Shocking unending sexual assaults

Sexual violence is always disturbing. It is more so when the victim is a child, the assailant, a person in a position of trust, and when the assault is perpetrated in the supposedly safe space of the home or a school. The sexual assault of a three-and-a-half-year-old child at a play school at Bellandur in Bengaluru has sent shockwaves across the country. The alleged assailant, Manjunath, was a non-teaching staff in the school and is believed to have sexually assaulted at least six other toddlers there. School authorities cannot escape responsibility for the crimes; it appears that children were often sent to Manjunath to be disciplined or punished. Understandably, parents across the country are alarmed. In 2014, following the rape of a child by two staff members of a school in Bengaluru, Karnataka put in place measures aimed at preventing such crimes. It was made mandatory for schools to install closed circuit cameras on campus and in buses, to check the antecedents of their staff, etc. However, sexual abuse of children continues in schools. Early this month, it emerged that the principal of another school in Bengaluru was sexually assaulting students. Clearly, the prescribed measures have failed to protect our children. Back in 2014, child rights activists, educators and parents had warned that CCTVs and other devices are not a fool-proof shield against crimes. They had pointed out that most schools cannot afford such equipment and would therefore not install these devices. Besides, schools and police stations would not have the personnel to monitor CCTV footage in real time, they warned. Having issued its orders to schools, police did little to follow up. All that the cameras did was to lull parents into
believing that their children were safe, when they are not. 

As reprehensible as the incidents in Bengaluru is a recent one in Kerala, where an actress of the Malayalam film industry was abducted and raped by a gang of men, which included her former driver. Her assailants reportedly filmed the rape with a view to blackmailing her. As shocking as the systematic manner in which the assault was planned and carried out is the lethargic response of the Kerala police. It took them an entire week to apprehend the main accused. Even that came only after the latter showed up in court to press for anticipatory bail. Cases of sexual violence are rising across the coun­try. India has strong laws to deal with such violence but the criminal justice system has been lax. Police are reluctant to register sexual assault complaints, nab sexual predators and probe charges efficiently. Public confidence in the state’s commitment to protect women and children from sexual violence is fraying.

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