In India, child sexual assault must be reported within three years or a case cannot be brought against an abuser. But for adult survivors who struggle to come to terms with their ordeal this means their abuser, frequently someone close to the family, will never be brought to justice. The BBC’s Geeta Pandey met one survivor campaigning for a change in the law.
A 53-year-old Canadian woman of Indian origin recently met with India’s Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi. Her mission was to lobby for a change in the law so that adult survivors can report childhood sexual abuse.
Ms Govindarajulu, who grew up in the southern Indian city of Chennai (formerly Madras) before moving to Canada in 1986, says she was abused by her cousin’s husband regularly between the ages of six and 13.
After meeting Purnima Govindarajulu in Delhi, Mrs Gandhi said her ministry was “considering measures that will help child abuse survivors report their abusers, many years after the crimes had been committed”. The law at present says a case must be brought within three years of abuse.
“I would wake up at night to find him sitting next to me in the dark. He would put his hands and mouth on my private parts,” Ms Govindarajulu, who works as a conservation biologist for the Canadian province of British Columbia, said.
Although the “more intrusive penetrative acts took place at night or while travelling during the holidays”, the abuse continued during the day too.
“Whenever he would find me alone, he would stick his fingers into my panties. There would be fondling, groping.”
Growing up in conservative Chennai, she says she had no clue that what was happening to her was wrong and was not her fault.