by Veena Sharma
MATUNGA-MUMBAI, FEBRUARY 13, 2015: A one day workshop on Child Sexual Abuse and the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act was organized by Don Bosco Research Centre on February 9, 2015 at the Don Bosco Youth Services Building, Matunga. About 50 participants including counselors from Dominic Savio School, various NGOs, and staff of Don Bosco Balprafulta, Shelter Don Bosco and Don Bosco Research Centre attended the programme.
Before the programme started, a few short films on various aspects of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) were screened. The programme started with a prayer followed by a welcome address by the Director Fr. Gregory D' Almeida who highlighted the gravity of the situation and the need to address this issue of child sexual abuse. He then introduced the speakers for the day, Ms. Vidya Apte and Ms. Sangeeta Punekar, founder members of the FACSE (Forum against child sexual exploitation).
Ms. Apte highlighted the fact that POCSO (2012) happened after 20 years of CRC (Convention on Rights of the Child) being ratified by India (1992). She mentioned that at FACSE, Protection was regarded as the first Right of the child, as Survival, Development and Participation was possible only if protection was in place. She went on to explain the definition and types of child sexual abuse and how a study in 2007 by the Department of Women and Child Development [DWCD] had revealed that about 53% children had been subjected to some or the other form of abuse, much of which was committed by persons known to the child.
Ms. Apte also familiarized the audience with the 'touch' and 'non touch' sexual abuse, settings in which it may take place, warning signs as well as the immediate and long term effects of child sexual abuse. She stressed that "prevention lay in the hands of ALL the significant adults in the child's life."
The second session by Ms Sangeeta focused upon the salient features of the POCSO Act of 2012. Terming it as a 'progressive' instrument, she said that it had brought clarity with regard to age - it was gender neutral and was applicable to any individual below 18 years of age. For the first time 'touch and Non-touch forms' of Child Sexual Abuse were included and defined. Reporting was mandatory and abettors were equally liable for punishment.
Courts have become child friendly and the approach is child sensitive. Special POCSO Courts were required to be established in each district. For the first time, preventive measures and safe practices were included in POCSO as well as a multi-disciplinary approach. Ms Sangeeta concluded by saying that even though the POCSO is progressive and comprehensive, there still remains loop holes. She also informed the audience about the Manodhairya scheme wherein, on lodging of an FIR, the state is liable to pay compensation up to 3 lakhs to the victim's family for rehabilitation of the victim.
The post lunch session by Ms Chinar Banvalkar of Arpan mentioned the do's and don'ts in handling cases of child sexual abuse and the rules and protocol to be followed. This was then followed by a group activity wherein the audience was divided into 7 groups and each given a case study of child sexual abuse to be discussed in the group and then presented by group leaders.
The varied case studies and the discussions summarized all that had been discussed since morning with special comments from Mrs Sangeeta and Ms Apte on each case. Mrs Hemalatha delivered the Vote of thanks followed by a special Vote of thanks by Director Fr Gregory Almeida himself.