Tamil Nadu activists warn of rise in child sexual abuse as schools remain shut due to pandemic
During the first wave of the pandemic, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) had reported an increase in criminal activities against children, including sexual harassment cases, by 4.8 per cent.
CHENNAI: Child rights activists in Tamil Nadu have warned of the possibility of children being sexually harassed following the closure of schools till January 31 owing to the surge in the number of Covid cases in the state.
It may be noted that during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) had reported an increase in criminal activities against children, including sexual harassment cases, by 4.8 per cent.
According to reports, child marriages also increased in Tamil Nadu in 2020 and 2021 when schools were closed and classes were held online.
K. Karuppanan, child rights activist and member of Madurai-based Centre for Studies on Child Development, told IANS, "The studies during the previous two waves of the pandemic gave a clear picture of increase in sexual abuse cases against children as also an increase in child marriages. This is very much possible during this period as well as schools are shut. The government's social welfare department has to be on the vigil as well as the teachers."
The only solution according to the activists and teachers is that the vigilance on children has to be increased. Vulnerable children from rural areas and poor backgrounds should be under focus and the state school education department and the social welfare department must increase their vigil to prevent such happenings.
Teachers can play a major role by speaking to the children on a daily basis after their classes end. At least one teacher must speak to the children every day to ensure that they are safe and are not being exploited.
Tamil Nadu Child Rights Watch convenor Andrew Sesuraj told IANS, "The school education department can use the 'Illam Thedi Kalvi' scheme to monitor absenteeism among children and the scheme's volunteers can upload the details of absent children on the Educational Management Information System. Teachers can check on these figures and follow up on the children."
While the Tamil Nadu government has announced closure of schools till January 31, the possibility of extending the deadline is on the higher side with Covid cases continuing to mount in the state.
This will lead to children becoming more vulnerable and the social workers and health workers of each area must keep an eye on the children who are at home.
While the Tamil Nadu government has already set up a system to lodge complaints against sexual abuse in schools, online classes pose more danger as many parents are away for work leaving their children alone at home.
R. Mukunda Kannan, a child rights activist based out of Tiruvallur, told IANS, "Children have to be monitored properly by the parents, teachers and local volunteers. If there are some discrepancies in their behaviour, they have to be consulted by a local councillor."