Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Crime-Justice

UP govt schools have no panel to deal with cases of sexual harassment

IANS | February 06, 2023 02:11 PM

LUCKNOW: Most of the government schools in Uttar Pradesh have not yet set up a dedicated panel to deal with sexual harassment cases, as per the provisions of the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act of 2012.

In contrast, private schools largely abide by the Act.

Sarita Singh, gender equity consultant for basic education department, said, "We run regular awareness programmes at schools and have nodal officers in every district as well as basic education officers, who go to schools to ensure that these campaigns are run regularly. There is supposed to be one dedicated teacher in each school to look after potential cases of sexual harassment."

Vishwajeet Pandey, district officer for Lucknow, said that no such cases of sexual harassment have ever come to his attention from the 1, 871 schools under the department during his term. "We hardly get to hear of any complaints from the school in-charges. During Covid, we got a complaint regarding a child marriage -- where the girl had run away from home because she was being forced into marriage. No case of sexual harassment has so far come to light."

Notably, a circular sent out by the basic education department to all government schools in 2016 directed that every school should have a three-member management committee for the monitoring of possible sexual offences.

This panel should be chaired by the head of the school and have at least one female member.

However, according to Sarita Singh, there has hardly been any follow-up to properly check the implementation of the order.

While the basic education department runs awareness campaigns with teachers and students in schools, a system for redressal and registering of such complaints is lacking.

Shuchita Chaturvedi, member of Uttar Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said, "If a child wants to register an anonymous complaint with school authorities, how are they supposed to do that? There is nobody to address these complaints. The children are not aware of the course of action they should adopt to register a complaint."

Meanwhile, Vijay Kiran Anand, director general for School Education Uttar Pradesh, said, "We have a programme called gender equity programme and through that, we keep conducting awareness drives. Sensitisation of teachers and students through trainings and workshops happen regularly. There are committees at the district-level but not in schools. We have given instructions to school managements but compliance of the order can be adjudged when complaints surface. We have around 1.36 lakh schools. We are not certain as to how many schools have complied to order."

In a similar vein, Vishwajeet Pandey added, "We have conducted street plays and discussions at the schools but we never received a sexual harassment complaint as such. Complaints and suggestion boxes are provided in some schools."

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