Girls participate in Peace Bike Rally to create awareness on child abuse and atrocities against women in Bangalore on July 30, 2014. A recent study said that one in two children in the country suffers sexual abuse. (Photo by IANS)
Church leaders and activists have described as "alarming and grim" a recent study revealing that one in every two children are sexually abused in India.
Christian humanitarian aid organization World Vision's survey covered 26 of India's 29 states and included over 45,000 children aged 12-18 years. Released last week, the report also said one in four families did not report child abuse.
"It is a matter of concern that almost everyday child sexual abuse cases are reported in the news," Cherian Thomas, World Vision India Director told ucanews.com.
He said most of the abuse was committed by people known to the children.
Sister Lucy Kurien, who works to protect and rehabilitate sexually abused children, told ucanews.com that the issue is not taken seriously as there are no proper mechanisms to combat the crime. The nun, who belongs to the Sisters of the Cross of Chavanod congregation, also said "lack of parental love and attention has led to this alarming rise."
Sister Kurien, who runs Maher (mother's home), said the trend is worse in urban areas as parents are busy trying to make money so they do not have time for their children. "Female feticide and an unbalanced sex ratio in the country is another major reason for sexual abuse among children," the nun said.
According to the 2011 census, India has 940 females for every 1,000 males. In many of its states, the ratio is even lower. In the northern Indian state of Haryana, it is 861 females to 1,000 males, while national capital has 868 girls per 1,000 boys. Punjab state stands at 895 girls to 1,000 boys.
T.K. Oommen, a sociologist, said one of the reasons for increasing sexual abuse of children is that parents do not disclose the matter.
"It is a question of reputation and status. There is also the fear that once the people come to know about the incident, it will be difficult to find prospective grooms for the girls," he said.
Lisa Joseph, officer for child rights and human trafficking for Caritas India, said that children are taught about "bad" and "good touch" in most private and government-run schools run but it is not sufficient.
"We have to create an atmosphere in our family and surrounding areas where children feel free, confident and believe they can easily approach us," she said.
Tej Kumar Thapa, child project manager of Darjeeling Diocese Social Service Society, said "we have to teach parents that they should take time from their busy schedule to listen and talk to their children and believe what they say."
"There are many cases where the child wants to say something but parents have failed to recognize it. As we talk about their education and health, we too have to keep an eye on their day-to-day lives," he said.
According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau, there were nearly 58,224 cases of child abuse in 2013 compared to 38,172 in 2012 and 33,052 in 2011. Nearly 7,000 cases were registered under the Protection of Children against Sexual Offenses Act from November 2012 to March 2015.
The act, which was brought into force in 2012, aims to protect children from sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography and provides special courts to try such offenses.
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