BANGALORE: Many questions are being asked as child rape cases hit the headlines: Is Bangalore becoming increasingly unsafe for children? And why Bangalore?
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Dr M S Thimmappa, former vice-chancellor of Bangalore University, rues that the system, by allowing the guilty to go scot-free, contributes to the increase in rape cases. “Personally, I do not recall many cases, barring a few like the one in Delhi, in which the guilty have been punished,” he says.
Nina Nayak, child rights activist and former chairperson for the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, agrees that a lackadaisical government emboldens perpetrators.“The Nanaiah Committee, constituted to suggest remedial measures, has met only once. This goes to show how sluggish the government is.”
Porn to Blame?
Former ACP Ashok Kumar argues easy access to the Internet has fuelled crime numbers in Bangalore. “Rape is more often than not linked with watching pornography. Once they watch it, they have an unbridled desire to let it out,” he says.
But are sex offenses against children really on the rise?
Not necessarily, says Vasudeva Sharma, executive director, Child Rights Trust and former member of the Karnataka State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights. He believes the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act has made a difference.
“In the past, doctors, parents and teachers did not feel it necessary to report child sexual abuse to the police. But the Pocso Act has made it mandatory to report such crimes and file FIRs. Because of this, the media are able to report such incidents regularly,” he says.
During his tenure between 2003 and 2012, Sharma saw several cases of abuse by parents or guardians, which ultimately went unreported. “Now, if you sit together with your circle of friends or your family, each one will have his or her own story to tell, of how they have been victims of sexual abuse,” he says.
Earlier, child rights, counselling and surveillance were unheard of. “If a child was violated, it did not seem like something that had to be complained about.”
Alok Kumar, Additional Commissioner of Police, says Bangalore is responding with increased sensitivity. “The outrage opens people’s eyes to the malaise. Instead of trying to bury the incidents, people report them. The increasing numbers are a result of greater awareness.”
Who Must Act?
Ashok Kumar recalled a recent incident in which a staffer escaped without punishment.
“A student from a reputed city college was molested by a male lecturer. The student did not file a complaint for personal reasons,” he said.The lecturer has no blemish in his records. He can move to another college without anyone knowing about his past. If only the college and police had acted, he would not have got away so easily, Ashok Kumar said.
While the onus rests with the institutions and the police, parents should also take an interest in tackling the problem, said Nina Nayak. “All schools should be closed for two weeks and police should do a verification of all employees. Parents can take turns visiting the schools, spending time with the teachers and learning more about the schools,” she said.
Tighten Laws, says principal
Dr C Gayathri Devi, principal of Little Flower Public School, and secretary for the Karnataka ICSE Schools Association, wants more stringent laws. “If the law and the courts know what to do, these incidents will be curbed. Children are precious, their lives are precious. The schools are doing their best,” she said. She also said the “rotten elements” came from society. “Don’t try to blame schools trying to provide quality education,” she said.
Teacher Flashes, Parents refuse to Complain
Bangalore: A teacher was suspended on Thursday for allegedly showing his private parts to an eight-year-old girl studying in third standard in a school in Yeshwantpur.
The incident took place more than a month ago at Brigade School and the principal filed a complaint against the teacher at Subramanya Nagar police station on September 12. When the student’s parents came to know about the complaint, they objected to it and even wrote to the school to withdraw the complaint.
A police officer alleged that the non-cooperation of the girl’s parents has slowed down the investigation. A case has been registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.