Break This Deafening Silence, End Child Abuse

A four-year-old girl was brutally assaulted by four adult men in the national capital last week, in an incident that was reminiscent of the gruesome 2013 gang-rape that had consumed the consciousness of the nation. Blood curdling details emerged through the weekend – the young girl sustained injuries in her intestines and her private parts, and is currently battling for her life in a hospital.

The incident, however, has not received the kind of widespread coverage and attention that the 2013 gang-rape did – and something tells me that this has to do with the deafening silence that we as a society like to maintain about child sexual abuse. This is a malaise, which as a Delhi High Court judge recently said, is taking “epidemic”proportions in India.

Last week, when I’d tweeted about India being home to the largest number of sexually abused children, someone tweeted back telling me that I was unfairly branding India as a nation of child rapists. While that is hardly a moniker befitting a progressive nation, data unfortunately, tells us exactly that.

A 2007 sample study conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development reports the following disquieting facts:

53.22%, or every second child reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse.

Out of the total child respondents, 20.90% were subjected to severe forms of sexual abuse that included sexual assault, making the child fondle private parts, making the child exhibit private body parts and being photographed in the nude. Out of these 57.30% were boys and 42.70% were girls. Over one-fifth of these children faced more than three forms of sexual abuse.

Out of the total child respondents, 50.76% were subjected to other forms of sexual abuse that included forcible kissing, sexual advances made during travel and marriages and exposure to pornographic material. Out of these 53.07% were boys and 46.93% were girls. Over 50% of children faced more than two forms of sexual abuse

50% abusers are persons known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility. Most children did not report the matter to anyone.

Children on the street, children at work and children in institutional care reported the highest incidence of sexual assault.