Despite fast track courts in the country, it is a rare sight to see conviction happening in a sexual harassment case. However, a Mumbai-based columnist and entrepreneur, Sona Roy made it her life’s goal to get justice for her son after his school’s watchman sexually assaulted him in 2015. A Pune court on Friday convicted the watchman under POCSO Act with three years of rigorous imprisonment and fine.
Roy expressed her happiness and relief on a Twitter thread as she wrote, “It was a four-year-long fight for justice, for my kid who was sexually assaulted by his school watchman. Today is one of the happiest days of my life, as the culprit got finally convicted. I am proud of my kid for being the bravest kid I have ever come across.” She further explained how difficult and tiring the legal recourse was and yet she fought through it all with her son showing an equal amount of strength. She says that her son stood “firm on his statement, calm and composed.”
It was a five year long fight for justice, for my kid who was sexually assaulted by his school watchman. Today is one of the happiest days of my life, as the culprit got finally convicted. I am proud of my kid for being the bravest kid I have ever come across
— #StayHomeStaySafe 🇮🇳 (@Shona2983) August 16, 2019
How her journey into fighting her son’s sexual harassment case began?
Roy’s son studied in a Pune school where the school’s watchman sexually assaulted him in the first year of his boarding school, Roy told SheThePeople.TV. “On 9 April 2015, my son sent me an email detailing his account of having gone through a sexual assault by the watchman. He wrote that he struggled out of that incident. Then immediately I and my husband left for Pune and on our way, I called up the local police station and informed them about the situation. After that in under an hour, the police called me to say that they have reached the school and that my son was safe with them.”
Roy tells us that initially when she was filing the police complaint, the school discouraged her to do so because they did not want a bad reputation on their school. “They tried to appease me by saying that they have already expelled the watchman and his family,” she says adding that she did not think that that was “enough punishment” for him. “I could not have him roam around freely after potentially sexually harassing my child and four-five more boys from his age group,” she recounted. Her 12-year-old son was in seventh grade then and he had told her in his email that this had happened to some of his friends as well, Roy claimed.
On her struggle throughout the time period that the case ran its course, she stated that they had to run between Mumbai and Pune every time there was a hearing. “I had to drive all the way with my younger child and sprint around with two children on both my sides. It was at the end of last year when the court called my son to testify and that was one of the most harrowing parts of the entire case. I was not allowed to be in the room as they said that that would impact his statement. So, I stood right outside and while I couldn’t hear anything, I could see that he was very calm and composed,” Roy says.
The defence lawyer allegedly grilled the boy (who had turned 16 then) for three hours and at one point he even accused the boy of lying. Roy says that the lawyer claimed that her son was feeling homesick and he wanted to come back home and that’s why he made the story of sexual harassment up. “My son told him in a very calm manner that ‘at the age of 12 if I had to make an excuse to get back home, the easiest thing would have been to say that I am unwell’,” she remembered. This point in the entire process really broke her spirit and she thought of quitting but her son showed his faith in her struggle.
Roy conveys that her battle was a single-handed one as her family did not support her. They felt that it was unnecessary and said that he is not a girl as if sexual harassment of boys doesn’t matter, she says.
“You have to keep on following up with the case. You have to show your interest and stand on the head of your lawyer. I did that because that was probably the only way to get justice. This grind has to happen and nothing comes on a platter,”
Impact of the incident on her son
Talking about the entire incident’s impact on the boy, she said that it did not affect him negatively. “It was because I kept talking to my son about sexual harassment that even at that age, he knew that the act was wrong and that he must inform me about it. He told me that he discussed it with his friends and found out that the same watchman harassed other boys too. So when I asked him what did the other children do about it. He told me that they told their parents but their parents just told them to complain about him to their school teacher. I was so appalled by this treatment that how can parents be so silent about it?”
Winning the case
Like she felt several times during the case that she wanted to leave it, she says that that is a very common trend. “You have to keep on following up with the case. You have to show your interest and stand on the head of your lawyer. I did that because that was probably the only way to get justice. This grind has to happen and nothing comes on a platter,” Roy says matter-of-factly. Her son continued to study in the same school up until his 10th grade and passed his board exams with flying colours before moving back to Mumbai. While initially, the school tried to dissuade her from filing the case, she states that eventually, it was their testimonies also that won her the case.