BANGALORE: Last month, child helpline 1098 received a shocking complaint about a physical education instructor at a government school in Kadugodi molesting children. He allegedly made children sit on his lap, hugged, kissed and touched them inappropriately.
More than 15 children confessed to the helpline’s counsellors that they were subjected to such molestation. Based on their complaint, Kadugodi police arrested the instructor under the non-bailable Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012. A week or two later, he came out on bail. This is just one case. Sexual crimes against schoolchildren have seen an unprecedented spurt. As of June, the number of such reported cases has almost doubled when compared to last year’s figures.
According to Bangalore City Police, the number of sexual crimes against children categorised under the crime head of ‘rape’ was 47 in 2011, 38 in 2012 and 34 last year. “As of June 30, the number of rape cases involving children recorded in the city is 66, of which 44 are elopement,” Police Commissioner Raghavendra H Auradkar said. Elopement includes sexual exploitation of children promising love or marriage, officials clarified.
The recent case of a six-year-old girl being sexually abused in Vibgyor High School in Marathahalli has forced police to act against the culprits quickly.
“We are doing our best and we want the public to be assured that law and order will be maintained,” Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) Pranab Mohanty told Express.
He said a majority of crimes committed on children fall in the category of sexual exploitation. “In most of these crimes, the victims are girls aged over 14 years. It is very rare for girls below 10 to be victimised,” Mohanty added.
Welcoming the public outcry over the crimes, Suma Ravi, Child Rights and You (CRY) regional director, said the situation is a reflection of the courage victims gather to report the incidents. “However, the absence of a protective environment for children can have serious consequences on them. This could happen to children in any city - Bangalore, Mumbai or Delhi.”
Mohanty said most of the child-related cases come from upper and middle class families. When asked specifically about the Vibgyor High school case, Mohanty said the school should take responsibility. “It is impossible for us to appoint officers in every school. Further, the police do not have the authority to check the background of teachers and other staff.”
However, he claimed crimes against women and children in Bangalore are decreasing, given its population. Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) Chairman H R Umesh Aradhya said awareness is the need of the hour for both parents and school managements. “Sometimes, schools are very reluctant to check the background of staff.”
With only 0.06 per cent of the GDP set aside for children, Ravi bats for higher allocation of budgetary resources coupled with regular and consistent monitoring of all issues connected with protection of children.
“The government should also invest in appropriate referral services for recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration of victims of abuse and exploitation,” she said.