Last October Anjana Prakash, principal of Hansraj School in Andheri, was informed by a teacher about a Class 7 boy who had stopped concentrating in class and always looked troubled. She was later told by his parents that the boy had been sexually abused and sodomised by some boys in his neighbourhood.
In the midst of the demand for safety for women and girls, experts feel young boys are just as vulnerable to sexual harassment in schools as well as in homes. “Many young boys tend to get harassed by older boys, and often are too scared to complain,” said Prakash. “Usually, parents do not worry as much about the company of their sons, but it is necessary to understand that young boys are very vulnerable to sexual harassment.”
Till 2007, boys of all ages in the Andheri school’s residential campus stayed together in the hostel. However, after cases of sexual harassment came up, it was decided that only students in the same age group will be allotted the same room.
Several school counsellors receive frequent cases of boys who are sexually harassed. “I get at least two cases in a month where a boy complains of being sexually harassed by boys from higher classes, particularly in washrooms,” said Shilpa Sharma, counselling psychologist at St Francis D’Assisi High School, Borivli.
Last May, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 was passed in Parliament, which made rape a gender-neutral offence. The law came into effect on November 14.
“This Act can be used as a legal recourse in cases where boys have been sexually abused,” said Pooja Taparia, founder, Arpan, a non-profit-organisation that works against sexual abuse. “Safety of boys usually tends to get ignored, and earlier there were no concrete laws to protect boys who were sexually abused.”