: High incidences of sexual assault on girl students in residential schools across Odisha have put a spanner on the government’s efforts to universalise education especially among girls.
The Odisha government on Friday admitted in the Assembly that five girls in the age group of 12 to 16, who were put up in tribal residential schools, became pregnant in the past three years. Similarly, 12 girls in residential schools were raped, faced sexual advance and other harassments.
In response to a question, ST and SC Development, Minorities and Backward Classes Welfare Minister Lal Bihari Himirika said, “The Government is aware of incidences of sexual harassment in tribal residential schools. Steps are being taken to put in place a proper management system and restore earlier situation.”
Sexual harassment is not confined to tribal residential schools in Odisha only. General schools coming under School and Mass Education department too have come across a number of sexual harassment cases in the past five years.
As many as 98 allegations of sexual harassments were received by the department which found truth in 59 cases. As per the department, teachers and non-teaching staff had been put under suspension. Some students were even studying in Class IV.
“The statistics given the State government is grossly under-reported and not near the reality. During past couple of years, I took up at least five cases in which girl students were subjected to sexual harassment and did not get monetary relief from the government. Number of such incidences would be much higher,” said Prabir Das, human rights activist and lawyer, here on Friday.
Mr. Das said, “In many cases, victim girls and their parents come under tremendous pressure from culprits, who are usually teachers or non-teaching staff of school. Neither community nor any government agency provides sustained support to families of victims to fight their cases. By the time, it reaches trial stage, victims’ families succumb to pressure.”
“Incidences of sexual harassment in residential schools have had its impact on parents belonging to tribal communities, who after much persuasion made up their mind and started sending their kids to schools,” he pointed out.