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Call to fight abuse of children and women

There is a need to spread awareness across all educational institutions of Karnataka against child and women abuse, urged Fr Victor Felix, Vice Principal, SJC Indian Composite PU College. He was speaking on the issue of child abuse and sexual assaults on women in working places at a conference in St Joseph’s College on Thursday evening. Children and women are the two categories who are highly abused in the world, he said.

Fr Felix via his talk educated the staff and non-staff members of SJC regarding different acts against child abuse and sexual harassment of women. The policy for all Jesuit institutions is ‘one policy for one campus’. . It implies that everyone on the campus is equal, he pointed out.

“The guiding principle is that we want to ensure that rights of children and women are protected in order to uphold the modesty and dignity of women and provide safe environment to the children to nurture the child for a better future. This policy applies to all Jesuits across Karnataka and teaching and non-teaching staff,” he explained.

On child abuse, he said, “Children are not only abused outside but also in their homes, even by their relatives and they do not report this because of fear and guilt.” Moving on to the POCSO Act (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012), he pointed out that children below 18 years (minors) are to be especially protected from sexual abuse and exploitation. Sexual abuse is not culture specific and it does happen in schools and colleges, he added.

Fr Felix also enunciated the guidelines under POCSO Act like calibration of offences, penetrative assault, non-penetrative assault, non-touch and use of children for pornographic purposes. These lead to punishment by imprisonment of 7 years.

The guidelines of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, deal with aspects like physical contact, demand or request for sexual force, making sexually-coloured remarks, showing pornography, physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature will be fined for Rs.50,000.

He told the teachers about various practices for the prevention of abuse and guidelines about how to interact or behave with students on the campus. For instance, he spoke of three types of ‘safe touch’ that can be exercised – touch on the head, shoulders and a side hug. He emphasized that all colleges and institutions must have redressal mechanisms and have a provision that appoints a protection officer in an internal grievance cell for victims and respondents.