Harsher penalties are needed if we are to show zero tolerance towards sexual harassment, said children’s organisation Hope for Children on Wednesday, following the 12-month sentence imposed on a teacher found guilty of sexually harassing underage female students.
Following a lengthy trial of many months, which took place behind closed doors since the case involved underage victims, a 52-year-old secondary school teacher was sentenced by the Larnaca district court on Monday to 12 months behind bars for sexually harassing and verbally assaulting some of his underage female students.
“Penalties should be harsher, because it’s a way to spread the message of zero tolerance with regards to the phenomenon of sexual harassment, especially of minors,” Hope for Children’s director of humanitarian division Andria Neocleous told the Cyprus Mail on Wednesday.
The court indictment said that the offences took place during the first months of the 2014-2015 school year, while the 52-year-old was working as a secondary school teacher in Larnaca.
The victims, female students of the 52-year-old who were 12-13 years old at the time, reported that their teacher would behave inappropriately, making indecent hand gestures and even touching or stroking their breasts and buttocks.
The teacher would engage in this behaviour in the classroom during class time, most often behind his desk so that the other students couldn’t see.
The girls had submitted to the police audio-visual evidence of the sexual harassment they experienced, and had also spoke in court against their teacher, which found their accounts to be reliable.
While the teacher was arrested in March 2015, the education ministry had decided at the time that the teacher remained available to work until the final verdict in the case against him, which was reached just two days ago.
“Help is available, and procedures to tackle to this phenomenon are improving, but people in general, and parents and children especially, need to be aware that this can happen in various areas of a person’s or a child’s life,” Neocleous said.
“But most often sexual harassment happens at the heart of circles of trust, such as in the relationship between a teacher and a student, as was the case with the recent incident.”