Child abuse in India: Are existing solutions any good?


By Swati Gilotra

New Delhi: According to “2007 Study on child abuse: A report by Ministry of Women and Child Development (Govt. of India)”, 53.22% children in India faced one or more forms of sexual abuse and two out of every three children is being physically abused. The report indicates that 50.2% children worked seven days a week. Adding salt to the festering wound is that out of 69% children physically abused in 13 sample states, 54.68% were boys. While equal percentage of both girls and boys reported emotional abuse, 48.4% of girls wished they were boys.

We need to think on the issue that if these girls had been boys, would their problem not exist at all? Considering the almost equal percentage of children being abused, would it be easier for girls if they were boys or vice-versa? Or, is this problem penetrating deep into the psyche of the child where she cannot think about another or, may be, a better alternative?

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The survey includes the definition of child abuse by World Health Organization (WHO). It revealed that although the term may be understood differently through diverse perceptions but in Indian context particularly, it includes any or all of these categories– physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect.

The solution which the report provides is that education can bridge the gap between their vulnerability and self-protection. Sensitization of child rights should fall in place rather than sensationalization of the issue. The children should be protected from the stigma attached to abuse and they should be prevented from being re-victimized.

These imbalances need to be addressed. Poverty alleviation schemes specifically targeting families of working children or families which both willingly or unwillingly send their children to work in order to fulfill their basic needs, should be formalized. State-level guidelines and protocols should be formulated wherein accountability on the part of government, non-government and civil society should be implemented for the rehabilitation of child domestic workers. The process of healing should make them feel empowered.

The larger, and the most important question remains: How should we deal with rehabilitation of these young children? Is just admitting them to rescue homes the best solution?

I believe better awareness, in civil society, along with proper education about the illegality and inhumaneness of the issue would be able to reduce the pain to a certain extent. This is not a sudden solution, it might take time. Accountability on the part of governments as well as NGOs would go a long way in bringing relief to these children.

These children have gone through hell and rescue homes are not great places either. The NGOs as well as such homes need to address the emotional trauma that these kids have gone through. Counseling just for the sake of it wouldn’t help these children.

Read more on this issue: Child labour: Can the ‘abused’ dream?