NEW DELHI – Survivors in a particularly grim corner of India’s welfare system have been awarded thousands of dollars in compensation, a national human rights body announced this week. More than forty former residents of a homeless shelter for girls in northern India have endured appalling conditions; Many people have been sexually assaulted.
Shelters for women and girls, often housing victims of domestic abuse or sex trafficking, along with those who run away or have been evicted from their families, are known for being overcrowded, shabby and frequent danger.
But the case involving the shelter in the northern Indian state of Bihar, where compensation has been paid, is particularly striking because of the number of victims. Over a period of years, 34 of them were raped by employees and officials of the state welfare agency, according to police. At least one child about 10 years old; The oldest is 19.
A 2018 report by an independent audit revealing the scope of abuse at the shelter, in the city of Muzaffarpur, sparked nationwide outrage. Federal investigators opened an investigation that resulted in the conviction of 19 people, including the director of the shelter, Brajesh Thakur.
In 2020, they were found guilty on charges ranging from negligence to gang rape. Twelve of the defendants, including Mr. Thakur, received life sentence.
This is not the first time that states have compensated victims of sexual abuse in government-licensed shelters, but it is the largest case to date, both in number of victims and in size. payments. It signals the reckoning of part of the government’s responsibility in light of the growing sexual violence in India, even as cases are pushing for judicial reform. In the same year that the Muzaffarpur case arose, the National Supreme Court established national guide for the government to compensate other victims of sexual violence in the care of the state.
All 49 girls who lived in the shelter in 2018 received compensation, on the recommendation of the National Commission for Human Rights, an autonomous body that has launched its own investigation into the incident. They were awarded between $4,000 and $12,000 each, according to a statement released this week by the committee.
The abuse was discovered in 2018 during the Bihar government’s first independent audit of its social welfare organisations.
The Muzaffarpur Shelter, which holds fugitives and other impoverished girls captured by the police in Bihar, is located on the grounds of Mr. Thakur’s family, next to his father’s three-story house and printing press. Residents are kept on the windowless top floor of a rotting building. Windows on the lower floors have slats on them.
It is one of many such shelters leased by the Bihar government to private contractors. The auditor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, reported that abuse was rampant throughout the state’s shelters, but pointed out that the Thakur abuse was particularly bad. It is notable for “perpetrating sexual violence against girls, all at a young age and from disadvantaged backgrounds, in the name of punishment and discipline,” the audit said. “The girls reported that they were harassed regularly by male staff.”
The auditors also noted that conditions at the shelter were “extremely dire”, residents were locked in their premises except for meals and they had no access to open spaces or facilities. club for entertainment.
The shelter opened in 2013, but it’s unclear if conditions there were better than earlier in its history.
Many former residents testified in court that they were regularly raped and physically assaulted by shelter staff and child welfare officials. They describe being beaten with sticks or doused with hot water for crimes like demanding food or resisting sexual abuse.
Among the state welfare officials convicted in the case was assistant director Rosy Rani, who allegedly failed to notify police or in any other way respond to victim complaints. . She has served a six-month prison sentence and is currently protesting the end of her government job.
After the audit, a state welfare officer filed a complaint with the police. Protesters demonstrated in Patna, the capital, Bihar, and in New Delhi. Thirteen welfare workers were suspended, and the state’s social welfare minister was forced to resign.
The victims, none of whom could be commented on this week, were scattered after the shelter in Muzaffarpur was closed as the trial began. (It was later demolished.)
The three of them went to another shelter for women and girls run by a Christian charity in Patna. There, a 16-year-old victim who provided a police statement also spoke to The New York Times in 2018.
“Sir Brajesh raped me. Many times. He raped me twice, sometimes three times a week. If I dare to resist, I will be beaten to death,” said the girl, whose identity is forbidden by Indian law.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/28/world/asia/india-shelter-sexual-abuse.html Record of payments awarded to sex abuse victims in India