Sex education should be compulsory in all high schools in India with the focus on explaining what constitutes child abuse, child rights activists said.
They demanded setting up of a countrywide child helplines to report cases of abuse, and to train schoolchildren to use it without revealing the name or identity of the victim and their family.
The demand comes in the wake of the Supreme Court's April 17 castigation of the central government for being insensitive towards the protection of child rights and for its reluctance to take effective steps to recover missing children.
Blaming the ministry of women and child development for its "casual and insensitive" approach, the social justice bench of the apex court comprising Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit observed that "This is clear indication of the lack of sensitivity on the part of the government and the ministry towards the missing children and its utter disregard for the laws framed by the parliament."
It also asked the Centre to take steps for the expeditious appointment of the chairman and the members of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, which posts are lying vacant for quite some time now.
Bangalore-based child rights activist Kumar V. Jahgirdar said that there is a need for stricter implementation of the existing laws. "There is need for strict implementation of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012 by creating awareness at the grassroots," said Jahgirdar, who is the president of the Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP) that is fighting for shared parenting in case of divorce.
He said there is also need to promote shared parenting as divorce and separation cases, especially in metros and cities, are on the rise. "There is also need for declaring parental alienation as a crime in the interest of children. In most of the separation cases, the fathers have been denied enough access by their estranged wives to their children. A child needs love and affection from both father and mother," Jahgirdar said.
Quoting the Women and Child Development Ministry figures on child abuse cases, he said those in the age group of 5-12 years have reported higher levels of abuse. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act defines a child as anyone below the age of 18 years and protects them from physical offences. It provides for punishment ranging from simple to rigorous imprisonment.
Swarup Sarkar, founder of the Delhi chapter of NGO Save Family Foundation, said the schools -- both private and government -- should be made accountable for child safety. He demanded a separate union ministry for child development as they constitute more than 40% of the population.