The 16-year-old girl who was molested in a cluster bus in New Delhi on Saturday night was on the run after facing harassment at home for years. Her brother, a teenager, has been arrested for allegedly raping her six months ago and molesting her thereafter.
The conductor who molested her on the bus has been booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 which came into force in November.
This is only the second case booked under the Act. The Act is important as it recognises different forms of sexual abuse, including non-penetrative sexual assault, and provides for stringent punishment graded as per the gravity of the offence. The offender can now be booked for a minimum of 3 years.
This is important because as lawyer and social activist Meenakshi Lekhi told DNA, “The law needs to recognise that rape is the last stage of molestation. Molestation should not go unpunished. It needs to be treated right at the bud.”
The girl was on the bus to escape from harassment at home. She boarded the bus around 9.30pm and there were 10-12 people in it. As soon as they got off, she was left alone with the off duty bus conductor who molested her.
Around 11pm, the bus lost its way because the roads were cordoned off due to the protest against the gang rape of the 23-year-old, Patient X. The driver stopped at Mandi House to ask for directions. This is when police officers on duty heard her crying inside.
Eyewitnesses said the driver did not inform the police about the molestation. Later, on inquiry, they found out that a case of kidnapping had been registered by her father in the police station at Khayala, where she lived. On further prodding, the harassment she had faced at home came to light.
The driver and conductor have been terminated from duty. As of now, the girl is at a shelter home. NGOs working on women issues say there is a question mark on her future. What do you do in the case of someone who does not feel safe at home? “She is a minor and has no family support. She will need a lot of support and counselling,” said Prabhleen Tutleja of Jagori, an NGO.