16-year-old molested at Dehradun school: Where are we heading to?
A 16-year-old student was allegedly raped at her Dehradun boarding school last month, on August 14, by her four classmates, said the police on Monday. The case came to notice a month later after Dehradun's SSP, Nivedita Kureti was tipped off. Four accused, all minors, have been taken into custody and an investigation has been ordered. One can't help but think - What happened to us? How did we reach here? Are we failing our children?
The school's Director, Principal, Administration officer, his wife and hostel caretaker have been arrested for allegedly destroying the evidence. "A gang-rape and destruction of evidence case has been filed under the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act," said station house officer Naresh Rathod, adding that further details would be known only after medical reports are out.
Unfortunately, it is not the first such case, won't be the last. As per the National Crime Records Bureau records, from 10,854 cases of child rapes reported nationally in 2015, the number rose to 19,765 in 2016. Do the math, and tell me if any child is safe in this country.
Prabhat Kumar, who works for NGO, Save the Children, claims that there has been a 40% surge in the child abuse cases. "The upsurge is a result of both an increase in child rape cases and in reporting. But it's just the tip of an iceberg as there's a stigma in reporting sexual offenses, due to insensitive behavior by the law agencies," said Kumar.
"You left her with uncle, oh! She was alone in the bus with the conductor and driver, double-oh! Her teacher took fetish for her, Oh*infinity!" The reasons, situations can be many. But the one reason that gives these demons the 'license to rape' is the impunity they enjoy. Sometimes it is the failure of the state machinery, at other times fear, stigma or ignorance.
A report from UNICEF India suggests child abuse could be the "consequence of discrimination against women and of persisting inequalities between men and women". And hey, haven't we all seen this being practised everywhere from home to school to workplace? Thanks for the reminder, UNICEF!
While we keep blaming the government for not taking child abuse seriously, after the gruesome rape and murder in Kathua, Prime Minister Modi vowed to hang those "of demonic tendencies who misbehave with (our) daughters." The law has further been amended to add even more severe punishment for the rapists of girls below the age of 16. But, did it change anything?
But is threatening to "hang the demons" enough to scare off the rapists? The reports and research say otherwise. A 2016 survey of child-rape cases in New Delhi courts by the National Law School of India says in 67% of cases, the child victims either gave up on the trials or changed their statements because of threats from the families of those accused. In about 28% cases, the kids were often asked "inappropriate" questions by lawyers. How do you change that?
Don't brush it off, don't tell the child he/she would get over it. And, least of all, don't blame the poor kid. It's a lifetime trauma. Let the child heal, at his/her own pace. "If children are blamed for the abuse, they develop a deep sense of worthlessness. And if the process of healing doesn't take place, the trauma lasts a lifetime," said Kumar.