Cases of juveniles in conflict with the law also rose sharply in 2020
Tamil Nadu registered a significant increase in the number of cases of crime against women and children in 2020, a year when COVID-19 broke out, according to the Crime in India report released by the National Crime Records Bureau. Cases of juveniles in conflict with the law also rose sharply.
The increase in Tamil Nadu was despite the decline in the nationwide figures for these three categories. Tamil Nadu was one of the very few States that reported an increase. West Bengal registered the highest increase in crimes against women and children.
However, Tamil Nadu fared better in the rate of crime, which refers to the number of incidents per lakh population. Rates of crime against women and children in Tamil Nadu were among the lowest in the country as compared to other major States.
Activists said the increase in Tamil Nadu was in line with the anecdotal evidence of the rise in crime against women and children during the pandemic and the better registration of cases.
The registered cases of crime against women in the State increased by 11.7% between 2019 and 2020. The increase was only 1.9 % in the year before. Crimes against children increased by 4.8% in 2020, compared with the marginal decline of -0.4% between 2018 and 2019.
The trend of juveniles getting into conflict with law has been increasing in the State over the past few years. But the rise was 26.4% in 2020. Madurai, in particular, reported an abnormally high number of such cases. The district accounted for 33% of all such cases in the State.
C. Jim Jesudoss, child rights activist and executive director of the Madurai-based child rights organisation Sakthi Vidiyal, said the reported rise in crimes against children would still be a fraction of the actual number during the pandemic.
He said children were thrown into the adult space during the pandemic with the loss of their space like schools. “They could not go out with other children to play. Even organisations like ours, which support children facing vulnerabilities, had to scale down operations considerably at the peak of the pandemic,” he said.
He added that this loss of space increased children’s vulnerabilities. One of the priorities of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme was to reduce vulnerabilities, but this task was extremely difficult during the pandemic.
The pandemic was not over yet, he said. The government could use messaging through mass media and social media platforms to sensitise parents. In the long run, community involvement should be encouraged. “The district-level and village-level child protection committees largely remain on paper,” he said.
Activist and advocate Sudha Ramalingam underscored the need for more awareness among women of the support systems available to them to report the issues they faced.
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