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Child rights activists all over the country were heartened by the news of the conviction of Wilhelm and Loshiar Marty by the Bombay Sessions Court on 29 March 2003, given the difficulties involved in prosecuting sex offenders in general and foreign paedophiles in particular. After the conviction of the notorious Freddy Peats in Goa on March 21 1996 not a single conviction of a foreign paedophile has taken place. This is ironic, considering that there is a great deal awareness about tourism related paedophilia in Goa today and unlike in the past, today the State too acknowledges the existence of this problem. The number of convictions or the lack of it actually defines the extent of the problem.
Today when NGOs lodge complaints with police officers they do not cast aspersions on the credibility of the complainants, as was often the case earlier. There are police officers in Goa who have investigated cases very effectively. The sad reality is that the will to effectively deal with this problem on the part of the State as a whole is still lacking. The police, the prosecutors, the courts, the Home Department and other state agencies involved have to be committed to stopping the menace of paedophilia.
The details of the cases given below illustrate the point:
Arrested on 3 April 1991, he was granted bail within 45 days, after which he freely roamed the state of Goa till he was convicted five years later. The Sessions Court expedited the case only after Mumbai-based child rights activist, Sheela Barse, filed a writ petition in the High Court in 1995 praying that the Sessions Court proceed with the trial on a daily basis. This resulted in Freddy Peats being sentenced to life imprisonment on 21 March 1996.
Kenneth John Clark
An 18-year-old boy from Andhra Pradesh filed a First Information Report against Kenneth John Clark, a British national on 9 October 1996, following which he was arrested by the Colva Police Station and charged under sections 372 and 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). The boy alleged that Clark subjected him to anal sex on several occasions. Apparently Clark also allegedly forced this boy to have sex with a 14-year-old boy in his presence. Clark was let off on grounds of insufficient evidence.
Ernie Jean François
In December 1996, Umed, a child rights organisation, received a complaint against Ernie Jean François, a Swiss national aged 52 years, who had brought a nine-year-old girl from Pune, with whom he was residing in Calangute. An informant told Umed that he had been visiting Goa each year since the last three years and that he always brought different children with him. The girl accompanying him at the time had reportedly been with him for almost a year, visiting various parts of India and not going to school. Umed brought this case to the notice of the local police. However, François was allowed to leave the country on 12 March 1997, as the police were apparently unable to find evidence of sexual abuse.
Peculiar features about this case underly the problem faced generally. The police took the girl away from the custody of the suspect only 10 days after Umed filed its complaint. No representative from Umed was allowed to be present for any hearings of the case. The conclusion of the case was communicated to Umed through an official letter from the Home Department of the state government. The letter states that the first medical report ruled out “the possibility of any forceful sexual intercourse” (emphasis added). It goes on to say “in a subsequent medical report the doctor has stated that on interrogation the child admits to having sexual intercourse with more than one person.” But apparently, she had not had sexual intercourse with Jean Ernie François. No medical reports were attached to this letter and Umed’s written request for the documents met with no response.
Although Umed representatives were not permitted to interview the child, it seems that the chairperson of the National Commission for Women, Mohini Giri met her. On 20 March 1997, The Hindustan Times reported that Ms Giri was ‘rattled’ by her encounter with this girl. The girl reportedly told her that ‘the Swiss uncle would bathe her every morning and at night he showed her blue films and patted her on her face.’ He would put her to sleep ‘kissing her everywhere’. These sensational revelations did not result in any action on the part of the state, nor was it followed up by any action on the part of the National Commission for Women.
Meanwhile François continues to visit Goa.
Yvonne Rene Wallez
In March 1998, a case was registered by the Calangute police station against a 67-year-old man of Belgian origin, Yvonne Rene Wallez, for sexually abusing a 15-year-old handicapped boy under Sections 373, 377 and 294 of the IPC. However, on 13 May 1998, Wallez was found dead in his room. Jagrut Goenkaranchi Fauz (an organisation concerned with the social impact of tourism) had demanded an inquiry into the death of this man to ascertain whether this man had committed suicide to avoid judicial trial or whether any paedophile associates were involved in his death. However no follow-up was done by the police in this case.
In August 1998, some residents of Calangute complained to the police about Helmut Brinkmann, a German aged 53, that he was a paedophile. This was a unique case because the child, a boy around 14-years-old testified against him and forensic examination revealed the presence of sperm in the anus of the child and it was proved that the sperm was of the suspect, Helmut Brinkmann.
Brinkmann was convicted for unnatural sexual offences by the Assistant Sessions Judge, Nutan Sardessai, and awarded rigorous imprisonment for six years. Brinkmann was later acquitted on appeal by the Additional Sessions Judge, D R Kenkre, on seemingly technical grounds.
It is interesting to look at the two judgements, which establishes how the same facts can be given such a diverse interpretation, based on the mind-set of the individual in office. In trial court’s judgement three issues were formulated: Firstly, was the boy kidnapped? – In which case the accused would be liable under Section 363 IPC. Secondly, whether there is proof to convict the accused under Section 373 of the IPC; which pertains to buying or hiring a minor with the intent of or knowing it to be likely that such a person shall be used for either prostitution or illicit intercourse or any purpose which is unlawful or immoral. Thirdly, whether the accused committed unnatural sexual offences punishable under Section 377 of the IPC. The court ruled that there was no evidence of kidnapping, but there was evidence to convict the accused under Sections 373 and 377.
In the appeal court’s judgement the two points formulated were: Firstly, whether the victim boy is an accomplice in commission of the crime and secondly, whether there is evidence to convict the accused under Sections 373 and 377. But while he has ruled that the victim is an accomplice in commission of the crime, he ruled that ‘it is not proved that the guilty was indulging in unnatural offence’.
The judgement contends that to prove that the accused was guilty under Section 373 it was necessary for the prosecution to prove that the accused had carnal intercourse with the victim… and that it was against the order of nature. According to him ‘the prosecution was required to prove Section 377 to prove Section 373’. A basic contention of the judge appears to be that the prosecution failed to establish that the accused had carnal intercourse with the victim. The judge ruled that the testimony of the child has to be corroborated in ‘material particulars’ for it to implicate the accused.
First of all, for a child to talk about being sexually exploited is rare, consequently a child’s testimony needs to be given serious consideration. Moreover, in the judgement passed by Sardessai J. in February 1999 the trial judge viewed the evidence of spermatozoa in the anus as significant, as it was observed that it was not possible for discharge from the penis to fall on the anus of the same person. Kenkre J., however, has stated that ‘discharge from the penis can fall on the anus’ of the same person and has raised doubts about the possibility of sperm surviving for more than 48 hours without being ‘washed out at the time of taking bath or cleaning the anus after natural course’. Sardessai J.’s contention was that it appears improbable that the sperm in the anus could belong to the same person, because of ‘the anatomical position of the anus and the penis’ (to quote Judge Sardessai’s judgement).
Child rights activists were able to convince the State to appeal to the High Court against the decision of the Additional Sessions Court. But when the case came before the High Court child rights activists were aghast to learn that Brinkmann had left the country. The Public Prosecutor while informing the court that he was ‘probably’ not in the country, failed to draw the attention of the judges to the fact that the offender in question was a suspected paedophile.
In another travesty of justice the immigration authorities informed the Goa Police after Brinkmann had left the country in spite of a Look Out Circular against him.
Dominique Sabire Sabire was a Frenchman, aged 61 at the time of his arrest in 1999; an associate of Freddy Peats. A holder of two postgraduate degrees and a writer of bestsellers in French, he was caught at Delhi Airport, where he was in transit on his way to Thailand. There were previous references about his visits to Thailand in his letters. He left the country after jumping bail in February 2000, and continues to abscond. Ironically, the Campaign Against Paedophilia had warned the state of this possibility while conducting a campaign on the Brinkmann case.
Sabire was granted bail on 23 June 1999, but was required to report to the CBI office in Panaji every alternate day. He then made a plea that he be allowed to report to the Calangute Police Station as he was residing in Calangute. He was granted permission to do so from 16 February 2000. From 27 February he stopped reporting at the police station. However, Police Inspector Subhash Goltekar, who was in charge of the Calangute Police Station, informed the Public Prosecutor on 29 March, only 31 days after Sabire had stopped reporting to the Calangute Police Station, giving the Frenchman ample time to escape. Following this act of gross negligence on the part of this police officer, letters were written to the Director General Police demanding his suspension. However, to our knowledge, no action has been taken against him to date.
John Colin MiddletonMiddleton, a 71-year-old Britisher, was arrested on 19 March 2001 from a guest house in Benaulim where he was found with three Nepali children; two 13-year-olds and one 15-year-old, who he had brought with him from Nepal. According to Jan Ugahi and Childline, the organisations that had tipped off the police about the case, this man had a previous conviction for sodomy with a child in New Zealand. However, the Interpol has so far failed to respond to the inquiries of the Goa Police in this matter. Middleton was released on bail on 23 March 2001. His passport was later returned to him and he was allowed to leave the country. Unfortunately questions such as how three minor Nepali children were in his custody staying in the same room as him did not receive the attention they deserved.
In May 2003 the police along with Children’s Rights in Goa entered a hotel room in Calangute, and found Alan Dow with a 13-year-old girl, both skimpily clad and sharing the same bed. But as there was no forensic evidence Dow was allowed to leave the country and no case was registered against him.
From the case descriptions given above it is evident that serious attention needs to be given to the question of what needs to be done to protect children and prosecute paedophiles. In order to facilitate the prosecution of paedophiles the following points need to be realised by state authorities:o Investigation of cases of paedophilia should be given as much importance as cases of dacoity/narcotics and the NGOs should not be expected to do all the investigative work. Police should be motivated to investigate such cases by appropriate incentives, such as it reflecting positively in their service records.
Protocols need to be developed to ensure that paedophiles out on bail are prevented from escaping from the country. It should be a matter of procedure that the police communicate with immigration authorities and foreign embassies to alert them to the fact that the suspected offender should not be allowed to leave the country.
Sensitisation programmes have to be carried out among all those dealing with cases of paedophilia – the police, prosecutors and judges.
Existing laws should be used effectively to deal with cases of paedophilia until comprehensive laws are formulated to deal with cases of child sexual abuse.
Credit for this article goes to – Nishtha Desai, who is a child rights activist working with children in Goa.
I applaud her for her research and input but do not necessarily subscribe to all her viewpoints. For instance, the police need abuse specific education and training, incentives shouldn’t matter.Secondly, there are NO LAWS against CSA and the Goa Children’s Act is a state-specific deterrant which has it’s limitations and loopholes as the aforementioned article clearly points out.
It hurts like hell when the pain is intended and you don’t deserve it
It kills when the person who hurts you is someone whom you have placed implicit trust in.
To top it off, Indian society has this brilliant habit of familiarizing every “friend of the family” into the family hierarchical structure and thereby making it really tough for a young member to go upto his/her parents and say ” x uncle tried to touch me”. The most common response to such accusations would be “tut tut darling he’s like family to us..must be your overactive imagination again”.
Respect and regard are subjective terms in this beautiful,potential-filled country. We as children are told never ever to talk to strangers / offer personal information to them BUT with these so-called “family friends” everything is an open book.
A few statistics to shake you up –
In India, 80% of cases of child sexual abuse are categorized as Incest.
What is Incest exactly ?
Incest is a term used to describe/categorize incidents of abuse that have occured at the hands of a family member or “blood relation” as we gory people like to call them. However, in context with the sociology at play with regard to how close we keep our friends and acquaintances, incidents that have involved them have also been categorized under Incest.
A clearer definition is available here.
You could also check this out.
Unfortunately most of the links provided belong to the US and the UK. You might wonder why i prefer international websites to the national ones. The reason is simple – these guys have understood and learned to frame certain definitions more accurately, and i have personally found them to be much more comprehensive and easy to manouver.