The rape of innocence

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The city of Bangalore has undergone many changes in the last few decades, not all of them salutary. The recent series of assaults on young children in schools has focused attention on the lack of proper security safeguards and norms, which makes children so vulnerable to abuse. It is time to address this issue very seriously.

Bangalore, now rechristened Bengaluru, has over the years had a number of sobriquets tagged to its name, with ‘Garden City’ and ‘Tech City’ being just two of them. However, in recent times, the reputation of the city is in tatters and there have been snide references in the media on how the city has become a ‘suicide capital’ and a ‘rape capital’.

A very disconcerting development in this regard is the rise in the crime graph in the city, especially sexual assaults, where the targets of the perpetrators of the heinous crimes are minors, especially students in schools, some just three or four years old. School managements, as is their wont, have been doing their best to sweep such incidents under the carpet, as it is their reputation that is at stake.

In what can best be described as classic cases of the fence eating the crop, more often than not, these assaults on children are allegedly being perpetrated by the staff employed by the schools themselves. With a vigilant media breathing continuously down its neck, the state government, pilloried by the opposition and worried parents alike, has been hard pressed to not just bring the guilty to book, but also to avoid recurrences. The High Court of Karnataka, hearing a petition on the issue, has squarely placed the onus for the safety of the children on the schools concerned. This should prod the educational institutions to shed their lackadaisical approach, and beef up their security apparatus, and further, exercise care while checking the antecedents of the staff they employ.

Children, both minor girls and boys, constitute one of the most vulnerable groups in society and become easy prey for pedophiles on the prowl. Often, the children not aware of what is happening to them, and can be terrified into silence on threat of bodily harm. Hence, unless there are external injuries detected by parents of the victims or acute physical discomfort due to the assault, there is every chance that the crime might go undetected, leaving the child open to abuse all over again.

There is every possibility that the child could go through extreme trauma, might even retreat into a shell, and develop a dislike and fear for men. Unless the psychiatric distress is treated with sensitivity, it could stunt the growth of the child as well. It is keeping all this in mind that the Union Government passed the POSCO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) Act in 2012, which apart from other things, also paves the way for speedy trial of those accused of sexual assaults on children, in separate fast track courts. There is an increasing clamour for awarding capital punishment for those convicted of raping minor children, but with the government contemplating the abolition of the death penalty, there is little chance of such marauders facing the noose.

The decision of the Nobel Prize Committee to award the Nobel Peace Prize to two eminent child rights activists Kailash Sathyarthi of India, and Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, is a clear indication of the world’s concern over children. It is therefore imperative that the state governments keep an eagle eye on schools functioning in their states. Schools often have a tendency to cut costs and maximise profits by compromising on the security apparatus, and this is a tendency that should be deprecated. The governments also have the duty of pursuing every single case of sexual assault on children to their logical end.

Opposition politicians who often try to leverage such events, should bury their differences and provide unstinted support to the government’s efforts to curb crime. The need of the hour certainly is to protect children from molestation and rape, and the seriousness of the issue should percolate down to every single layer of society. This rape of innocence cannot be allowed to go on under any circumstances.


journalist

C.V. Aravind

The writer is a Bangalore-based freelance journalist.

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