I remember writing an amateur blog post on Kindergarten Sexual Abuse back in 2014. It was after the back to back incidents of toddler rapes in prestigious, premium private schools in Bangalore. I was a new mother then, and my protective instincts had gone into an overdrive worrying about my child’s imminent schooling. Since that time, things have gone from worrisome to absolutely insane. Incidents have been reported regularly in these last three years, from schools in Bangalore, Delhi, Pune, and Kolkata. The situation is so grim that there are plenty of parents seriously contemplating home-schooling. But, in the mass scale and immediately, what does India need to do to fight this horrendous evil?
Why is no one afraid of being caught?
So, my first thought was why is there no fear of consequences? And, here is what I found. Let us discuss the 2014 case that enraged me thus. Two gym instructors of Vibgyor High School, Bangalore, raped a six-year-old. They, and the School Principal were booked under POCSO almost immediately. So far, so good – right?
Nopes. The law requires a POCSO case to be tried within one year. It is three years since, and the case has NOT BEEN TRIED YET! Apparently, there are only three Public Prosecutors in the area, and they are buried under a deadly load of POCSO cases.
The accused are out on bail, and the Police have not bothered to keep track of their whereabouts. Since background forging is so easy in our country, how hard do you think it is for those guys to get another job, in another school, in another city? You won’t like the answer. And, now, they know the law can’t touch them.
Even if we assume the offenders are completely reformed by some magical intervention, they have now ‘motivated’ hundreds of other psychopaths to emulate their crime. Because, what could be the downside, really? Even if one is caught, the chances of which are slim in the first place, one would be scot-free before you know it!
India’s Shaky Understanding of Sex and Consent
The Indian society is so entrenched in patriarchy, that consent is a difficult concept for us to grasp. It is the absolute nadir that a school principal, when caught violating a student sexually, rationalizes that it is ‘not that big a crime’.
India is in dire need of a pervasive Sex Education program. (Read: How serious are we about sex education for adolescent children?), a move that the State Governments have protested because Sex Ed is, apparently, against India’s culture. Ironically, rape seems not to be.
The complete lack of sexual education and the taboo around the conversation also means that children are grossly underprepared to fight the evil. In many cases, they are not even aware of their abuse and have no idea how to verbalize their trauma. In extreme cases, it is presenting itself in deviant ways such as that of a rape of a four-year-old girl by her classmate, in Delhi.
What should we do now?
Unless we have the highest Government in the country take interest and allocate resources to fix the Judiciary issues plaguing us, the concern will only escalate.
It is a shame that our country revolts and fast tracks cases that revolve around the dignity of a mythical woman dead for more than 7 centuries, and yet, we do not have time to try the perpetrators of a living child for three years post-facto. If we must protest something, let us be prudent and choose our causes better, dear India!
Sex Education needs to find its way into our system. If the schools are still ‘shy’ to introduce the topic, let parents pioneer the movement. The following are some tips to empower your child against child predators:
1. Start talking to your toddlers about body parts, privacy, good touch-bad touch etc., as soon as they have a vocabulary. Please never use playful substitute words for body parts. Call a ‘vagina’ a ‘vagina’. Perpetrators often mislead children to believe that abuse is a ‘game’, and confusing, playful names for private parts can confound the child.
2. Do not encourage your child to have secrets – even with you, your partner, or other caregivers. Abusers often use the ploy of ‘Let’s play a secret game’ with children. Let your child know that secrets are not funny. Give them the confidence to share everything with you.
3. Always believe your child. Even if they are pointing towards someone you trust blindly. Err on the side of caution. If your child is uncomfortable being with someone, do not push them to do it.
4. Never push your child to ‘hug’ or ‘kiss’ anyone, if they are not willing to do so spontaneously. A child must not be led to believe that being ‘close’ to anyone is an obligation.
5. Watch for a change in behavior or attitude of the child. Have regular and open conversations about their associations outside your supervision. If any particular adult is spending an inordinate amount of time with your child alone, be aware of their relationship. This is especially important for one-on-one coaches (sports, arts, or education).
Dear parents, we must come together and demand safety for our little ones. We must protest the general callousness that our country is continually showing for the safety and welfare of its women and children. If there are any other ways that any of you perceive that we can fight this battle, please suggest. We are happy to carry your voice at Blank Slate Chronicles. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org