Madurai

Sexual offences against school children: Is a complaint box enough?

Installation of complaint boxes on school premises to help female students drop their complaints against sexual offences should be made more effective by changing mindset of all stakeholders in protecting the girl children, feel activists.

Based on recommendations of the Madras High Court, School Education Department had recently directed all schools across the State to install complaint boxes on their premises.

Though the initiative comes with a good motive, women and child rights activists say that it could be a meaningful effort only when it is implemented in the right way, combined with other steps that have to be taken to ensure protection of children against sexual abuses.

“The idea of a complaint box where students are given a space to write down their complaints is good. But, when it comes to follow up action, we need to look into many practical angles,” said women and child rights activist S. Selvagomathy from SOCO Trust.

The complaint boxes cannot be placed under CCTV supervision expecting students to make use of it, without fear. Instead of a single box, multiple boxes can be kept in places like library or in the hallway closer to restrooms where students get some privacy.

The effort should not stop there and regular awareness sessions must be given to children about sexual abuse to help them confidently open up on their problems to teachers or parents.

“We need to take collective responsibility to ensure safety of children in schools and other places. With increasing number of cases of child abuse by teachers, it is very important to sensitise the male teachers on the issue. If a complaint comes up against a reputed teacher or official in this regards, the school management should not defend them mindlessly,” she adds.

It is highly unlikely that children would open up about such issues on their own and that efficient committees against sexual abuse at the ground-level have to be formed, feels member-cum-bench magistrate of District Child Welfare Committee, L. Shanmugam.

Teachers have to be trained to create an environment in which a child feels safe to talk about such things. “Coming up with a suggestion or complaint box in institutions is not a new idea. In fact, there are suggestion boxes across registered Child Care Institutions in the district. Though inspections of such boxes are done once in a month or two, we do not generally come across letters from children opening up about sexual abuse,” he points out.

V. Elavarasi from Madurai Seed, a non-profit organisation that has been working towards uplifting children from disadvantaged backgrounds in the city, says, “We generally work with children from economically and socially backward backgrounds. They do not open up about any issues to their parents. Parents with no educational background are generally unsupportive when children face sexual abuse of any kind. They start blaming the victim. This needs to change first. Schools need to educate the parents first.” she said.


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Printable version | Oct 28, 2021 7:28:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/sexual-offences-against-school-children-is-a-complaint-box-enough/article36499245.ece

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