October 4, 2011

Times of India

Teacher held for sodomy in Walkeshwar

MUMBAI: A six-year-old student of Walkeshwar's Manav Mandir School was allegedly repeatedly sodomized by his physical education teacher last week. The parents said the school tried to hush up the issue and protect the teacher by blaming another student. The Malabar Hill police arrested Shivaji Tawade on Sunday night and charged him with unnatural sex and criminal intimidation.

Tawade allegedly asked Rehan (name changed to protect identity) to accompany him to the bathroom on Wednesday morning. He then allegedly sexually abused him and warned him not to tell anyone about what had happened.

The next day, Tawade allegedly repeated the act, after which Rehan broke down. Tawade also reportedly threatened Rehan that he would throw him under a running bus if he revealed his name, and told him to tell his parents that Sahil (name changed), a class VI student, was abusing him.

When Rehan went home that day, his parents found him distressed. Rehan's father said, "He refused to go to school and said he wanted to stay home for some days. When we tried to cajole him, he started crying and told us that Sahil had molested him." Rehan's mother went to his school the next day and complained to the administrator about Sahil. The administrator, T R K Varma, told Sahil's mathematics teacher, Hiren, to find out what had happened.

Sahil's parents alleged that Hiren was Tawde's co-conspirator and forced Sahil to write a confession, claiming that he had accompanied Rehan to the toilet and molested him. "He made my son write five letters as he was not satisfied with the exact words. He dictated the letter and told him that if he didn't do as told, his parents would be notified and he would be expelled from school," said Sahil's mother. The letter was given to the administrator, who rusticated Sahil for three days to conduct an enquiry. "Even I cannot believe that an 11-year-old boy can do something like this. But since Rehan's mother had given a written complaint and the boy confessed, we had to temporarily suspend him. We are cooperating with the police," said Varma.

Rehan was upset and unusually quiet, which was causing concern to his family. He started bleeding when his mother was bathing him on Sunday. When his shocked parents asked him if he was hiding anything, Rehan revealed what Tawade had done to him and how he had forced him to frame Sahil. His parents then filed a police complaint, apologized to Sahil's parents for the false complaint, and told them what exactly happened.

Rehan was taken to the Nagpada police hospital for a checkup.
Tawade has been remanded to police custody till Friday. "We have completed a panchnama and have interrogated the school authorities. Investigations are on," said Vinay Bagade, Malabar Hill senior police inspector.

The families of Sahil and Rehan have demanded that the principal reinstate Sahil and dismiss Tawade and Hiren. "The principal is being uncooperative and trying to save the teachers. How can we let our children study in such a school," they asked.


MUMBAI: The Walkeshwar sodomy incident has left school principals across the city in a state of panic. What worried most of them was the increasing cases over the past year and the vulnerability of students falling prey to such incidents.

"Counseling is the first and most important step a school has to take as it may not be only the student who was victimized but others who know about the incident may also be affected," said Rekha Shahani, principal, Kamla High School, Khar (W). She said such incidents leave a "lifetime of fear" in students and parents and it was important to seek professional help.

The Walkeshwar school's alleged attempt to brush the issue under the carpet has left many educationists shocked. "No matter who is at fault, schools must never ignore such incidents. Action should be taken immediately, to assure other parents that their children are safe, and to warn those with similar intentions," said the principal of a South Mumbai school.

"One must think about the trauma the child and parents go through, rather than worry about their image in society," the principal added.

While most schools have started counseling sessions for students, many principals agreed that it was important to sensitize even young children. "It is important to teach all the difference between a good and bad touch," said Deepshikha Srivastava, principal, Rajhans Vidyalaya, Andheri. Psychiatrists said it was important for schools to seek help from outside counselors in such cases.


Hindustan Times

'Teach children to report sexual abuse'

The arrest of a Walkeshwar schoolteacher on Monday for allegedly sodomising a six-year-old student underscores the need of preventive programmes and stringent security policies as most cases of child sexual abuse are not reported, say child rights activists.

"Nearly 180 million children in India are marginalised and are extremely vulnerable," said Nishit Kumar, spokesperson for Childline, a non-profit which runs a help line for children. "It is critical to organise preventive programmes so that children can recognise and avoid abuse." In March, Childline started an awareness programme in 600 schools in the city, using story-telling to make children aware of sexual abuse.

Arpan, an NGO that works to protect children from sexual abuse, recently completed a six-day personal safety workshop at Bombay Cambridge School, Andheri, and will start a similar initiative in the city's low-income group schools after Diwali.

"This programme is essential because it helps children speak out," said Savita, principal, Bombay Cambridge School. "They need to know that if something goes wrong it is not their fault and they can share it."

According to a 2007 report by the ministry of women and child development (see box), 53.22% of the 12,447 children surveyed across 13 states said that they had faced one or more form of sexual abuse, but most did not report it. Although abuse is prevalent in all strata of society, those most vulnerable include children on the streets, along with those made to work, and the ones in institutional care.

"Much work needs to be done in the area of prevention," said Pooja Taparia, founder and CEO of Arpan.
"Moreover, parents need awareness and knowledge on how to intervene appropriately when abuse is reported. Often, children feel uncomfortable about opening up because parents do not believe them."

Priti Patkar, director of Prerna, an NGO which provides shelter to children of commercial sex workers, said schools should screen their staff. "Children may or may not retain safety training, but schools must have a child protection policy and a dedicated mechanism to receive complaints."

Hindustan Times

Schools skirt sex education debate by opting for counselling, slideshows

City schools are no longer shy of addressing issues related to child sexual abuse and many have started conducting sessions in which children and parents are made aware about the issue. "Cases of sexual harassment have been on the rise in schools and younger children are more vulnerable as they may not be able to express themselves," said Deepshikha Srivastav, principal of Rajhans Vidyalaya, Andheri. "We have full-time counsellors who conduct sessions on good touch and bad touch," she added.

Like Rajhans, other schools have also responded to the demand for such awareness. A few months ago, parents of students from Eurokids, Versova, had complained about a young teacher who allegedly taught toddlers how to kiss.

Following the incident, another pre-school, Podar Jumbo Kids, Santacruz, prepared a slideshow on the difference between a 'good touch' and a 'bad touch'. The slideshow is shown to toddlers' parents, staff members and even bus attendants. Moreover, all Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) schools have an adolescent development programme wherein children are taught about sex education, among other things.

However, whether sex education is required at the school level is still a strongly debated issue. When asked if it should be made mandatory, Srivastav said, "Children are too young to understand what is sexual and what is asexual. But they can be taught a lot of things indirectly which conveys the message better."

Activists, and survivors of child sexual abuse have a different opinion on sex education. "We need to understand the difference between sex education and pornography. Sex education will not provoke children but will enable them to come up the right words to indicate an act of abuse," said Harish Iyer, a media professional, who was a victim of sexual abuse for 11 years. "Had I known at the age of five what was happening with me, I wouldn't have been abused for so long. Sex education is the need of the hour."

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