How Police Awareness Campaign Highlights Child Abuse in Coimbatore | Latest India News

For at least a year, a girl studying in Class 11 at a public school in Coimbatore was in a precarious state as her former classmate kept blackmailing her into making naked 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 were 15 at the time.

But after the boy failed, he dropped out of school as she moved on to the next class. “The boy kept forcing her to make naked video calls, but she didn’t want to anymore, so he threatened her that he would release her naked video calls recorded earlier,” said a senior officer from the police.

After Coimbatore Police launched the “Project Pallikoodam” awareness initiative earlier this year against child sexual abuse and cybercrime, the young girl felt brave to complain to her teacher who in turn informed the 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 the law. He was convicted under various sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO). “Ane the girl is finally relieved. We told her she had done nothing wrong, but was a victim,” the senior police officer said.

Since Coimbatore Rural Police launched “Project Pallikoodam” (Project School) on June 30, seven more people have been booked under the POCSO Act. All eight are currently in pre-trial detention.

“Apart from the sexual abuse cases, there were about 60 cases where students started talking about harassment, teasing, family issues, cybercrime issues, drug and tobacco dealing,” said another policeman.

The latest is the Sunday arrest of a 62-year-old grocery store owner who is accused by no less than 15 school girls between the ages of 9 and 13 of sexually assaulting them over the past four years.

A Pallikoodam project was carried out in their school a week ago. Following this, one of the students complained to the headmistress of her school on Saturday that she had been assaulted by the owner of a grocery store near her home in Anaimalai in Coimbatore district.

The headmistress had asked if other students had faced a similar crime, which was when 14 other girls came forward for being assaulted by the same accused. Then the headmistress informed the police and the Pollachi Women’s Police Station arrested the accused on Sunday.

“The store was located close to where all the girls were staying and they usually went there before going to school,” a police officer said.

The defendant was convicted of sexual assault), sexual assault sentence, aggravated sexual assault sentence, aggravated sexual assault sentence and sexual harassment under the POCSO Act.

Since the launch of the sensitization program, the rural police have covered one lakh of students in 600 of the 997 schools in their jurisdiction. It helped the children to understand that they were victims of sexual abuse and assault.

For example, a 19-year-old boy came to the police, after an awareness program at his school, and said that his classmate wanted him to run away with her and that he feared being reserved in under the POCSO law. They were both advised by the police. “We settle and resolve cases by counseling and in some cases FIRs are recorded,” the officer quoted above said.

Coimbatore Police Rural Superintendent V Badrinarayanan, who spearheaded the initiative, said his outreach program was broadly divided into two categories. For children under 10, the police teach them about safe and dangerous touch and for those over 10, they are exposed to cybercrime and the strict POCSO law. The program is conducted separately for boys and girls.

“For children over 10, we teach them the impact of photo sharing, how to interact safely on social media and cyberspaces, and how to approach us if they have any problems,” Badrinarayanan said. “We have identified that there is a gap in the prevention of sexual crimes against children. So we thought we could approach the children directly in the schools. Every child should be aware of sexual abuse and every child should be empowered to file a complaint.

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

Child rights experts have long argued for the need to focus on prevention and also for the provisions of the POCSO Act where runaway cases are also dealt with harshly against underage boys if underage girls are involved.


  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Divya Chandrababu is an award-winning political and human rights journalist based in Chennai, India. Divya is currently Deputy Editor of Hindustan Times, where she covers Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. She started her career as a broadcast journalist at NDTV-Hindu where she anchored and wrote prime time newscasts. Later, she covered politics, development, mental health, children’s and disability rights for The Times of India. Divya has been a Journalism Fellow for several programs including the Asia Journalism Fellowship in Singapore and KAS Media Asia – The Caravan for Narrative Journalism. Divya holds an MA in Politics and International Studies from the University of Warwick, UK. As a freelance journalist, Divya has written for Indian and foreign publications on domestic and international affairs.
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