Published: 26th August 2022
Kerala: HC directive to school boards to make prevention-oriented programme on sexual abuse mandatory in curriculum
The court noted that the alarming rise in the number of sexual offences committed against school children requires introspection
Kerala High Court, on Friday, August 26, directed the State Government and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to issue necessary orders making it necessary for every school under its control and within the territory of Kerala to include a prevention-oriented programme on sexual abuse as a mandatory part of the curriculum.
Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas ordered that a committee of experts should be formed by the state and the CBSE within two months to identify the mode and methodology for imparting an age-appropriate prevention-oriented programme on sexual abuse, according to report by ENS.
The committee should submit its recommendation within six months. An appropriate order should thereafter be issued by the state and the CBSE in tune with the recommendation so as to implement the programme from the academic year 2023-24, as per ENS.
Need for such a curriculum
The laws relating to sexual offences have undergone drastic changes and the young seem to be unaware of the enormity of the consequences of sexual acts. Empowering each child to prevent or report abuses and liberating each child from conservative and narrow-minded thoughts are also part of education. The voice of the victim of sexual abuse should not be suppressed and it is only through education that the victim can be empowered to speak out, the court said as per ENS.
The court also noted that the alarming rise in the number of sexual offences committed against school children requires introspection. Many times, the perpetrators are youngsters. Young children indulge in such offending acts for manifold reasons varying from pre-planned crimes to the natural inquisitiveness of adolescence and some arising out of amorous relationships.
At times the sexual acts are committed with the belief that the consent of both partners is sufficient to absolve them of the crime. By the time they realise their assumptions to be mistaken notions, it is too late in the day and the situation becomes destructive, leading to very inconvenient results and beyond any remedial measures, said the court.
Similarly, it is education on the punishments for sexual abuse that can prevent or deter possible abusers from indulging in such heinous acts. Thus the concept of quality education can have meaning only if orientation on sexual offences and the means to prevent them are imparted at the school level itself. A prevention-oriented programme on sexual abuse is therefore a facet of the right to education contemplated under Article 21A of the Constitution of India, said the court, as per ENS.
What has been the progress so far?
The court pointed out that the procedure to impart awareness on sexual crimes, presently in vogue, has not yielded the desired results as it falls woefully short of the requirements. Even the terms “good touch” and “bad touch”, which are informed as being taught in some schools, are noticed to be too wide and ambiguous. These wide terms may require better categorisation like “safe touch”, “unsafe touch”, “unwanted touch” and so on not only to identify abuses but also to avoid false or wrong accusations, as per ENS.
Continuous or repeated awareness sessions about the pernicious effects of sexual offences alone may achieve the desired objective of a drastic reduction in the commission of such crimes.
The court also cited the system prevailing in many states in the United States of America. In the year 2011, in the state of Illinois, legislation was passed that mandates all schools to implement a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse programme. The legislation is called ‘Erin's Law’ named after Erin Merryn — a child abuse survivor. Erin’s Law can be used as a guideline by the State of Kerala and the CBSE while including the programme as part of the curriculum.