By Mai Al Abria — MUSCAT: Jan. 2: Instances of school bus drivers striking up intimate relationships with teenaged female students have come to light in some all-girls’ educational institutions in the Sultanate, prompting school authorities and parents to step in to keep vulnerable teenagers out of harm’s way. Where the amorous liaisons result in illicit and immoral conduct amount to a breach of Omani laws and will be prosecuted, legal authorities have warned.
The Observer has learnt of a number of instances of young girls of ages 15 to 18 years falling prey to the advances of bus drivers. Alarmed by this phenomenon, some all-girls’ schools are introducing an extra layer of supervision for their pupils.
At one of the schools in Al Dakhliyah Governorate, a 17-year-old girl was found to have struck up intimate relationships with three different bus drivers serving at the school.
The girl, who was previously disciplined for engaging in illicit conduct, is alleged to have failed to mend her ways, and has since influenced four of her classmates to go her way.
Omani legal statutes strictly proscribe illicit and immoral relations involving minors.
Article 56 of the Child Law states thus: It is prohibited to engage in any of the following actions: raping, abusing or sexually harassing a child; encouraging a child to have sex, whether physical or simulated, or taking indecent photographs of a child or their genitals for immoral ends.
Perhaps oblivious of the legal consequences, many bus drivers tend not to spurn the advances of young girls when they express their attraction or admiration for them.
Under the Child Law, even children of ages 16 and 17 are considered minors.
In fact, Article 1 states that a child is any individual who hasn’t completed 18 years.
Even if sexual relations are initiated by the young student herself, the law characterises the act as rape as the girl in question is still a minor.
The law regards the child as not mature enough to grasp the consequences of her actions, placing the onus squarely on the adult for such immoral action.
The Child Law was promulgated to protect the rights of children and safeguard them from such abuse.
Penalties prescribed by the law are stringent.
Article 72 of the Child Law states that anyone who commits any prohibited acts described under Articles 55 and 56 shall be punished with imprisonment for a period not less than five years and not exceeding 15 years and a fine not less than RO 5,000 and not exceeding RO 10,000.
The stringent application of the law is evident from the following example: A 31-year-old man carried out a three-year-long illicit relationship with a 17-year-old girl until the liaison was discovered.
The man was sentenced to jail for five years for raping the girl three times on three different occasions.
A solution to this potential menace is to hire female drivers at all-girls schools in place of young men, says a concerned parent. “This measure will go a long way in easing the concerns of parents worried about the safety of their daughters when they leave home. Also, as there is supervision in buses once they leave the school yard, the potential for immoral behavior exists.”
Drivers who find themselves drawn to young girls also fail to realise the perils of falling into such relationships. “There are many instances of young drivers seducing young girls and eloping until, of course, they are caught and jailed. These young men should be aware of the consequences of their actions,” the parent remarked.