Recently, the police in Kolkata arrested a school teacher for allegedly sexually abusing a class 2 girl. In another incident, a couple of months ago, a 5-year-old was sexually abused by an elderly person in a pre-primary school in Undri, Pune. These are not the only cases which have been reported. There are many cases of sexual violence among children reported on a daily basis.
Millions of girls and boys worldwide are sexually abused within homes and outside. They are abused by families, relatives, known persons, neighbours, etc. According to Child Line India Foundation, India, with 1.21 billion people, is the second most populous country in the world and children represent 39 per cent of its total population.
According to WHO, one of 10 Indian children is the victim of sexual abuse. Studies also show that over 50 per cent of children in India are sexually abused, a rate that is higher than in any other country.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), crime incidents against children in 2014 were 89,423, in 2015, the number was 94,172, which rose to 1,06,958 in 2016. Under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, 4,815 cases were registered in Maharashtra alone.
According to the act, protection is provided to all children under the age of 18 years from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography. The act also incorporates child-friendly procedures for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation, and trial of the offences.
Pournima Gadiya, a Children Welfare Committee (CWC) member and social worker, points out that awareness about sexual abuse and good touch and bad touch among children, and also how parents can communicate to children about sexual abuse, are important to curb rising cases. When it comes to sexual abuse against children, the culprits are close people, especially relatives, people who come in contact with children in schools, known neighbours, etc. So, be it in school or at home, it is very important that the parents are aware of the issue and there is communication with children. The kids should be taught about good and bad touch so that such incidents can be prevented.
In schools, there should be counsellors and children should be sensitised to sexual abuse. Many schools currently don’t have counsellors. Schools feel there is no need for counsellors and they can take a lecture once a month or sometimes once in six months or a year, and children can be educated about such issues, but that is not very effective as counselling is a continuous process. The schools should have a full-time or a part-time counsellor depending on the number of students, who can always speak to children about such issues. The children can be made to understand about sexual abuse and molestation through plays, group discussions, dramas, skits, etc. Not only counsellors, but even teachers play an important role is keeping children aware of their surroundings and people. Also, schools should discuss with parents about such issues in PTA meetings.
Meanwhile, on the parents’ part, it is important that they give time to their children and speak to them about their daily activities in school or when children are left alone at home. But just sitting down and talking to the child about their day-to-day activities, even for 10 minutes in a day, can be fruitful. If there is a sudden change in the behaviour of children, it is very important that they get proper counselling and parents know the reason for the change in their behaviour.
Schools can involve NGOs, social workers, counsellors, parents and police to take care of such issues as they are sensitive. Also, while the children are travelling from their homes to schools or vice versa, as per rules, it is important to have a female caretaker on the bus. But in private transport like vans and rickshaws, this norm is not followed. The police should not wait for an untoward incident to take place and then swing into action, instead, they should keep taking follow-ups with the school authorities about the safety of children.
The city police have taken up initiatives like ‘Police Kaka’, where a police head constable is assigned to three to four schools or colleges. And he or she visits these educational premises every week and his or her phone number along with the name is displayed on educational campuses. These initiatives are good but there should be proper implementation of such initiatives and regular follow-ups are a must. Also, if in case any child is a victim of child sexual abuse, the parents should come out and file a complaint and not stay away due to social taboos.