Role of Teachers in POCSO Act, 2012

In a survey that was conducted by the Women and Child Development (WCD) in the year 2007 had shocking revelations for India. The survey showed that 53.22 % children reported having faced some form of sexual abuse in which 52.94% were boys and 47.06% girls. And about 69.0 % of children that were surveyed went through one or more forms of physical abuse[1].

Now, the perpetrators could the parents, family members, neighbours, teachers or an unknown person but mostly the perpetrator was a person who had authority over the child. Another disturbing fact that the child feared to report the abuse because of the fear of social stigma, fear that the person would accuse the child instead or some other factor that would not be in favour of the child or the family.

Authorities in schools, especially teachers, play a major role in a child’s life. That’s why when Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act was passed in the year 2012, Section 5 (f)[2] and Section 9 (f)[3] included anyone being on the management or staff of an educational institution to have been committed an aggravated form of sexual assault.

A child starts to spend half of his or her days in a school by the age of seven. Now teachers should maintain a clear and open communication line with the children so that in case of any incident the child is not in fear to report it. Now the management also should take in mind that the child also can be abused by the authority of the teacher has over the child. Thereby the authorities also should have counsellors to whom the children can feel free to approach. A teacher should always remember that just as a child spends a lot of time with the parents so does the child with the teacher.

Various guidelines regarding the same have been passed on to schools since then, the major one is the POCSO circular, 2015 by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).  The circular points out how the child deserves the right to access an environment that is safe, protective and conducive to overall development[4]. Major guidelines expected by the schools to follow were –

  1. The teachers, management and all the employees were bound by the Act[5] that they had to report any instance of child abuse as in Section 19(1) and 21.
  2. In-house induction sessions should be held with a module on gender sensitization. Every person who works in the school or in management or owners of the school should be told about the punishment which is higher as per the provisions of the Act. Teachers, in general, should be trained to handle when a child reports such a case and what should be done. Teachers should also have a close observation performance and psychological behaviour of the students as most of the times signs include sudden disinterest on the part of the children in participating or disinterest to study etc. The school management is also required to create awareness programs and necessary workshops from time to time as averting such offences is the primary aim of the management.
  3. The classes and the school in entirety should promote harmonious environment and inclusiveness.
  4. In Residential Schools training programs should be provided to the wardens and personal care and guidance to the girl children with a female matron for their dormitories.
  5. School Complaints Committee consisting of Principal/Vice- Principal, one male teacher, one female teacher, one female student, one male student and one non-teaching staff member must be set up to serve as complaints and Redressal body. An improved response system and alert administrative machinery are required to take immediate action on reported cases of misbehaviour. Also, suggestion/complain box should be provided in each school and any time a complainant on sexual offence is received the same should be acted upon immediately. The school should have CCTV cameras in main areas.
  6. Informal conversations should be held in form of discussions or activities or by observations with the students which can be helpful to notice if something is alarming.

By this, we can conclude that teachers may not able to stop such offences completely but may be able to reduce such offences and also bring the offenders in the light of law. Rather than waiting for some heinous crime to take place, it is the duty of every citizen to give every child an environment in which the child can grow mentally and physically without any fear. It is the right of every child.

[1] Study on Child Abuse INDIA 2007

[2] Section 5(f) – Aggravated penetrative sexual assault POCSO 2012

[3] Section 9(f) –Aggravated sexual assault POCSO 2012

[4] CBSE Circular Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) 2012

[5] POCSO, 2012


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anita Thomas

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Anita Thomas is currently pursuing her third-year BBA LLB at Symbiosis Law School. She has a passion for research work and paper presentations. Her main area of interest is Family law and wants to advocate more in the area of Child rights. She also wants to learn more about Media law and work in a production house one day.

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