Horrifying stories of rape of children, even as young as five, have gripped the psyche of our nation. It has raised terror among parents and children. Following the rape and murder of Nirmala Panta more than two months ago, school children across the country have been left with unanswered questions as to what they should do if such an attack befalls on them. The situation has become alarming as Nepal Police is being seen as failing to bring the perpetrators to book. And yet at the national level, we have not taken effective measures to educate our children about sexual abuse, ways to combat rape attempts and report the incidents. This is a deadly serious neglect to the most sensitive and by far the most important issue of enabling our children to fight against possible attacks of molestation and rape. It is already too late to start the conversation on this topic.
Shockingly, more and more cases of rape are being reported from across the country. According to Nepal Police, on an average, four cases of rape are occurring every single day. With access and exposure to social media and internet, today’s children come to know about this around the same time as their parents. They read the news about friends of their age being raped and they watch such stories on television with horror. But many of them remain clueless about what is all this about and how they should respond when somebody tries to sexually assault them. Mental health experts, children education specialists and psychiatrists Republica talked to have suggested some measures. According to them, we need to impart sex education early in a child’s life from home. They stressed on the need to start the conversation about rape starting with informing them about body parts, specifically the private parts and genitals and teaching them about ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch,’ through demonstration if necessary. Game play is another method, whereby guardians play games which involve touching different body parts and then asking if someone else has done the same with the children.
Nepali society is rather unwelcoming when it comes to discussions on sex education. But this can be fatal to our children. In many countries around the world, there is an established norm that the children should be provided basic education regarding bad touch and good touch from as early as they are eight or nine. They are taught about sexuality and relationship around the time of puberty. In Nepal, very little is taught about such issues and there is no candid conversation about this between the teachers and students and parents and children. Children who are sexually abused at young age, researches have proved, become extremely vulnerable to sexual crimes when they grow up and some of them might have disastrous and traumatic adult life. We need to ensure that children report the cases to the parents or school authorities if someone touches them inappropriately. Talking to children about rape could be tricky. But there is no other way through which we can ensure safety of our children from crimes of rape. We must enable our children to speak out about the sexual misconducts that happen to them. We need to enable them to report the cases when they occur. For this, we need to educate them, both at home and school.