THE IMPORTANCE OF AWARENESS
On May 4, 2015, a student from the first grade of the Mohammadpur Preparatory School was sexually assaulted by a school employee. This incident was brought to the attention of the media and has caused an outrage citywide. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident – there are countless that go unreported every day.
Sexual assault on minors usually happens at home or at school and although this is not widely acknowledged, the perpetrators on the most part are not strangers – they are people the minor will come into contact with, perhaps on a regular basis. Therefore, it is the responsibility of parents and school authorities to take preventative measures to the best of their ability, and this can only happen through awareness.
Most cases of abuse on minors are not reported for several reasons. Children below a certain age may not fully understand what is happening to them, those who do, may be too ashamed or afraid to talk about it. Many feel guilty and believe they are to be blamed for their own abuse, and sometimes, the adults they trust may not believe them or may be too uncomfortable to address the issue properly. All of the said instances happen due to the unfortunate fact that sex is still a taboo subject in this country– children do not learn about sex through proper channels and grow up believing there is something unsanitary about it and should be kept quiet.
"We skipped the reproduction chapter in Biology completely," says Aporajita M, a recent graduate of a reputed English Medium school in Dhaka. "The Biology books were the only ones we had to buy directly from the school because the chapter on reproduction had to be taken out before they were given to us. We never had talks about sexual harassment and we did not have a school counsellor we could go to about our problems."
"My daughter studies in the Bengali Medium section of the Mohammadpur Preparatory school where the little girl was assaulted," says a parent who wishes to remain anonymous. "She has never had a sex education class and to my knowledge there is no in-school counsellor the students can talk to about personal issues."
Ehsan Ibne Amin, a student of another reputed government school in Dhaka says, "We studied sexual reproduction in school, but it was very vague, the teachers were too embarrassed to teach us in detail. I don't recall ever talking about abuse. We learned about sex through magazines, movies and ofcourse friends."
All these cases reflect not only the lack of responsibility of school authorities to ensure a proper sex education for their students, but also the lack of concern shown by parents about their childrens' incomplete knowledge of such important matters. Unsafe sex, teenage pregnancy and sexual abuse of minors can only be prevented if a child is taught about these issues from a young age. Children as young as three years old can learn about what parts of their bodies should not be touched. Adolescents should learn about the act of sex and the concept of feeling comfortable being intimate with a partner and what constitutes abuse. Homes and schools alike should create a safe and open atmosphere for the children to discuss such issues. Then and only then, can we prevent such incidents from happening again.