17 July-2014, DNA: Barely six months ago, a pre-schooler was sexually molested by a school bus driver. Now another gruesome act has come to light with a six-year-old girl being sexually assaulted on school premises by outsiders. Lured by the appealing facilities that are offered, parents have failed to see the danger that lurks in this elite school, Vibgyor High, located in Bangalore’s Marathahalli, which has put child safety last by permitting outsiders onto the school premises.
Known for being one of the premier chain of international schools, Vibgyor High has rapidly expanded across the city, offering education along with attractive facilities like swimming pools, gyms, and indoor games studios to name a few.
The six-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted by a fitness instructor and an unidentified man in the school’s gym on two separate days. The parents of the victim have filed a police complaint and are waiting for suitable action to be taken against the miscreants. However, Rustom Kerawalla, founder-chairman, Vibgyor High, has failed to even respond to the protests which were staged by the parents in front of the school.
Meanwhile, the Women and Child Development (WCD) department has slapped a case against Vibgyor High as per the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 (POSCO). An instruction has been sent from the Department of Primary and Secondary Education to the school, seeking immediate response from the management.
According to Amita Prasad, principal secretary, department of women and child development, a draft is being made jointly to chart out safety guidelines that should be followed mandatorily by school managements.
“The department has issued an instruction to the School and POSCO Act 2012 section 3 has been slapped on the accused. The accused has identified the offender, but the second offender has not yet been identified. A counsellor has been sent to the victim’s house. Adequate training to ‘ayahs’ in the schools and the recruitment of counsellors are some of the measures that have been charted out on priority basis. A foolproof system for safety of children is being worked out by the department and the home ministry to ensure that all school children will be safe”, Prasad said.
Meanwhile, D Shashi Kumar, director, Blossoms School, pointed out that although the school has more than 60 CCTV cameras installed in its premises, such incidents are inevitably bound to occur on campus. “Nobody knows the minds and the intentions of offenders who harm and assault the children. The school managements in most cases are not able to identify predators who are potential offenders. The government should draft stringent punishment against such offences and create a fear psychosis amongst offenders. Only harsh punishment can prevent such incidents to an extent in school premises,” Kumar said.
The girl was sent for medical examination and the Forensic Science Laboratory report is awaited, he said.
Chandra said investigation is underway and there have been no arrests so far. Parents allege that the accused were school staffers, he said.
Demanding action against the staffers over their alleged involvement, the irate parents tried to force their way into the building as police tried to pacify them. Window glasses were broken in the melee.
Addressing the agitating parents, Rustom Kerawala, spokesperson for the management said, “If somebody is found guilty of raping, let him be hanged.”
He said the school management was co-operating with the investigating authorities.
Kerawala sought to pacify the parents, saying that security would be stepped up and “safety of the child is paramount.”
Adding to parents woes, the school has asked them to sign a declaration form that cites that they cannot be held responsible for children’s safety in premises. one major question here being, “How is an educational institution and its staff not responsible for students safety within premises?”.
Protesters who stormed the venue have pulled down the gates of the school and shouted slogans demanding action against the school’s management.
The girl was a student of Class 1 and was allegedly raped by two gym instructors during school hours earlier this week. Both the attackers have been held and parents are demanding tougher action for the school’s failure to protect children within premises.
A major development post this incident is that many top schools have now asked parents to sign the declaration form that says, “When a child participates in events organized by the school – including field trips, excursions and camps, the staff or teachers of the school can’t be held responsible for “damage to loss of property, sickness or injury from ‘whatever source’ legal entanglements, loss of life or money…”
Below are some twitter reactions on the issue:
Punishment for Offences under POSCO Act 2012
* Penetrative Sexual Assault (Section3) – Not less than seven years which may extend to imprisonment for life, and fine (Section 4)
* Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault (Section 5) – Not less than ten years which may lead to imprisonment for life, and fine (Section 6)
* Sexual Assault (Section 7) – Not less than three years which may extend to five years, and fine (Section 8)
* Aggravated Sexual Assault (Section 9) – Not less than five years which may extend to seven years, and fine (Section 10)
* Sexual Harassment of the Child (Section 11) – Three years and fine (Section 12)
* Use of Child for Pornographic purposes (Section 13) – Five years and fine and in the event of subsequent conviction, seven years and fine (Section 14(1))
Child friendly procedures incorporated in the Act:
* Recording the statement of the child at the residence of the child or at the place of his choice, preferably by a women police officer not below the rank of the sub – inspector. Evidence has to be recorded within 30 days
* No child to be detained in the police station in the night for any reason
* Police officer to not be in uniform while recording the statement of the child
* The statement of the child to be recorded as spoken by the child
* Assistance of an interpreter or translator or an expert as per the need of the child
* Assistance of special educator or any person familiar with the manner of communication of the child in case child is disabled
* Medical examination of the child to be conducted in the presence of the parent of the child or any other person in whom the child has trust or confidence
* In case the victim is a girl child, the medical examination shall be conducted by a woman doctor
* Frequent breaks for the child during trial and child not to be called repeatedly to testify
* No aggressive questioning or character assassination of the child
Previous incidents of child sexual assault:
* Three-year-old girl studying in pre-school sexually assaulted by school driver in school bus – January 2014
* Six-year-old girl, sexually assaulted by gym instructor in school premises – July 2014