In­dia in­ves­ti­gates sex­ual abuse of in­dige­nous girls

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Of­fi­cials in west­ern In­dia have set up a spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion team to look into al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual abuse of girls at a board­ing school for in­dige­nous chil­dren af­ter a 10-year-old was re­ported to be preg­nant. Par­ents of at least 12 girls from the school in Buld­hana dis­trict of Ma­ha­rash­tra state have filed com­plaints with the po­lice, while 11 staff, in­clud­ing the head­mas­ter, were ar­rested last week, said dis­trict po­lice su­per­in­ten­dent San­jiv Baviskar. “Women po­lice of­fi­cers have been sent to talk to the vic­tims and record their state­ments. We are look­ing for two more sus­pects who have ab­sconded,” Baviskar said.

Tribal de­vel­op­ment min­is­ter Vishnu Savara said the school’s reg­is­tra­tion has been can­celled and charges will be filed within a month. The al­le­ga­tions come on the heels of re­ports of the deaths of hun­dreds of in­dige­nous chil­dren in state-run schools over the past decade. The Na­tional Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion has ac­cused Ma­ha­rash­tra state of neg­li­gence and asked for a re­port. Ma­ha­rash­tra, one of the wealth­i­est states in the coun­try, has about 550 board­ing schools for chil­dren from poor tribal ar­eas. Run by the state, they are meant to im­prove lit­er­acy lev­els and pro­vide ba­sic health­care for the chil­dren.

The schools were set up more than two decades ago across In­dia and are the only op­tion for many liv­ing in re­mote ar­eas. But they are badly run, with in­ad­e­quate staff and poor fa­cil­i­ties for the stu­dents, said Vivek Pan­dit, founder of Shramjivi Sang­hatana, which works with vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple in Ma­ha­rash­tra. “Of­fi­cials have turned a blind eye to the ap­palling con­di­tions in the schools and the rou­tine abuse of chil­dren for years,” he told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion. “If they can­not run them in a proper man­ner, they should shut these schools down. They should not be en­trusted with the lives of vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren.”—

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