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Act on Paedophilia
April 11, 2011

Act on Paedophilia


11 April 2011

Kiran Tare: The conviction of two British nationals, Duncan Grant and Allan Waters, for sexually abusing minor boys has underlined the need for a stringent law against sexual exploitation of children. Activists say that the provisions of Indian Penal Code are not stringent enough to book someone for sexually exploiting children.

In March 2006, a Mumbai sessions court had sentenced Grant and Waters, both former officers of British Navy, to six years in prison on the charge of sodomy and sexually abusing five minor boys in Anchorage Shelter Home they ran in Colaba since 1995. They challenged the conviction in the Bombay High Court, which acquitted them in 2008. The high court had refused to consider the testimony of the two boys, which was the basis for the session court's judgment, as reliable because there were inconsistencies in their statements. On March 21, the Supreme Court upheld the session court's sentencing. Grant has spent three years and two months and Waters, five years in prison.

Asha Bajpai, a researcher at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, says, "Section 375 of the IPC talks about rape of a woman and Section 354 deals with unnatural sex. However, there is no stringent section to deal with child sexual abuse." She says that victimised children do not have a forum to lodge their complaints. Many orphanages do not allow authorities to inspect their premises on the pretext that they do not take government funds.

In 1991, Goa police arrested Freddy Peats, an Indian national of Anglo-German descent, for running a child pornography racket. In 2000, Mumbai police arrested a Swiss couple, Wilhelm and Loshiar Marty, for sexually abusing and filming street children.

Colaba resident Meher Pestonjee had raised an alarm at the Anchorage Shelter Home 10 years ago. She was tipped-off about the possible abuse of children in the home by an American artist Camel Berkson, who stayed at the Salvation Army Hostel in Colaba. Pestonjee insists on mandatory qualification in social work for persons wanting to set up ngos. Pestonjee had approached advocate Mahrukh Adenwala to file a case against Grant. Adenwala pursued the case. "We are still hoping for a stringent law against sexual exploitation of children," says Adenwala.

Grant and Waters were on the radar of a UK-based organisation End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT), for sex tourism in India. ECPAT Director Christine Beddoe says, "The conviction of Grant and Waters sends a strong message that travelling British sex offenders can no longer go abroad and get away with abusing children without fear of punishment."