How police awareness drive bringing child abuse to light in Coimbatore

Published on Sep 19, 2022 11:56 PM IST

For at least a year, a girl studying in class 11 at a government school in Coimbatore had been in a shaky state over her former classmate who kept blackmailing her to make nude video calls with him.

Since Coimbatore rural police launched “Project Pallikoodam” (project school) on June 30, seven other people have been booked under the POCSO Act. (Representative Photo)
Since Coimbatore rural police launched “Project Pallikoodam” (project school) on June 30, seven other people have been booked under the POCSO Act. (Representative Photo)
By, Chennai

For at least a year, a girl studying in class 11 at a government school in Coimbatore had been in a shaky state over her former classmate who kept blackmailing her to make nude video calls with him.

The girl, when she was in class 10, had been in a relationship and consented to a few video calls with the boy. Both of them were 15 years old at that time.

But after the boy failed, he dropped out of the school while she had moved on to the next class. “The boy kept compelling her to make nude video calls, but she didn’t want to anymore so he threatened her by saying he would leak her earlier recorded nude video calls,” a senior police officer said.

After Coimbatore police launched “Project Pallikoodam” awareness initiative earlier this year against child sexual abuse and cybercrime, the girl felt brave to complain to her teacher who in turn informed police. On August 26, police registered a case against the boy who is now in a government run observation home for children in conflict with law. He has been booked under various sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. “Ane the girl is finally relieved. We counselled her that she has not done anything wrong, but she has been a victim,” the senior police officer said.

Since Coimbatore rural police launched “Project Pallikoodam” (project school) on June 30, seven other people have been booked under the POCSO Act. All eight of them are presently remanded.

“Besides sexual abuse cases, there were around 60 instances in which students began opening up about stalking, eve teasing, family issues, cybercrime issues, drugs and tobacco sales,” another police officer said.

The latest is on Sunday’s arrest of a 62-year-old grocery shop owner who is accused by as many as 15 girls from a school aged between 9 and 13 that he had sexually assaulted them over the past four years.

A Project Pallikoodam was conducted in their school a week ago. Following that one of the girl students complained to her school headmistress on Saturday that she was assaulted by the owner of grocery shop located near her home in Anaimalai in Coimbatore district.

The headmistress had asked if other students had faced a similar crime which is when 14 other girls came forward that they were assaulted by the same accused. Then the headmistress informed police and the Pollachi all women’s police station arrested the accused on Sunday.

“The shop was located close to where all the girls stayed and they would usually go there before walking to school,” a police officer said.

The accused has been booked for sexual assault), punishment for sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, punishment for aggravated sexual assault and sexual harassment under the POCSO Act.

Since the awareness programme was launched the rural police have covered one lakh students in 600 out of the 997 schools within their jurisdiction. This has helped children understand that they have been subject to sexual abuse and assault.

For instance, a 19-year-old boy came to police, after an awareness programme in his school, and said his classmate wants him to elope with her and he is worried that he would be booked under the POCSO Act. They both were counselled by police. “We settle and solve cases by counselling and in some cases, FIRs are registered,” the officer quoted above said.

Coimbatore rural superintendent of police V Badrinarayanan, who had launched the inititative, said their awareness programme was broadly divided into two categories. For children below the age of 10, police teach them safe and unsafe touch and for those above the age of 10, they are exposed to cybercrimes and the stringent POCSO Act. The programme is conducted separately for boys and girls.

“For children above 10, we teach them about the impact of sharing photos, how to interact on social media and cybers spaces safely, and how to approach us if they are in trouble,” Badrinarayanan said. “We identified that there is a gap when it comes to preventing sexual crimes against children. So, we thought we could approach the children directly in schools. Every child should be aware about sexual abuse and every child must be empowered to complain.”

At the police headquarters, officials are trained in the content that they will have to share with students.

Child rights experts have for long argued for the need to focus on prevention and also on the provisions of the POCSO Act in which cases of elopement are also treated severely against minor boys if minor girls are involved.

Get Latest India Newsalong with Latest Newsand Top Headlinesfrom India and around the world.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Divya Chandrababu is an award-winning political and human rights journalist based in Chennai, India. Divya is presently Assistant Editor of the Hindustan Times where she covers Tamil Nadu & Puducherry. She started her career as a broadcast journalist at NDTV-Hindu where she anchored and wrote prime time news bulletins. Later, she covered politics, development, mental health, child and disability rights for The Times of India. Divya has been a journalism fellow for several programs including the Asia Journalism Fellowship at Singapore and the KAS Media Asia- The Caravan for narrative journalism. Divya has a master's in politics and international studies from the University of Warwick, UK. As an independent journalist Divya has written for Indian and foreign publications on domestic and international affairs.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, September 29, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals