Could Delhi Tailor’s Offences Be Prevented with a Lesson on Consent?

Sunil Rastogi has admitted to sexually abusing over 500 kids in Delhi

After a long haul of inactivity towards meting out justice to sexual assault victims, the Delhi police finally arrested a 38-year-old man allegedly involved in sexually harassing minors. Sunil Rastogi, the accused, had been imprisoned for six months in Uttarakhand in 2006 for sexually assaulting a girl while working at a farm. Later, he worked as a tailor in Delhi, where he lost his job but kept coming back to choose his victims and sexually assault little girls as young as 7 to 10.

An independent NGO and leading child rights organisation, Save the Children, has recorded that “about 81% of sexual offences and kidnapping involving minors” happen in India.

And yet, most children do not even know the difference between a good and a bad touch and are made to hug elders as a warm gesture of respect and affection.

Not all of these innocuous-seeming actions end up in scarred childhood memories but, these gestures may instigate some.

While there is a 25% rise in human trafficking cases according to the National Crime Records Bureau, NGOs claim that child sexual abuse is much more common and the accused is more often than not a known and trusted person.

Rastogi is a repeat offender who has confessed to befriending school girls using their parents’ references, giving them a new set of stitched clothes, and goodies to make them his sexual ‘preys’. These ‘prey-predator’ cases of sexual assaults (which also include rape) totaled to 500 kids in the past 12 to 13 years for Rastogi, while he attempted to assault over 2500 of them. He has now been sent to 14 days of judicial custody.

But there are many others who go unpunished and unrecognised. There are even some whose violence against children turns gruesome and ghastly when they are aroused by four-year-olds playing, find school-goers for their sexual pleasure, insert objects inside a five-year-old’s private parts. and leave them in a condition that not only violates their bodies to the point of never recovering, but also scars their souls forever.

And yet, sex education or teaching the very basics of consent to both boys and girls is not considered important – what however is almost always regular after these incidents of sexual harassment, molestation and rapes is deep shame, humiliation, victim-blaming and society-inflicted isolation for the victims.

Three young girls aged between 7 and 10 (with no relation to each other) escaped the traumatic experiences of being raped by Rastogi. But such was not the fate for so many other school-going girls. Had they been educated and made aware of the different touches and their meanings, and being vocal about their right to their own body, could these incidents of brutality be avoided?.

I strongly feel that the victims needed to be more vocal and said ‘NO’ when Rastogi tried to make them uncomfortable or asked them to follow him to a secluded area (where he raped them). Had the girls known that they matter, that they do have the right to say ‘no’ and should not give in to someone who they perceive as more powerful especially if they are uncomfortable, they would have exercised their freedom and made Rastogi realise that their consent matters.

One of the girls, who escaped from falling into Rastogi’s trap, could sense his ulterior motives when Rastogi asked her to follow him to an apartment on the pretext of giving her some goods for home. She ran towards the busy market – the first safe technique to elude criminals. Had the others known better, they too could have made noise and alerted some nearby people, although they were kids. At least, Rastogi wouldn’t have been able to make repeated unchecked trips to Delhi, each time to boost his prowess by sexually assaulting minors.

Wonder how many such pathetic crimes will take place until we finally understand the meaning of consent and are able to make our children self-aware, conscious of their surroundings, and more vocal? How much longer will it take to ultimately get over the discomfort of discussing such incidents? Is it not better than facing the discomfort of living with rape?

Listening to the issues of minors, giving them a due regard and teaching them the difference between good and bad touch will make so many of them aware about sexual harassment and help in preventing more cases like Rastogi’s.

Awareness is power.


Originally written for The Bayside Journal

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