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50% Pocso case victims in Tiruppur are children of migrant workers

Parents employed in the garment sector said they have no option but to leave their children at home, which makes them easy targets for sexual predators.

Published: 22nd April 2022 05:28 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd April 2022 05:28 AM   |  A+A-

POCSO, Rape, Sexual Assault, Child Abuse

EXPRESS ILLUSTRATION

Express News Service

TIRUPPUR: Of the total 117 POCSO Act cases booked in Tiruppur city limits from 2019 to 2021, children of migrant workers in the garment industry are the victims in 60 cases, said former Mahila Court prosecutor P Parimala. According to Tiruppur city police records, 56 cases were filed under POCSO Act in 2021, 34 in 2020 and 27 in 2019.

Parents employed in the garment sector sais thay have no option but to leave their children at home, which makes them easy targets for sexual predators.  Ramesh*, a parent, said, "My wife and I are natives of Thiruvannamalai. We migrated to Tiruppur in the early 2000s to work in a garment unit. We leave for work in the morning after dropping off my 13-year-old daughter at school. As we come back home only around 6 pm, my daughter, who comes back from school around 4 pm, used to be alone at home. One day, she fell ill and was taken to a doctor.

During the medical examination, my daughter told the doctor she was sexually abused and the doctor informed us. It was found that one of the neighbours had sexually abused her for more than eight months. On the doctor's advice, we registered a POCSO complaint at the Tiruppur (North) police station in 2019. After the incident, we relocated to another place in Tiruppur city, but are still worried about her when we are at work."

Speaking to TNIE, childline (Tiruppur) district coordinator N Kadirvel said, "All victims of POSCO cases suffer immense social and mental issues, apart from physical abuse. The perpetrators use fear and threat to dominate the victims and continue their abuse for several weeks and even months. Parents leaving children alone at home gives neighbours and relatives plenty of opportunities to connect with the minors. Last month, I received at least six calls from the helpline and all of them were from garment workers and the victims were minors."

Elaborating on the situation, former Parimala, who has appeared in POCSO cases, said these are cases specific to Tiruppur garment industry. She explains, "POCSO cases related to minors eloping with lovers and abusive fathers are common in all districts. But this kind of situation is more common among families of garment workers. The situation and environment are to be blamed more than the parents. As most migrant parents are from poor family backgrounds, they have no other choice. They live in congested housing units (line houses) with common verandahs and toilets. This gives neighbours and relatives an opportunity to corner minors who are alone."

Spelling a word of advice, psychologist Dr Periyanayaki said, "Many victims of sexual assault struggle with shame, guilt and embarrassment and parents suffer in silence. Awareness and counselling sessions about relationships and friendships at schools and colleges could help resolve this situation to an extent. This could help the children identify sexual predators and abusive people. Parents should also participate in such sessions. The stigma around sexual abuse victims should be thwarted. This could prevent mental trauma in victims."

Tiruppur Exporters and Manufacturer Association President MP Muthurathinam said, "There are more than one lakh workers in the garment units and three lakh workers deployed in various garment and textile related works. Many garment units outsource work to smaller units, which deploy workers on a contract basis. As the focus is on time-based delivery, workers live a mechanical life. This could divert parents' attention from their children. All workers should be allowed to work only 8 hours a day. Apart from this, all garment units should take moral responsibility. They should conduct awareness programmes."
(*Name changed)



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