Today's plague

Child sexual abuse is now chronic to our generation. Like Cancer, it is the plague of the modern world. Yet unlike Cancer, it is completely individually motivated, where the victim falls prey to the deliberate ways of shrewd adults who are bedazzled in a filthy cloud of perversion, illegality and inhumanity. A horrific study conducted by a humanitarian aid organisation, World Vision India, shows that one in every two children are sexually abused at some point of time during their childhood, one out of five feel threatened that they may fall prey to the ways of sexual predators, and one in four families do not report incidences of sexual violence. Sexual abuse in itself is horrific, but when met out upon a child its horror comes out wearing an even gorier mask. A recent case has come forth in Kolkata, the city of art, culture and intellectuals, the city that that has proudly etched its niche away from the masculinity celebrated in the frontier states. Yet, even here we see a vile display of unabashed muscle-flexing with children becoming easy victims of uncontrolled hormones and unmanned ethics. A four-year-old girl came home crying and bleeding after she was sexually assaulted by her PT teachers at a reputed South Kolkata school. Schools have been the safe haven protecting children, nurturing them, educating them to take on the adversities of adult life. Yet, this year, with cases emerging from across the country, we have seen how schools have failed on so many of these parameters in providing protection. It is a dead-end for parents who have no option but to place their trust in educational institutions. In 2016 alone, 36,022 cases of child sexual abuse were recorded with the NCRB, as the Home Ministry stated releasing this data. This number is only a patch on the reality, where far more instances unfold on an everyday basis and are shunned by families in the fear of disrepute. A child is sexually abused every fifteen minutes in our country. Another startling fact is this: most predators are known to the victim in close circles. Beginning with a warm hug from a particularly friendly uncle, or a gentle tap from a neighbour, these gestures escalate in no time and the child is stuck in a dark corner with no escape. Her screams are silenced with confused parents juggling dignity, reputation and sympathy. Ignoring a problem rarely extinguishes it. It is merely a temporary anodyne that brushes the evil gently under a carpet, where it cocoons and builds a comfortable nest for itself. The idea of speaking up, discussing and debating has never been more relevant. The inadequacy of a child—in expression and often in others' perception of its expression—is a considerable roadblock that continues to deter significant strides in the field of battling child sexual abuse. Schools have never been brought under the scanner as much as they have in the recent past. As soon as the incident of the four-year-old girl surfaced in GD Birla, parents of another child from MP Birla in Kolkata too spoke up of the devastating experience their daughter underwent sometime back. This incident is a harsh reminder that the idea of schooling probably shouldn't be limited to children only. Adults are in need of far more surveillance, guidance and education in ethics than children. Our education system in itself requires serious retrospection. Instead of focusing all our efforts on securing grades in pointless subjects that will matter nothing in the long-run, the emphasis must change its pivot. The idealistic goals of 'being a good person' are even more essential today than they have been ever before. Teachers, who are the mentors for naïve minds, role models for children, parents outside the home, cannot become predators. Nobody can become a predator, but a teacher can never endorse any value that is even remotely close to that of a harsh pervert. While many would say that girls' schools shouldn't have male teachers, it is hardly feasible. We cannot pretend to live in a world exclusive of one gender. Assimilation and integration—of genders, classes, castes, communities, nationalities—is essential in the modern, globalised world. Turning this around doesn't suit the sensibilities of today. Instead of removing males, the idea of integration has to be more effectively practised. Also, we cannot overshadow the prevalence of sexual abuse meted out towards male children. They too fall prey to the conniving ways of perverts, who today do not even lurk behind shadows; they are right in front of our faces carrying on their filthy activities without shame or remorse. Policymaking has to become more stringent to effectively combat and punish these men. The Madhya Pradesh government had proposed for capital punishment for rapists harming children below 12. While harsh and unsuitable for modern days, the only answer to these animalistic tendencies could be the equal retort of primitive punishment. Schools must be more vigilant, children must be educated to differentiate between a good and bad touch and adults must take a good look into their conscience—if at all it still exists.