bus inside which were six men, including the bus driver Mukesh Singh. One of them, a teenager, called them and said the bus was going towards their destination – Dwarka in southwest Delhi. So, they boarded the bus.
After the bus moved, the men on the bus including the driver taunted the couple, asking what they were doing alone at such a late hour. Jyoti and Awindra were perturbed when the bus deviated from its normal route. The young man objected. They beat him with an iron rod until he fell unconscious on the floor of the bus. After gagging him, the men dragged the young woman to the rear of the bus. She attempted to fight off her assailants. She bit three of the attackers that left bite marks on them. Then, they raped her while the bus driver continued to drive. Later, Mukesh Singh, the driver of the bus also raped Jyoti.
Two hours later, the gang threw both their victims from the moving bus. The bus driver then tried to drive the bus over the woman, but her male companion saved her by pulling her away in time from the path of the tires.
Around 11 pm, a passerby found the partially clothed victims on the road and phoned the Delhi Police, who took the couple to Safdarjung Hospital, where Jyoti was given emergency treatment and placed on mechanical ventilation.
Jyoti had injury marks all over her body: on her abdomen, intestines, and genitals. Only 5% of her intestines remained inside her abdomen. Later, after examining her the doctors said the ruffians had used a blunt object for penetrating her genitals. The police suspect that it must have been the rusted iron rod which they initially used to beat Awindra. A doctor at the hospital later said:
“The rod was inserted into herand it was pulled out with so much force that the act brought out her intestines as well. That is probably the only thing that explains such severe damage to her intestines.”
Timeline of events after the rape
Here is a timeline of some of the events that I gathered from the media:
December 18, 2012
Public anger spilled over on the roads as youngsters, politicians, social organizations began their protests condemning the brutal incident.
The police impounded the bus. Within hours of the breakthrough, they arrested four men: the bus driver Mukesh Singh, his brother Ram Singh, gym instructor Vinay Sharma, and fruit seller Pawan Gupta. The police said that Vinay and Pawan confessed to being part of the gang that raped and brutalized and beat up the young woman and her male friend, and their statements would be used to convict the other accused as well.
The police revealed that on the night of the attack, the suspects had gathered at Ram Singh’s house for dinner and drinks before taking the bus for a joyride, fooling travelers who mistook the vehicle for genuine public transport.
Earlier in the day the police arrested the fifth accused. They did not reveal his name because he claimed he was a juvenile. “His age is being verified before giving details. If [he is a] minor, we have to hold back his particulars as per law,” said Delhi police chief Neeraj Kumar.
December 21, 2012
Jyoti gave her statement to a Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), which corroborated the statement given by her friend Awindra Pandey.
Delhi Police arrested the sixth accused, Akshay Thakur fromTandwa area in Bihar’s Aurangabad district.
December 22, 2012
Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde announced the government would take immediate steps to amend the criminal law for enhanced punishment in the rarest of rare cases of sexual assault.
Protests demanding justice for the victim and women’s security reached Raisina Hill and Rashtrapati Bhavan. Students clashed with police near Parliament. They were water cannoned and baton charged. Several people were injured. The Delhi Police closed four Delhi Metro stations: Patel Chowk, Central Secretariat, Udyog Bhawan and Race Course stations – as a precautionary measure.
December 23, 2012
A three-member commission with Mr. Justice Verma as the Chairperson was set up to suggest changes required in the existing laws to offer better security to Women in India. The other two members are Mr. Gopal Subramanian and Mrs. Leela Seth. Subsequently, Justice Verma said he received 80,000 suggestions from India and abroad after he set January 5, 2013, as a deadline for comments from jurists, women’s groups and other forums to revamp the existing legislation to deal with sex offenders.
December 25, 2012
The Metropolitan magistrate recorded Jyoti Singh’s statement under section 164 of CrPC. Even though unable to speak she preferred to write herself the answer to questions. Investigators said that her answers were consistent on both occasions and matched with the statement provided by her male companion. She correctly scribbled the names of four of her assailants that she remembered hearing during the assault: Ram Singh, Mukesh, Vinay, and Akshay.
December 27, 2012
Under a secret operation, the victim was transferred from Safdarjung hospital to the Palam Air Force station, before being flown to Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore for further treatment.
December 29, 2012
Jyoti lost the battle of life and died of severe organ failure in the hospital in Singapore.
December 30, 2012
Jyoti’s body was flown back to India from Singapore for cremation.
From then on the violent protests turned into peaceful candlelight marches to mourn her death.
January 2, 2013
Lawyers of the Saket District Bar Council refused to defend the accused.
January 3, 2013
18 days after the horrific gang rape, police filed a 33-page charge sheet against five accused: Ram Singh (33), his brother Mukesh (26), fruit seller Pawan Gupta (19), gym instructor Vinay Sharma (20), and bus cleaner Akshay Thakur (29). All five adult suspects pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The accused were formally charged in the Saket fast-track court. They face 13 charges that include murder, gang rape, attempt to murder, kidnapping, unnatural offenses, dacoity, hurting in committing robbery, destruction of evidence, criminal conspiracy and common intention under the Indian Penal Code. If found guilty they could face the death penalty.
The sixth accused is a juvenile and the Juvenile Justice Board has taken up the proceedings against him.
It is alleged that out of all the six persons who took part in the rape, Mukesh Singh, the bus driver and also the main accused in the case, was the most brutal.
The “juvenile” living on the streets since he was 11, was the most barbaric for he had abused the young woman twice sexually and ripped out her intestines with his bare hands. According to the Hindustan Times, he is the one who suggested throwing the injured woman and her companion from the moving bus. However, because of his age, he will be tried in a juvenile court and the maximum sentence he can receive under existing law is three years.
January 5, 2013
The Mirror News reported that Badri Singh Pandey, the father of the 23-year-old victim of the horrific gang rape had chosen to release her name to the public. Hitherto, the media referred to her using various nicknames since her brutal attack.
“I want the world to know my daughter’s name is Jyoti Singh,” he told Sunday People, one of Britain’s oldest Sunday newspapers, founded in 1881. By revealing his daughter’s name he hoped it will give courage to other women who have survived such attacks.
March 8, 2013
At a function held by the US State Department to honour women across the globe, Jyoti Singh was posthumously presented with the International Women of Courage Award by the United States. Nirupama Rao, the Indian Ambassador to the US, accepted the award, on behalf of the victim’s family. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said:
“Her bravery inspired millions of women and men to come together with a simple message: No more. No more looking the other way when gender-based violence happens. No more stigma against victims or survivors.”
Each year the world celebrates International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8th to honour women across the globe. Jyoti Singh was posthumously presented with the International Women of Courage Award by the United States. Nirupama Rao, the Indian Ambassador to the US, accepted the award, on behalf of the victim’s family. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said: “Her bravery inspired millions of women and men to come together with a simple message: No more. No more looking the other way when gender-based violence happens. No more stigma against victims or survivors.”
March 11, 2013
Ram Singh, the first of the accused in the December 16 Delhi gang-rape was found dead in his cell in high-security Tihar Jail. Sunil Gupta, spokesman for the Tihar jail told the BBC that Ram Singh appeared to have hanged himself at about 05:00 local time, with an improvised rope made from a blanket. He said Ram Singh had not been on suicide watch and had been able to make a noose and attach it to a metal grille while his three cellmates were asleep. His body would be taken for a post-mortem examination later on that day, Sunil Gupta added.cellmates were asleep. His body would be taken for a post-mortem examination later on that day, Sunil Gupta added.cellmates were asleep. His body would be taken for a post-mortem examination later on that day, Sunil Gupta added.
Ram Singh, who had migrated from Rajasthan, was the first of the accused to be arrested. He was the driver of the private bus that was normally used to ferry schoolchildren. He was a drunkard with a volatile personality and was known among his close friends as a “mental case” who reportedly started picking up fights at the slightest provocation after the death of his wife two years ago. An accident case was also registered against him. According to his close friends Ram Singh was not remorseful about what he did to the 23-year-old female physiotherapist and her male friend on the fateful night of December 16.
Inspector Anil Sharma, who headed the team investigating the rape case, found Ram Singh a cold and remorseless man. During the investigation, Ram Singh told the Delhi Police that he took pleasure in assaulting women. He also said that he went berserk after the young woman bit him when he assaulted her. The alcohol he had consumed earlier and the defiance by the victims made him angry. He picked up a rod and hit the two badly, and his accomplices also followed suit. He had washed the bus to destroy evidence and had told his gang not to worry and had asked them to lay low for some time.
Mange Lal, Ram Singh’s father said that he had examined his son’s body and found “multiple injuries” including marks on his chest, face, an injured eye and had a badly injured hand and so could not have hanged himself. He also said other inmates had raped his son in prison, and he was constantly threatened by other prisoners and guards. “My son has not committed suicide. He was murdered by the three inmates in his cell,” he shouted at the hospital before being ushered away by policemen.
Ram Singh’s lawyer V K Anand repeated hits allegation. “There has to be some foul play here,” he said. “There were no circumstances which could have led to Ram Singh committing suicide. There was no mental stress. He was very happy. … The trial was going on very well.”
Amid allegations from his family that he Ram Singh was killed, the government ordered an investigation. The postmortem is crucial in determining whether it was a suicide as alleged by jail officials. “Can’t conclude yet that Ram Singh’s death was suicide,” said Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. He agreed that the death of the bus driver who led the gang that fatally attacked and raped Jyoti Singh is a “grave lapse” and “not a minor incident.”
“All the investigations conducted by us show it is death due to hanging,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding that three doctors at the state-run AIIMS hospital had conducted the autopsy.
Two accused, Pawan and Akshay are held in Jail No. 4 while Vinay and Mukesh are in Jail No 7 of Tihar Jail.
Media reports quoting Vimla Mehra, the chief of Tihar prison say there were 18 deaths in the jail last year, of which two were cases of suicide.
Earlier this week, the headquarters of the State Bank of Travancore (SBT) in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, India, received an anonymous letter written in English stating that one of their employees named Raghav Rajan working in their Madai branch in Kannur district was in fact the fugitive rape convict Bitihotra Mohanti alias Bitti wanted by the police on a charge of raping a 26-year-old German student in Alwar in Rajasthan in 2006.
Ranji Thomas, SBT Chief Manager (Public Relations) said that they scrutinized the details in the original application form submitted by Raghav Rajan who posted as a probationary officer since June 2012 in their Madai branch in Kannur district. He had applied for the post using the name ‘Raghav Rajan’ son of ‘Rajeev Rajan of Ananthapur in Andhra Pradesh’. He had named two people from Andhra Pradesh as referees. One of them was a caretaker of the building where Rajan lived, and the other declared that he had no direct contact with Rajan, and at the request of a friend had agreed to his name being used as reference. So, his office alerted the branch and advised them to contact the police. The bank approached the Kerala DGP who, in turn, referred the matter to the district police in Kannur.
Police arrested Raghav Rajan on Friday night, March 8, in Kannur. On Saturday, a local court remanded Bitti to judicial custody until February 23, after charging him under IPC sections dealing with cheating and forgery.
A police officer said that before his arrest Bitti was planning to flee Kerala, and a scar recorded in 2006 as an identification mark by the Rajasthan jail authorities before Bitti jumped parole had been found on the arrested person. Deputy Superintendent of Police D. Sudarshan, who is investigating the case, said the arrested convict confessed that he is Bitihotra Mohanti. “We have informed the Rajasthan Police about his arrest and a team from there is expected,” Sudarshan said.
According to the police, it was the December 16 Delhi gang rape that led to Bitti’s cover being blown. In the wake of the Delhi gang rape, his photo was among the photographs of sex offenders that were repeatedly displayed by social media and TV channels. A person residing in Palayangadi in Kannur District on noticing Raghav Rajan at the bank resembled Bitti Mohanti alerted the bank. The police department feels happy for having nabbed the rape convict who had until now been absconding. However, they wonder how he had managed to give them the slip all these years while living so publicly.
On March 21, 2006, police arrested Bittihotra Mohanti son of B. B. Mohanti, former DGP of Odisha on a charge of raping a 26-year-old German student in Alwar in Rajasthan in 2006. In one of the fastest rape trials in the country, a fast-track court sentenced Bitti to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment. However, on November 20, 2006, while on a 15 day parole granted to meet his ailing mother in Cuttack, Bitti jumped parole and had absconded ever since.
While on the run, Bitti joined Chinmaya Institute of Technology in Kannur in 2007 for the two-year MBA course. He then worked for a few months as faculty member in a management institute in Kannur and at an e-learning institute in Kollam.
Dr. Falgunan, Director of Chinmaya Institute of Technology said the person they knew as Raghav Rajan was a brilliant student who scored high marks in MAT (Management Aptitude Test). He also said that he remembers Mohanti’s father who came to give a declaration at the time of admission. “I can’t say whether it was his father or not,” he said.
Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity… If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior… If non-violence is the law of our being, the future is with women… – Mahatma Gandhi
On March 8th every year, the day originally known as the International Working Women’s Day, people around the world celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) focusing on respect, appreciation and love towards women and to celebrate the achievements of women in economic, political and social arena without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments of women, and for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women.
This day was originally known as the International Working Women’s Day. In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8th. Two years later, in December 1977, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the role of women in peace efforts and development and urged an end to discrimination and increase support for women’s full and equal participation. To this to effect, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women Rights and International Peace observed on any day of the year according to their historical and national traditions by Member States.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day: “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women” seeks to strengthen international community’s commitment to put an end to violence against women – a gross human rights violation that affects up to 70% women.
As part of the effort the UN leads to fight violence against women, UNiTE campaign, the United Nations Secretary-Generals Ban Ki-moon’s “Unite to End Violence Against Women” calls on all governments, civil society, women’s organizations, men, young people, the private sector, the media and the entire UN system to join forces in addressing this global pandemic.
The song “One Woman” written for UN Women and performed by acclaimed singers and musicians from China to Costa Rica, from Mali to Malaysia spreads a message of unity and solidarity. The song is a rallying cry to inspire listeners to join the drive for women’s rights and gender equality, and overcome violence and discrimination against women.
‘Child abuse or maltreatment of a child constitutes all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in real or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power’
Child abuse in the world today exists in a variety of forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, neglect and child labour.
One of the earliest recorded instances of child abuse appears in the story of a poor boy named Sopāka in the Buddhist Jataka Tales.
In Sāvatthi, the capital of Kosala kingdom in India, a poor woman while in labour fell into a coma. Her kinsfolk carried her to the cemetery for cremation. A kind spirit loitering there created a windy storm and prevented the fire from burning the woman’s body.
After the people who brought the woman’s body for cremation ran away fearing the storm, the woman gave birth to a boy. The cemetery watchman took the mother and the child under his wings. They called the child Sopāka meaning the “waif” because he was born in the cemetery.
The watchman was very wicked and unkind. He considered the innocent little boy a burden and often beat and scolded him. When Sopāka was seven years old the watchman decided to get rid of the boy.
One evening Sopāka accompanied the watchman to the far end of the cemetery where there were many half-burned rotting corpses. The watchman tied Sopāka to one of the stinking cadavers and returned home leaving the crying boy to the mercy of the nocturnal preying animals.
When the watchman returned home Sopāka’s mother asked him: “Where is my son?”
“I don’t know,” the watchman replied. “He came home before me.”
The mother worrying about her son was awake whole night.
Around midnight the jackals came. Sopāka paralyzed with fear started wailing.
The Buddha, sensing Sopāka’s destiny for arahantship (“perfected one”), sent a ray of glory towards him that proclaimed: “Sopāka, don’t cry. Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”
At that moment, the boy got unbound and found himself standing before the Buddha at the Jetavana monastery. The Buddha bathed him, clothed him, gave him food, consoled and comforted him.
Early next day Sopāka’s mother went to the Buddha seeking help.
“Why are you crying, sister?” asked the Buddha.
“O Lord,” replied the mother, “I have only one son and since last night he is missing.”
“Don’t worry, sister. Your son is safe. Here he is,” the Buddha said and showed her Sopāka.
After listening to the Buddha’s teachings she and her son Sopāka became followers of the Buddha.
The Buddhist scriptures also tell the story of a boy named Mattakundali whose miserly father severely neglects him and deprives him of medical care. Although “Sopāka” and “Mattakundali” are based in ancient India, both stories still resonate today in our modern society irrespective of which country we live in..
Child soldiers are “more obedient, do not question orders and are easier to manipulate than adult soldiers.”
The exploitation of children in the ranks of the world’s armies must end, says a new United Nations report. “One of the most alarming trends in armed conflict is the participation of children as soldiers,” declares the report, by Graça Machel, the Secretary-General’s Expert on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.
The report says the use of child soldiers is a problem created by adults, to be eradicated by adults. It calls for a global campaign to demobilize all child soldiers and to “eradicate the use of children under the age of 18 years in the armed forces.” The report further calls upon governments to renounce the practice of forced recruitment, which has put increasing numbers of children under arms against their will.
“Children are dropping out of childhood,” commented Devaki Jain of India, one of Ms. Machel’s Eminent Persons’ Group of advisers. “We must envision a society free of conflict where children can grow up as children, not weapons of war.”
The use of child soldiers is hardly new. “Children serve armies in supporting roles as cooks, porters, messengers and spies,” the report notes. “Increasingly, however, adults are conscripting children as soldiers deliberately.” Children under 15 years of age are known to be serving in government or opposition forces in at least 25 conflict zones and it is estimated that some 200,000 child soldiers under 16 years of age saw armed combat in 1988. Generally, however, child soldiers are statistically invisible as governments and armed opposition groups deny or downplay their role.
The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child defines childhood as below the age of 18 years, although it currently recognizes 15 as the minimum age for voluntary or compulsory recruitment into the armed forces. However, momentum is building for an Optional Protocol to the Convention that would raise the minimum age to 18.
With new weapons that are lightweight and easy to fire, children are more easily armed, with less training than ever before. Moreover, as was stated in one background paper prepared for the Machel report, child soldiers are “more obedient, do not question orders and are easier to manipulate than adult soldiers.” And they usually don’t demand pay.
A series of 24 case-studies on child soldiers, covering conflicts over the past 30 years, makes it clear that tens of thousands of children — many under the age of 10 — have been recruited into armies around the world. In Liberia, children as young as seven have been found in combat, while in Cambodia, a survey of wounded soldiers found that 20 per cent of them were between the ages of 10 and 14 when recruited. In Sri Lanka, of 180 Tamil Tiger guerrillas killed in one government attack, more than half were still in their teens, and 128 were girls. Solid statistics are hard to come by, however, as most armies and militia do not want to admit to their use of child soldiers.
According to the report, children are often press-ganged from their own neighbourhoods where local militia or village leaders may be obliged to meet recruitment quotas. In the Sudan, children as young as 12 have been rounded up from buses and cars. In Guatemala, youngsters have been grabbed from streets, homes, parties, and even violently removed from churches. In the 1980s, the Ethiopian military practised a ‘vacuum cleaner’ approach, recruiting boys, sometimes at gunpoint, from football fields, markets, religious festivals or on the way to school.
The report deplores the fact that children are often deliberately brutalized in order to harden them into more ruthless soldiers. In some conflicts, children have been forced to commit atrocities against their own families. In Sierra Leone, for example, the Revolutionary United Front forced captured children to take part in the torture and execution of their own relatives, after which they were led to neighbouring villages to repeat the slaughter. Elsewhere, before battle young soldiers have been given amphetamines, tranquillizers and other drugs to “increase their courage” and to dull their sensitivity to pain.
Some children become soldiers simply to survive. In war-ravaged lands where schools have been closed, fields destroyed, and relatives arrested or killed, a gun is a meal ticket and a more attractive alternative to sitting home alone and afraid. Sometimes a minor soldier’s pay is given directly to the family.
For girls, recruitment may lead to sex slavery. The report notes that in Uganda, for instance, young girls abducted by rebel forces were commonly divided up and allocated to soldiers to serve as their ‘wives’. A case-study from Honduras, prepared for the Machel report, illustrates one child’s experience of joining armed groups:
“At the age of 13, I joined the student movement. I had a dream to contribute to make things change, so that children would not be hungry … later I joined the armed struggle. I had all the inexperience and fears of a little girl. I found out that girls were obliged to have sexual relations ‘to alleviate the sadness of the combatants. And who alleviated our sadness after going with someone we hardly knew? At my young age I experienced abortion … In spite of my commitment, they abused me, they trampled my human dignity. And above all, they did not understand that I was a child and that I had rights.”
It is difficult to reintegrate demobilized children after a peace settlement is reached. Many have been physically or sexually abused by the very forces for which they have been fighting, and have seen their parents killed, sometimes in the most brutal manner, in front of their eyes. Most have also been led into participating in murder, rape and other atrocities. These children have no skills for life in peacetime and they are accustomed to getting their way through violence.
The report urges that all future peace agreements include specific measures pertaining to the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers, ranging from job creation and the rebuilding of schools, to the training of teachers who are sensitive to the special needs of child victims of war.
The report calls on governments to regularize recruitment procedures for their armed forces and to prosecute violators to ensure that under-age recruitment does not occur. The Machel report also illustrates how the recruitment of children can at least be minimized when parents and communities are better informed about existing national and international law.
While much remains to be done, there have been some successes. In Peru, for example, forced recruitment drives reportedly declined in areas where they were denounced by parish churches. And in Myanmar, protests from aid agencies led to the release of boys forcibly recruited from a refugee camp. In the Sudan, humanitarian organizations have negotiated agreements with opposition groups to prevent the recruitment of children.