If you thought Bengaluru was a 'safe' city for your children, think twice.

 

In the data report 'Crime in India 2015', published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) on Tuesday, Bengaluru recorded the highest number of reported child sexual abuse cases among megacities in India.

 

When compared to the number of reported child abuse cases in other metropolitan cities, Bengaluru recorded a whopping 273 cases in the span of just one year.

 

Megacities Child sexual abuse cases reported in 2015
Bengaluru 273
Chennai 137
Kolkata 91
Delhi 70
Thiruvananthapuram 30
Hyderabad 13
Kochi 9
Mumbai 1

 

Shocked? We definitely are!

 

In an attempt to look beyond the statistical data, Asianet Newsable spoke to authorities and activists to understand the root cause of the increasing number of child sexual abuse cases in the city.

 

"The reason why Bengaluru records the highest number of child abuse cases is because the awareness is quite high. People now have the confidence to come forward and report such cases," said Khushi Kushalappa, Policy and Community Integration head of Enfold Trust, an NGO in Bengaluru. 

 

However, Kushalappa added, "I won't deny that cases of child sexual abuse cases are quite high here."

 

When asked about why children are easy targets for sexual abuse, she said, "Children of working parents are largely vulnerable to sexual abuse. I am a working parent too and so I am not targeting a particular set of people," 

 

She added, "We enrol our children in various extracurricular activities such as dance, skating, and swimming classes to keep them engaged. These are touch-based activities where instructors have physical contact with children. In such cases, the children won't understand the difference between safe and unsafe touches."

 

To combat this, Kushalappa suggests a few exercises to educate children on sexual abuse, "We need to have a conversation with our children every day so that they can express their concerns. Educating them about appropriate and inappropriate physical touch is vital. When your child complains about a certain activity, which he/she doesn't wish to continue, we as parents need to find out the reason."

 

Extracurricular activities can be monitored, but how safe do parents feel about their children when they are at school?

 

In the past, a large number of child abuse cases were reported to have occurred at schools. 

 

"We hear a lot of incidences when children are sexually abused in schools. The problem begins when schools don't take the responsibility of such incidents. Certain government schools in the city go to the extent of threatening the parents who report these cases. In most cases, the child is forced to drop out of the school to avoid more trauma," said Kushalappa.

 

"Schools are responsible for ensuring that each student feels protected. They take complaints of sexual abuses casually. School authorities don't conduct a background check on the staff they hire. This kind of oversight should not happen," she added.

 

According to Kushalappa, everyone is equally responsible for ensuring a child is not abused. Parents must converse with their children about school activities, extracurricular activities, and also look out for signs of sexual abuse. 

 

In a bid to crackdown on soaring numbers of child abuse cases, the Integrated Child Development Society (ICDS) have been working with various government departments such as the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) and the Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD) to make Bengaluru a child-friendly city.

 

Karnataka's ICDS project director Narmada Anand confirmed that there has been an increase in awareness among citizens regarding child abuse cases. Such cases, when reported, are taken more seriously than before. 

 

"Every district has its own child protection unit which deals with abuse cases. The police, NGOs and other government departments have been working collectively to make Bengaluru safe for children," said Anand.

 

She added. "There is definitely an alarming increase in child abuse cases. We have been working on child protection policies for both private and government schools. Training modules to sensitise teachers and schools staff on child sexual abuse will be implemented in every school. The juvenile district units have taken up the responsibility to sensitise public prosecutors and advocates which will begin from September 2016."