The Kerala High Court expressed concern over the “alarming rise in the number of sexual offences against school children” and directed the state government and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to make prevention-orientation programs on sexual abuse mandatory.
The Kerala court directed the state and CBSE to form a committee of experts to identify how to impart an age-appropriate prevention-orientation program on sexual abuse. The committee is to submit its recommendations within six months. The state and CBSE are to issue orders to implement the prevention program from the next academic year.
The bench of Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas made the directions while considering a bail application in a case concerning the rape of a 15-year-old girl. In a statement to the police, the minor said she was in a relationship with the petitioner and that they intended to marry each other.
Mandatory Sexual Abuse Prevention Programs For School
The Kerala High Court had previously expressed concerns over how teenagers were unaware of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act. It called for raising awareness in schools about the POCSO act and sexual abuse.
During the hearing, the state government, CBSE, and Kerala State Legal Services Authority (KELSA) informed the court about the measures taken to educate children. The measures consisted of awareness classes but the desired results were not achieved.
The court said, “The procedure to impart awareness on sexual crimes, presently in vogue, has not yielded the desired results as it falls woefully short on the requirements.” It further added that teaching students about “good touch” and “bad touch” needed to be more nuanced. The court said the terms “good touch” and “bad touch” have been noted to be too ambiguous.
The bench further suggested that terms with better categorisation were used instead, such as “safe touch”, “unsafe touch”, and “unwanted touch” so that children could identify abuses and avoid false or wrong accusations. The high court further added that it was attempting to instil in the mind of the government and school authorities that a more functional procedure was required to create awareness about the POCSO Act and to impart knowledge about the ill effects of sexual abuse.
Noting that in many cases of sexual offences committed against school children, the perpetrators are youngsters, the Kerala HC said, “At times the sexual acts are committed with the belief that the consent of both partners is sufficient to absolve them from the crime. By the time they realised their assumptions to be mistaken notions, it is too late.”
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