mid day editorial: When protector turns predator
The Internet though has blurred borders, and we find commonalities that are worth highlighting
It is not often that an international subject finds itself as focus of the editorial or opinion on this page. The Internet though has blurred borders, and we find commonalities that are worth highlighting.
A UK government report on Tuesday revealed that sexual abuse of women and girls by international aid workers is entrenched in the system and is very widespread. Aid staff is sexually exploiting the women that they are working to protect. Readers will recall that established, respected charities like Oxfam and Save The Children were embroiled in a scandal some time ago. Their employees, some of them at the top of the career ladder were accused of sexual misconduct.
In India, too, we have shelter homes where employees have been guilty of sexually exploiting the inmates. Here the abuse is widespread and endemic — part of a system. A recent Mumbai Social Sciences institute report blew the lid off a Bihar shelter home, where girls aged between 7 and 18 were drugged to render them helpless and disoriented to fight sexual assault. Though the shelter home is much smaller in profile than a huge, international aid organisation, there are parallels; the most dominant is protectors turning predators themselves.
Blacklist charities and aid organisations that refuse to acknowledge and take action against offenders within their own. Start a database cutting across the entire sector, naming the predators so that other organisations do not employ them. Protect whistleblowers and strengthen them. Give the vulnerable an avenue to a power above the organisation or shelter home heads to report abuse. These are applicable not just globally, but locally, too. Bring concern, compassion and care into institutions that are meant to shield, protect or rescue. Stories of abuse are all the more heartbreaking when it happens within these structures.
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