Protecting Children in Schools

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  • Extremely disturbing incidents of sexual assault on children inside school premises have been reported in quick succession from Bengaluru.
  • Two cases were reported in the month of October alone and at least nine such cases, including extreme cases of rape, have been reported during this year. The victims include a girl as young as 3.
  • It must be pointed out that attention came to be focussed on the issue after cases were reported from upmarket English medium schools.
  • There is a fear that cases in schools catering to the poor may not even come to light.
  • A comprehensive survey conducted in 2007 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development,Government of India, found that 53.22 % of over 12,000 children interviewed had faced sexual abuse.
  • The survey suggested that schools constitute a relatively safer environment and most abuses are perpetrated by family members, including parents.
  • Till March this year, 400 cases have been registered under the stringent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) and over 12,000 cases of rape of children were registered in 2013 under Section 376 of the IPC.
  • Even as the number of schools are growing, there are hardly any systems to verify the antecedents of staff members, and this has at times let even habitual offenders come in close contact with children.
  • Schools need to scrutinise their teaching and non-teaching staff more closely.
  • Improving awareness over what constitutes sexual abuse as defined by law is essential.
  • It is also important to counsel parents and teachers to actively encourage dialogue with children and make them aware of any dangers and report such incidents.
  • Even basic protocols on the time and place of contact with a child by staff members are not followed in most schools.
  • Making the law enforcement authorities more sensitive to dealing with such cases is another major challenge.
  • Often the psychological impact of such cases on the victims, parents and other children is not addressed seriously.
  • The concern is not just that these cases have been reported in one city, but the fact that they may be going unreported in several others.
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