Dr Nishtha Desai, the director of Children’s Rights in Goa, was honoured for her work by Moneylife Foundation during its financial literacy seminar in Goa. She speaks to Moneylife about various issues of child rights in Goa, the laws governing it, her experience in working with CRG and the challenges it faces
Dr Nishtha Desai is the director of Children’s Rights in Goa (CRG), the first organisation in India to attempt and build a coordinated community response to tourism-related paedophilia. Apart from its active campaigning, the organisation conducts training and sensitization programmes for different sectors of society such as teachers, anganwadi workers, hotel staff and the Goa police and assists the police in investigating. It engages the tourism industry to develop a child-friendly tourism code. CRG was actively involved in the drafting of the legislation to combat paedophilia and child trafficking.
Dr Desai was honoured for her work by Moneylife Foundation during its first financial literacy seminar in Goa. In an interview with Alekh Angre of Moneylife, she talks about various issues of child rights in Goa, the laws governing it, her experience in working with CRG and the challenges it faces.
Moneylife (ML): You were working as full-time lecturer. What prompted you to start taking up the issue of tourism-related paedophilia?
Nishtha Desai (ND): The famous case of paedophile Freddy Peats who was arrested in 1991 and convicted five years later resulted in two contrary views. NGOs (non-government organisations) called it the “tip-of-the-iceberg”, while the government insisted that this was one case of an aberrant individual. I wanted to find out what the reality was and did a study, in 1999, on tourism-related child sex abuse. The study, See the Evil: A study on tourism related paedophilia (supported by Vikas Adhyayan Kendra—VAK— a Mumbai-based NGO) was conducted with the help of community workers. It examined the prevalence of tourism-related child sexual abuse and the modus operandi of travelling sex offenders. In 2000, I joined CRG. It was a part of VAK, which was already conducting awareness programmes on the issue of paedophilia and children’s rights, urging local communities to report suspicious incidents and follow-up on reported cases.
ML: What are the various activities of Children’s Rights in Goa?
ND: In 2001 we launched a campaign—‘STOP’ (Stop Tourism-related Paedophilia)—on the issue with the objective of building a co-ordinated community response against tourism-related child sexual exploitation. In 2003, we were involved in the drafting of the legislation, the Goa Children’s Act, addressing the issue of child sex abuse. It’s a good Act, with specific provisions to address the issue. CRG conducts advocacy for its implementation. We also conduct awareness building workshops in formal schools empowering students on their rights, how to resist abuse etc. We have a Child Activity Centre where children can come after school hours. This centre also conducts educational sessions. We assist in conducting awareness programmes with the village child committee, to strengthen the mechanism of child protection at all levels.
ML: Could you please throw some light on the Goa’s Children Act?
ND: Goa’s Children Act (GCA) is a first legislation in India that attempts to make the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children legally enforceable. It is a comprehensive law applicable to all children in Goa. It has sections on education, health, the girl child and differently-abled children as well as sections to address the issue of tourism-related child sex abuse and other crimes against children. All offences punishable under this Act are cognizable and non-bailable; (except those under Sections 3, 4, 5 pertaining to education, health and child rights which have a different redressal mechanism). We took an active role in the drafting of the Act, contributing mainly to the section on abuse. For instance, a boy child is not considered a victim of rape, although he may be raped and the case is dealt under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which is unnatural sex. We felt this had to change. Just like girls under the age of 16, in case of rape are considered as victim of statutory rape, we felt that boys also need to have same protection. Under the GCA, boys are viewed as victims of grave sexual assault.
Since the enactment of this Act, our major focus has been in creating awareness of the Act and its special provisions. In schools, we conduct sessions highlighting that the GCA talks about doing away with illiteracy and zero-rejection, which means no child can be denied admission in government/government-aided schools, on grounds of HIV, lack of documentation, etc. Incidentally, this was before the Right to Education (RTE) was enacted. Corporal punishment is also banned under the GCA.
We also emphasise that under the Act, the tourism industry and department is expected to adopt a child-friendly code. We conduct training in hotels on what the code is all about; who they can alert in case of suspicion and so on.
ML: Most of the time, paedophilia and tourism-related sex abuse are seen as issue for the children of migrants. Your views on this?
ND: Children of migrants may be more susceptible, but even Goan children are at risk. Many foreigners take accommodation in villages. They often call local children supposedly to teach them English, or to involve them in fun activities. It may happen more with children of the migrant community as they are under-supervised. But it holds true for Goan children, as well. (In the Freddy Peats case the children were mostly Goan.)
ML: What is the government’s stand as it earlier did not accept tourism-related paedophilia as an issue?
ND: A major outcome of the study and the campaign is the shift in the stand of the state. From an attitude of firm denial there is now state acknowledgement of the issue.
In 2001 CRG along with tourists conducted a signature campaign and submitted it to the then chief minister (CM), expressing their concern about the activities of paedophiles on the beaches of Goa. The CM organised a dialogue between the police and NGOs to discuss the issue and a possible solution to it. Police handouts kept at airport counters for incoming tourists carried a warning that sex with a child is considered a serious offence. The Goa Children’s Act, enacted in 2003, has specific provisions to address this issue. The tourism brochure brought out by the Directorate of Tourism stating that sex with a child is punishable under the Goa Children’s Act. The Goa University introduced “tourism-related paedophilia” as a subject under the sociology curriculum for the second year Bachelor of Arts (BA) course. This shows that academia also considers this a social problem.
ML: CRG works with all the stakeholders. How has been your experience with it?
ND: Overall it is a learning experience which helps us to evolve. Working with teachers, they tell us that they see students very sleepy in schools during the tourism season. They get expensive gifts from foreigners. We take these factors into account while conducting empowerment sessions for students in schools. A few hotels are receptive to the idea of adopting a child-friendly tourism code and have called us to conduct sessions for their hotel staff. People are also aware about the issue and report to us in case if they come across any suspicious activity. Police, when a case is registered, calls us or other NGOs to come to the police station to provide support to the child.
ML: You had in the past conducted sensitisation programmes for the Goa Police, considering the sensitivity of the issue of child sex abuse. Do you find any change in the way cases are handled now?
ND: There is certainly more awareness now. When a case is reported, police do call us for assistance. Working with some police officers, we find them really sensitive and understanding. But by and large the culture of policing needs to change. When we go as an NGO, we get good response. But ordinary people tell us their difficulties in approaching the police. The nature of policing has to change. Police themselves also have many issues like long working hours; they are away from their families. If they work in more humane conditions, their approach will also be more humane.
Moreover, a crime against any child requires to be seen as an offence that is taken seriously. Oftentimes dacoities or possession of drugs seem to be taken more seriously than a crime against a child.
ML: In cases where parents don’t want to register a complaint for various reasons like being unaware of the procedure or social stigma—how do you deal in such cases?
ND: In case they don’t want to register a case, we make them understand the importance of punishing the culprit. We also give moral support and counselling to the victim child. In some cases where parents were unwilling to lodge a complaint, we went ahead and complained on behalf of a child. In a few cases we concentrated on providing psycho-social support to the child. It depends on a case-to-case basis. There is no blanket solution for all cases.
ML: Over the years with intensive awareness drives, do you see any decline in the number of cases in tourism-related paedophilia?
ND: I don’t think there is a declining trend. But what we see is that people are lot more aware. It does not happen as openly as it used to in the coastal areas and beaches. We interact with tourists who tell us that they have friends who don’t want to be seen with children in case they are perceived as paedophiles. What we also see is the high prevalence of cases of child abuse within the community by family members, neighbours and other persons known to the family. And many a time people do report in case they find any suspicious case, but numerous cases go unreported.
ML: What are the major challenges?
ND: One challenge is to give moral support to the child victims and their families. There is a lot of frustration as the cases often proceed slowly even when we have a special Children’s Court.
Another area of concern is the government’s failure to prioritize issues of child rights. There are several Plans of Action under the GCA which have not been executed. According to the GCA, illiteracy in Goa was to be wiped out within seven years. Nine years have passed and we still find children out of schools. Under the GCA, the government needs to make a yearly plan on how to ensure there is no child labour and to make appropriate rehabilitation plans. If the Plans of Action under the GCA are given the importance they deserve, the lives of children in Goa would be transformed. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan should also focus on out of school children. Children out of school are more likely to be children at risk.
Often there is resentment against the migrant community resulting in discrimination against children. We constantly emphasise that every society must care for its children—children who are well cared for will grow up to be happy and productive individuals. It is in our own interests to ensure that all children are given an opportunity to achieve their potential.
The price band of the issue has been fixed in the range of Rs90 to Rs106
Construction Company NBCC on Tuesday said its initial public offer will open for subscription on Thursday and close on 27th March.
The price band of the issue has been fixed in the range of Rs90 to Rs106, NBCC said in a public announcement.
"Government will dilute 10% (stake)... Rs120 crore to be raised by NBCC initial public offer (IPO)," urban development minister Kamal Nath had said yesterday after an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) decided on the issue.
Mr Nath had said the listing would happen in April.
As per the red herring prospectus of NBCC filed with the SEBI, the construction major has proposed to offer 1.2 crore equity shares of face value of Rs10 each.
NBCC provides project management consultancy (PMC) services for construction projects, civil infrastructure for power sector and real estate development.
Credit rating agency CARE has assigned 'IPO Grade 4' to the proposed NBCC IPO, indicating above average fundamentals.
IDBI Capital and Enam are the book running lead managers to the IPO.
The government had set an ambitious target to mop-up Rs40,000 crore from disinvestment of public sector units this fiscal. However, due to volatile market conditions, only about Rs14,000 crore has been realised so far.
The government plans to sell equity in blue-chip companies like SAIL, MMTC, Neyveli Lignite, Nalco and Oil India, to mop up Rs30,000 crore in the next fiscal.
The Odisha-based Nalco plans to invest Rs57,903 crore by 2020 mainly for setting up two aluminium smelters.
State-owned aluminium firm Nalco plans to invest Rs2,343 crore next fiscal, a 76% rise in capital expenditure over FY12, to increase capacity, according to 2012-13 budget documents.
Nalco is a disinvestment candidate for the government's Rs30,000 crore mop up target. It spent Rs1,333 crore this fiscal.
The budgeted outlay for the company in 2011-12 was Rs1,057 crore, but it was subsequently raised to Rs1,333 crore, the documents show.
The Odisha-based firm plans to invest Rs57,903 crore by 2020 mainly for setting up two aluminium smelters, a report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Coal and Steel had stated earlier.
The proposed outlay includes Rs16,500 crore for setting up a 5 million tonnes (MT) smelter in Indonesia, with 1,250 MW power plant. Another smelter of the same size would be built in Western Odisha in two phases, with 1,260 MW power plant at an estimated investment of Rs16,345 crore.
In the early afternoon, Nalco was trading at around Rs56.30 per share on the Bombay Stock Exchange, 0.54% up from the previous close.