Various draft guidelines are being prepared by a high-level committee set up by Women and Child Development (WCD) Minister Renuka Chowdhury. This follows the shocking case of a northwest Delhi school student being allegedly sodomized for over a year, before authorities took action.
One such is that victims of child abuse can only be examined in the presence of a known and trusted person and that parents can demand that a girl child victim be examined only by a female doctor.
Explains Chowdhury: 'There is ambiguity at present on how to treat child abuse cases. These guidelines will provide a yardstick for states.'
Once established, it will be mandatory for states to follow these guidelines.
Meanwhile, cases of child sexual abuse have been steadily increasing. A recent survey conducted by the ministry found that of the 12,500 children interviewed, 53.22 percent had faced at least one form of sexual abuse. Of these, 49.92 percent children said they had faced sexual abuse in school.
Following the Sardar Patel Vidyalaya incident, the guidelines say prior written consent of parents must be taken for any medical check-ups in schools.
It also suggests setting up of a complaints mechanism in the form of a children's committee, where students can express themselves freely.
School managements will be expected to conduct police verification of their staff and monitor visitors, screen and register them before they are allowed to enter the campus.
The draft guidelines outlined by a committee headed by WCD joint secretary Loveleen Kacker also lays down rules for use of school premises by outsiders. It says schools can allow after-hours use of their premises by outsiders or school staff only after their verification.
If the guidelines come into force, it will be compulsory for every school to have trained counselors to guide children and parents through situations of distress, including sexual abuse. The minister has advocated teaching sex education as a way to prevent child abuse.
Chowdhury says: 'Knowledge is power. Children should be informed. They have been told that adults are authority figures, so very often they are puzzled and confused when the same people sexually exploit them.'
The guidelines also provide indicators on recognizing a victim of abuse through behavioral and physical signs like disturbance in appetite, recurrent nightmares, return to infantile behavior like bedwetting, thumb sucking and excessive crying.
Behavioral changes also include aggressive or disruptive behavior, inability to concentrate, decline in school performance, unexplained fear of people or places, withdrawal or avoiding parents, friends and social gatherings.