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Prioritizing Punishment

Aarti Aarti
20 Nov 2023

Teachers importantly form the backbone of society, and as role models to children they not only offer guidance but also give young minds the power of education. But instances of some unscrupulous teachers turning into predators is rather disconcerting, like the principal of a Haryana school who was recently booked under the Indian Penal Code as well as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act on the charge of sexually assaulting girl students. 

The incident came to light after about 15 girls had written a letter to the President, the Prime Minister, the National Commission for Women (NCW) and the Haryana State Commission for Women (HSCW). 60 girls had come forward and recorded their statements with HSCW about the molestation, harassment and dirty talk by the accused. He was found guilty on several counts by the government constituted Prevention of Sexual Harassment Committee to probe the allegations against him. He was accused of misdemeanours during his earlier postings too and was suspended following an inquiry by the District Education Officer. 

The accused, according to a report in the Tribune, who was a maths teacher, took occasional classes for senior students. He would touch the girl sitting on the last desk so that other students would not notice his misdemeanour. He trapped the girls who would be caught with a mobile phone or were found in the company of a boy outside the school and even used to threaten them that he would report the matter to their parents and that their studies would be discontinued. It made the victim(s) fall into his trap. 

He used to call the girls to his room and touch them inappropriately, while keeping a watch outside the room through a black glass window. As soon as anybody entered the room, he would start discussing studies with his victims. The CCTV camera was installed in the principal's room at such an angle that it did not cover his chair and nearby area. Notably, the control system of the CCTV was also installed inside his room. The school has a strength of about 1,200, with a staff of 40 teachers, half of whom are women. A complaint box had also been put up in the school after the incident. A special investigation team enquiring into the case is expected to unearth further details.

According to an Indian Express report, not long ago, a special court in Mumbai sentenced a 35-year-old teacher employed in a private school to five years imprisonment for sexually harassing his students who were then studying in class 5 at the time of the incident. In one case, the accused had touched a student sitting on the first bench inappropriately and in other incidents he asked the victims to help him with some activity after class when he sexually abused them. Stating that a teacher is expected to be custodians of students, the court maintained, the accused had taken undue advantage of his position as a teacher and sexually harassed the victims...In our society, girl child education is still not completely supported by the family and when such types of incidents are committed, the parents get apprehensive in sending daughters to school. It impacts the opportunity of other girls from taking education. The victims have mustered courage to report the offence and they were firm on their statements. This shows that the victims have placed their faith on the judicial system which needs to be upheld.

This November 10, as per a PTI report, Odisha police registered a case under several sections of Indian Penal Code against the headmaster and two teachers for allegedly raping a 11-year-old tribal girl student. The accused is said to have entered the toilet by force and raped the hapless victim when she was inside. A few months back a special court in Odisha’s Balasore sentenced a 59-year-old teacher to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment for raping a minor girl, who was his student.

This August 3, the principal and owner (65 years old) of a private school in Karnataka was reportedly arrested for allegedly raping a 10-year-old student in an empty class room. After the incident, he reportedly offered the victim a piece of cake asking her not to reveal it to anyone.

According to various studies, the powerful positions of predators often facilitate their behaviours. Psychologists have recognised that organisations regularly select and promote the wrong individuals who may be excellent manipulators, sexual predators, and/or bullies. They are sometimes promoted repeatedly until their kind dominates the highest levels of the organisational hierarchy. This suggests that where a sexual predator sits in a seat of power, he is unlikely to sit alone.

Further, many predators seem to get away with their behaviours for many years because of their charm, charisma or their presentation style.

With emerging reports of some minor students dying by suicide due to alleged sexual harassment or abuse in schools, regulatory authorities need to ensure that systems are put in place so that girl students come out and complain against the perpetrators. 

At the macro level, establishment of additional special courts to exclusively hear cases registered under POCSO will ensure swift punishment to the offenders. 

Beyond pursuing justice for victims of sexual abuse, there is an imperative need to help them to heal both physically and emotionally.

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