Amnesty demands clampdown on school violence

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New Delhi, Mar 28 (UNI) Outraged by the beating up of a school girl in Delhi that tragically cut short her life, Amnesty International today demanded that the Central and state governments enact clear laws and prepare a national plan of action to prohibit all forms of violence in schools.

The tragic incident in Delhi ''must draw our attention to the reality that many girls all over the country go to their schools fearing for their safety, dreading humiliation and violent treatment,'' Amnesty International-India Director Mukul Sharma said, in a letter to Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh.

The copies of the letter were also sent to Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, the NHRC and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Noting that violence in and around school was quite pervasive throughout the country, Mr Sharma said there was no justification for official inaction and delays.

''The Central and state governments, and by extension its public officials -- including teachers and school authorities -- must promptly investigate reports of abuse, impose appropriate punishment on offenders, help those who have suffered from violence to recover fromm its physical and emotional effects, and take steps to ensure that abuses do not recur,'' the human rights watchdog said.

Mr Sharma said the government should enact and enforce clear laws, policies and procedures to strictly prohibit all forms of corporal punishment, verbal abuse, harassment, physical violence and emotional abuse.

About the pervasive nature of violence in school, he said many girls have come to accept teasing, bullying, sexually explicit jokes and gestures, excessive punishment, and even unwanted sexual activities as the price they have to pay for their education.

Victims of school-related violence report a range of emotional and bahavioural impacts, including the inability to sleep, loss of appetite, depression, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, aggression, suicide attempts, alcohol and drug abise and high-risk sexual activity.

''Depression is one of the most common consequences of physical violence against girls in the school,'' Amnesty International-India said.

It lamented that reports from around the country revealed a tendency to ''downplay, ignore and even conceal acts of violence committed against girls in relation to their schooling.'' Mr Sharma said governments and school authorities had failed to a put in place any infrastructure and security measures to prevent violence. ''And those guilty of violence are hardly punished -- prosecutions are often not pursued and teachers and staff members do not necessarily lose their jobs.'' He said there should be a national plan of action to address school-related violence against girls. These should include guidelines for schools, cumoulsory training for teachers and students, designated government officials and adequate public funding.

''We must ensure that all such incidents are reported and recorded, and that people convicted of rape, sexual assault or other criminal offences against girl children are not employed in schools,'' he argued.


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