Wednesday, June 16, 2021
HomeOpinionDiaryMaking childhood safe is becoming an overwhelming task

Making childhood safe is becoming an overwhelming task

The public anger of the Nirbhaya crime is still lingering, while more grisly spectacles make a beeline to grab the pungent headlines, the latest being the nine-year old school girl from Mira Road was allegedly raped by three of her teachers. It is bad enough that the alleged rape occurred in the campus sanctity. Are more students being raped?  Has the definition of rape become diluted that more incidents being red-flagged? Is rape avoidance a feminine responsibility?  Or, are we failing collectively?

How is it that the girl was left alone for this to happen at any given point of time while at school? If the child has to use the rest room she must be escorted by a helper staff.  Someone knows the answer there. While the current laws and the concomitant loopholes enable abusers to escape punishment, many cases fail to result in rape law enforcement, thanks to the systemic inadequacies that render the criminal law ineffective in responding to and preventing such violence.

A less-scrutinised explanation is the campus grievance process itself oriented towards the protection of perpetrators than the vindication of survivors. While the child abuse is more than a passing issue to be bantered about by talk show hosts, the community leaders must come up with preventive strategies. It is not enough to warn a child to keep off strangers.  By now, we have told our children about “good and bad touches”, but don’t miss to caution that it is often from someone we know and trust.

The common trouble spot include under-reporting of campus crime statistics.   The educational institutions should adopt some promising practices and the campus  programme should include comprehensive education about rape myths, common circumstances under which the crime occurs, prevention strategies, rape trauma responses….. along with a sexual assault policy clarifying all forms of sexual misconduct, and provide reporting options.

As campus grievance procedures are civil in nature, the sexual offenders are found “responsible”, not “guilty”.  The strongest punishment schools can deliver is to expel a rapist from campus which can be valid for cheating on a “Physics final”, not for a felony on par with murder.  Campus judicial systems aren’t designed to address that sort of defence. A system run by corporates often puts the school’s interests above that of the victims. Probing sexual assault complaints and meting out punishment should be a police matter, handled by personnel trained to deal with such highly complex cases, as rape is beyond violation of campus discipline.

We owe it to our children to remember that the next generation of molesters is emerging from this generation.  Become aware of our own bias – our illusions that cloud our judgement by making us believe that we live in a much kindlier and gentler world than is really the case.

Few campus rapes are reported, fewer prosecuted. National Crimes Bureau Annual Report confirms that “rapes are committed in all states as well as the rapists belong to all castes, communities, colours and regions of India and abroad”, adding that “a woman is raped somewhere in India every 20 minutes , and the number of children raped has increased by 336 per cent  in the last 10 years”.

It is disturbing that our children are so trivialised as to become the objects of exploitation and their innocence is sought to be destroyed for perverted greed.  When sexual violence occurs on campus and authorities fail to adequately respond, there is a fundamental breakdown in educational mission. Men who treat women with respect can play a big role in preventing the crime. Human Rights activists who fight capital punishment should propose meaningful inputs. The children need to be protected, not labelled as tramps.

C.S. Krishnamurthy

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