About the Research Team
With a view to further Enfold’s vision of building safer and rights affirmative spaces for children and inclusive communities, the Research Team aims to generate evidence on implementation of child protection laws and their impact on children and adolescents so as to ensure that laws and policies advance children’s rights. To strengthen the response of the child protection system and criminal justice system, the team undertakes development of knowledge resources, and checklists. It conducts needs assessments, based on which it designs and offers capacity building programmes for a range of stakeholders such as the police, Child Welfare Committees, Juvenile Justice Boards, judges and Special Public Prosecutors of Special Courts under the POCSO Act, Civil Society organisations, staff of Child Care Institutions, and others on child protection laws.
The Research Team also engages with laws and policy formulation and team members have supported State Governments with the drafting of delegated legislation and child protection policies, made submissions to Parliamentary Standing Committees, Central Government, NALSA, and other authorities on laws and policies relevant to children, and also contributed towards preparation of SOPs, Guidelines, and Handbooks to aid the working of systems and functionaries for advancement of children’s rights.
With a view to ensure that child rights and child protection issues are integrated in legal education, the Research Team has developed seminar courses for law students on the Law on Child Sexual Abuse in India and modules on juvenile justice that have been offered at National Law School of India University and Christ University, Bangalore.
The Research Team also responds to legal queries from stakeholders, organisations, and individuals related to child protection. Please write to us at [email protected] with the subject line: “Query for Research Team” for any information, clarifications, and queries.
The team comprises members from both law as well as social work, bringing together their experience of legal research and direct work with children and the justice system.
COVID-19 and Child Survivors of Sexual Offences:
A Rapid Assessment Study was undertaken by Enfold in Bangalore to understand the impact COVID-19 lockdowns on the child survivors of sexual abuse and their families whose case are pending before the Special Court. It was conducted between July and September of 2020, jointly by the Research Team and the Support and Rehabilitation team. It was done with support from the Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives (APPI).
Research on “Romantic” Cases under the POCSO Act:
In April 2021 the Enfold team, supported by UNICEF-India commenced a comprehensive analysis into the application of statutory rape laws under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and the Indian Penal Code, 1860 in romantic cases. The team analysed 1715 “romantic cases” decided by the Special Courts from Assam, Maharashtra, and West Bengal, registered and disposed of from 2016 to 2020. These cases were analysed to understand how they enter the criminal justice system, the profile of informants, accused persons and victims, the nature of testimony, the outcomes and sentencing. The state-level findings of the judgement analysis were presented in multiple fora including the state level consultations on the implementation of the POCSO Act, 2012 in Assam, West Bengal and Maharashtra organised by the respective High Court Committees on POCSO/Juvenile Justice in association with UNICEF. In addition, the findings were also presented at the National Annual Stakeholders Consultation on Child Protection organised by the Supreme Court Juvenile Justice Committee in association with UNICEF.
Policy Brief on Implication of the POCSO Act in India on Adolescent Sexuality:
With support from UNICEF-India and UNFPA, Enfold wrote a policy brief which unpacks the implications of 18 years as the age of consent on adolescents’ rights under domestic law and international human rights law, and proposes a policy alternative that advances rights and strikes a balance between their protection and evolving autonomy. It draws upon legal standards, empirical studies, judicial precedents, as well as discussions with stakeholders.
Analysis of the Response of the Child Protection System to Violence Against Children in Rajasthan:
The Enfold team in collaboration with UNICEF-Rajasthan and the State Government of Rajasthan undertook a study between June 2021-November 2022, to assess the implementation of child protection laws, the disposal of these cases, and the challenges in implementation of the law in the state. As a part of the study, judgments under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and the working of Child Welfare Committees were analysed to understand judicial trends and implementation gaps. The final report contains comprehensive recommendations to address violence against children in Rajasthan.
Co-creating Datasets Using Artificial Intelligence to Analyse Implementation of Child Protection Laws in India:
In 2023, Enfold initiated a study in collaboration with CivicDataLab with support from Patrick J. McGovern Foundation. The study focuses on analysis of data from ecourts as well as judgments where the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation Act), 1986, and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 have been invoked. The aim of the study is to analyse judicial trends and identify the gaps and challenges in the application and implementation of these laws.
Survivors of Child Abuse and the Justice System:
The team in collaboration with Project 39A, Delhi is working on a study to understand survivors’ experience and perspectives in the criminal justice system. The study analyses judgments of Special Courts in Assam, Maharashtra, and West Bengal under Section 6, POCSO Act and Sections 376AB and 376DB of the Indian Penal Code, which prescribe the death penalty for rape of children. It also includes insights from interviews with survivors of CSA, their families and experts to understand their experience of the justice system and perspectives on justice.
LAW & POLICY ENGAGEMENT
● Guidelines for Vulnerable Witnesses: The Enfold Team assisted Hon’ble Mrs. Justice Gital Mittal (former Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court) in preparing “Guidelines for Recording Evidence of Vulnerable Witnesses”. Justice Gita Mittal was duly appointed by the Supreme Court of India to chair a Committee constituted to engage with High Courts in creation of infrastructure for Vulnerable Witness Deposition Centres (VWDCs) as well as devise and implement the All India VWDC Training Programme. These guidelines have been accepted by several High Courts including the High Courts at Calcutta, Karnataka, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Patna, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Gauhati, and Manipur.
● Drafting of Karnataka Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules): Arlene Manoharan & Swagata Raha are a part of the Core Rule Drafting Committee for the state of Karnataka for the purpose of drafting rules under the JJ Act.
● Contribution to Madhya Pradesh JJ Model Rules: Swagata Raha served as a Technical Expert, Madhya Pradesh Juvenile Justice Rule-drafting Committee (Aug 2019-2020).
● Madhya Pradesh Child Protection Policy: Enfold, in a technical partnership with UNICEF – Madhya Pradesh Office and Department of Women and Child Development, Government of Madhya Pradesh, developed the Madhya Pradesh Child Protection Policy after state level consultations and substantial research, which has been notified by the State Government in 2020. Subsequently, Enfold has been working on drafting Model Child Protection Policy for all CCIs, Operational Guidelines for all CCIs, Children’s Homes and SAAs.
● SOP for procedures to be followed for orphaned, abandoned, and surrendered children affected by COVID-19: Arlene Manoharan and Swagata Raha along with other civil society organisations and child rights experts contributed towards the preparation of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) consisting, inter alia, standards to be adopted with regard to orphaned or abandoned children as a result of the pandemic, bearing in mind the extant legal regime and agencies such the State Legal Services Authorities, CWCs, State Governments and JJBs. The work on the SOP was under the guidance of Hon’ble Mrs Justice B.V. Nagarathna, Karnataka High Court, Honb’le Mr. Justice Harish Tandon, Calcutta High Court and Hon’ble Mr. Justice Rajiv Shakdher, Delhi High Court, members of a Sub-Committee constituted by Hon’ble Mr. Justice Ravindra Bhat, Judge, Supreme Court of India, and Chairperson of the Supreme Court Committee on Juvenile Justice. The final SOP was submitted to Hon’ble Mr. Justice Ravindra Bhat, Judge, Supreme Court of India.
● Submissions on Bills, Guidelines, and other policy documents:
a. Joint response with Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, Bengaluru to Draft Guidelines for Conducting Preliminary Assessment under Section 15 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 published by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights(NCPCR) (January 2023).
b. Response to Draft Guidelines for Conducting Preliminary Assessment under Section 15 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 prepared by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights Submission (March 2023).
c. Submission to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (6 February 2022).
d. Submission to NALSA on the Witness Protection Scheme (Draft-2), 21 May 2018.
● POCSO Consultations: In 2022, Enfold attended state-level and national-level consultations held across the country by UNICEF & High Court committees on the implementation of the POCSO Act. Enfold participated in Assam, Karnataka, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, and Sikkim state level consultations. Enfold provided technical support for documentation of the consultations (in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan), and team members were panellists on various issues pertaining to child protection and implementation of the POCSO Act, and presented findings based on research and ground-level experience.
SYSTEM STRENGTHENING THROUGH CAPACITY BUILDING
Best Interest Determination by Child Welfare Committees:
The Research Team has designed a basic training module on Best Interest Determination by Child Welfare Committees, that was developed based on an in-depth needs assessment in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. In collaboration with DWCD, UP and UNICEF-Uttar Pradesh, the Research Team designed and implemented a capacity building programme on Best Interest Determination by Child Welfare Committees, from 4-7 December 2022, for 32 participants, comprising Chairpersons and Members of Child Welfare Committees as well as Protection Officers of 13 districts in Uttar Pradesh and other technical resource persons.
Integrated Multi-Stakeholder Capacity Building Program on Implementation of Laws Related to Sexual Offences against Children:
In collaboration with the Karnataka Judicial Academy, Karnataka State Legal Services Authority, and UNICEF-office for Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana, Enfold designed and conducted a first-of-its kind integrated capacity building program for 56 stakeholders responsible for the implementation of the POCSO Act in Karnataka from 17-19 November, with the approval of the Karnataka High Court Committee on JJ Act and POCSO Act. The participants were Special Court Judges, Public Prosecutors, Chairpersons of Child Welfare Committees, Principal Magistrates of Juvenile Justice Board along with Social Work Members, District Legal Services Authority, Legal Aid Lawyers, District Child Protection Unit, Police (Investigation Officers), Support Persons, NGO Participants, Childline, and Medical Practitioners, from Bangalore (Urban).
Over the years, team members have offered trainings or have been part of trainings on varied topics for child protection functionaries including Special Court Judges, Public Prosecutors, Chairpersons of Child Welfare Committees, Principal Magistrates of Juvenile Justice Board along with Social Work Members, District Legal Services Authority, Legal Aid Lawyers, District Child Protection Unit, Police (Investigation Officers), Support Persons, NGO Participants, Childline, and Medical Practitioners. These have been by invitation of or in partnership with state governments, nodal departments for child protection, state police academies, Judicial Academies and SLSAs of multiple states and civil society organisations such as CRY, Wipro Foundation, Dream a Dream, Centre for Reproductive Rights, Centre for Justice, Law and Society, and UNICEF.
● Enfold provided technical support for documentation of the POCSO consultations in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan, organised by the respective High Court Committees on Juvenile Justice, in November-December 2022.
Participation in International, Regional, National and State-level Conferences:
● Swagata Raha, Director-Research, participated in the Phase III- Design Workshop organised by the Global Programme to End Child Marriage (UNICEF & UNFPA) in Johannesburg, and made remarks at the closing as a representative of a civil society organisation (1-5 May 2023).
● Swagata Raha, Director-Research, presented at Feminist Inquiries into Rights & Equality (FIRE) Consortium dialogue on Promote Prevention, Question Criminalisation: Reframing Responses to Child Marriage (18 December 2020).
● Swagata Raha, Director-Research, was a panelist and spoke on ‘Age of Consent v. Agency’ at Majlis’ conference titled ‘Negotiating Spaces: Looking Back, Looking Forward, Rape Law Reform in India’ (13 November 2022).
● Swagata Raha, Director-Research, was a panellist in #Data4Justice Unpacking Judicial Data to Track Implementation of the POCSO Act in Assam, Delhi & Haryana, by HAQ: Centre for Child Rights along with Civic DataLab (19 November 2022).
● Swagata Raha, Director-Research, & Shruthi Ramakrishnan, Associate-Director, Research presented Enfold’s judgement analysis on “Romantic” cases under the POCSO Act as well as the implications of the POCSO Act on adolescent sexuality at Alternative Law Forum, Bengaluru (13 January 2023).
● Swagata Raha, Director-Research presented the analysis of special (POCSO) court judgments on “Romantic Cases” across three Indian States at the National Annual Stakeholders’ Consultation on Child Protection Focus on Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 Implementation, under the aegis of the Hon’ble Supreme Court Committee on Juvenile Justice on 10 December 2022.
● Swagata Raha, Director-Research presented the analysis of special (POCSO) court judgements on “Romantic Cases” in Indian States, with special reference to Assam on 27 November 2022 at the Assam State Level Consultation on Implementation of POCSO Act 2012: Focus on Prevention of Child Sexual Offence (POCSO) 2012 implementation.
● Swagata Raha, Director-Research presented the Study on ‘Romantic Relationships’ under POCSO- Presentation of the data from the State of Maharashtra on 12 November 2022 at the Maharashtra State Level Multi-Stakeholders Consultation on Implementation of POCSO Act 2012, hosted by the Juvenile Justice Committee and POCSO Committee, Bombay High Court Maharashtra Judicial Academy, Uttan & Women and Child Development Department, Govt of Maharashtra in technical collaboration with UNICEF Maharashtra.
● Shruthi Ramakrishnan, Senior Legal Researcher presented the Study on ‘Romantic Relationships’ under POCSO- Presentation of the data from the state of West Bengal on 19 November 2022 at the West Bengal State Level Multi-Stakeholders Consultation on Implementation of POCSO Act 2012, hosted by the Juvenile Justice Committee and POCSO Committee, Calcutta High Court, Department of Women and Child Development and Social Welfare and UNICEF.
● Shruthi Ramakrishnan, Associate Director-Research was a panellist at BIC Hubba at Bangalore International Centre and spoke on ‘The role of Judiciary in ensuring ‘Child friendly’ implementation of the POCSO Act’ at BIC Hubba at Bangalore International Centre (25 February 2023).
● Swagata Raha spoke on ‘Impact of Indian laws on sexual and reproductive health rights of adolescents’ for Centre for Reproductive Rights for Representative of UN Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures (15 June 2021).
● Swagata Raha and Shruthi Ramakrishnan spoke in a session titled “Romantic Cases” under POCSO Act: Implications for Children and way forward” at the, Biju Patnaik State Police Academy, Bhubaneswar, Odisha in sessions on 30 December 2022 17 January, 2023, and 21 February 2023.
● Member of National Coalition for Advocating Adolescent Concerns [NCAAC]: Enfold is a member of this coalition started by Partners for Law in Development. The NCAAC is a multi-sectoral coalition of 19 organisations working on issues concerning adolescent rights and wellbeing.