Mumbai school principals, activists brainstorm measures to tackle child sexual abuse

While the state government plans a module to help schools, parents and cops to understand child rights, Mumbai school principals brainstorm with activists on child welfare and staff preparedness to deal with untoward incidents and handle sexual abuse

The state government is in the process of compiling a module to help train stakeholders of child’s rights — school officials, teachers, parents and cops — to understand Protection of Children Against Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act and Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act.

handshakeAccording to Protection of Children Against Sexual Offenses, every police station should compulsorily have a Child Welfare Officer

This training programme will be created with the help of Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHADA), said activists, at a workshop held for city school principals at SRCC Centre for Child Development office in Haji Ali, last Sunday.

It’s also important to make sure that the police force is aware of these Acts. According to POCSO, every police station should compulsorily have a Child Welfare Officer (CWO). While most police stations have CWOs in place, most of these officers are not aware of the new laws,” said Santosh Shinde, an activist, who highlighted the need for schools to invite Child Welfare Committee (CWC) officers to schools and talk about the laws.

“Any person who comes to know of a student suffering from physical, mental or sexual abuse should report the matter to the police immediately. Any delay can be treated as a fault, leading to maximum imprisonment of up to one year,” said Dnyaneshwar Wagh, senior police inspector, crime branch.

Reporting hierarchy
Activists also highlighted the need for a proper hierarchy of school staff. “In absence of a principal, the staff should know whom to report an incident,” said Maharukh Adenwalla, child rights activist and advocate.

Many more questions were answered at this workshop. “What about cases where we know the student is lying? Are we still supposed to file a complaint? Or are we allowed to leave the decision with the parents?” asked Rohan Bhat, chairperson of the Children’s Academy group of schools.

The police officials and activists maintained all matters should be reported with the police.

Girija Singh, principal of Navy Children School, Colaba, said, “What about cases where a child has been abused at home? Is there any provision in the law to safeguard such children?” CWC has the right to provide the guardianship rights to a person, who shares a comfort level with the child, according to Adenwalla.

It was concluded that schools should hold a copy of numbers of NGOs to get immediate help or guidance. “We will circulate numbers of all local police stations and senior officials among principals, too,” added Wagh.

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