Amal* was three years old when she was sexually assaulted by her neighbour, suffering injuries that required three reconstructive surgeries. During the trial, Amal identified her assailant, but despite her testimony, the trial court acquitted the accused on the grounds that Amal was not a competent witness.
Not one to lose hope, Munira*, Amal’s mother, approached iProbono, through HAQ – Centre for Child Rights. iProbono worked with its community of pro bono lawyers to file an appeal before the Delhi High Court. Within two months, the High Court set aside the original order and sentenced Amal’s assailant to life imprisonment.
Without the intervention of committed lawyers, the gross injustice meted out to Amal would not have been corrected, and her abuser would have walked free. However, there are still millions of children in India who face sexual abuse without any access to justice — often because of fear of social stigma, but also due to police apathy, a sluggish legal system and the sheer volume of cases assigned to public prosecutors, among other factors. Children from low-income backgrounds like Amal, who cannot afford legal representation, often struggle to have their voices heard by the criminal justice system.
Following Amal’s case, iProbono formed a panel of lawyers from the Delhi High Court to represent child survivors of sexual abuse from disadvantaged communities. In the last two years, this panel has been able to help 28 children to access justice through quality legal representation, without having to worry about paying a hefty fee to their lawyers. These cases include Akash and Rosie.
Earlier this year, we reconstituted the panel to assist more survivors of child sexual abuse. We hope to double the number of cases in which we are involved over the next two years.