How does society break the spirit of a rape victim who has survived the worst form of sexual violence, physical assault or disease? You deny her the right to get an education. That is what happened in the case of a Delhi schoolgirl whose parents have alleged that her school allegedly asked her not to attend classes as it would “tarnish the image of the school.” According to the girl’s parents, she was kidnapped, raped and thrown out of a moving car. Even when she recovered, she was in for another shock. The school told the parents it would promote their daughter to Class XI only if she stops attending classes. The school even forbade her from using the bus services, added the parents. Although a woman’s welfare body has sought a report from the department of education on the subject, but the discrimination isn’t limited to rape victims alone. According to studies by non-governmental agencies, children living with or affected by HIV/AIDS are increasingly being denied admission, suspended, expelled and publicly ridiculed by school authorities.
Apathetic teachers are not the only ones exhibiting hostility and discrimination towards unfortunate victims of sexual violence. Often, it is the pressure from parents of other children that forces many schools to expel students suffering from HIV. In January, while listening to a public interest litigation, the Supreme Court came to the rescue of such students with a promise to evolve guidelines under the Right to Education Act.
A woman is raped every 15 minutes in the country and according to National Aids Control Organisation statistics, 2.45 lakh of the 30.9 lakh people living with HIV in the country are children aged 15 years or less. For a country that boasts itself about the demographic dividend -- more than 63% of the population is in the age group of 15-59 years – such stigmatising is a shameful reality staring us in the face. The State needs to come down hard on those indulging in the game of blame shifting and discrimination. It is the least we owe to victims of such unfortunate circumstances.