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Manifestations of Child Abuse in India

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The topic of child sexual abuse is still a taboo in India. There is certainly a conspiracy of silence around the subject and an extremely large percentage of people believe that this is a largely western problem and that child sexual abuse does not happen in India. The main reason of course lies in a traditional conservative family and community structure that does not talk about sex and sexuality at all. Parents usually do not talk to children about sexuality as well as physical and emotional changes that take place throughout their growing years. Due to this, all kinds of sexual abuse that a child faces usually do not get reported to anyone. The girl, whose mother has never spoken to her even about a basic issue like menstruation, is unable to tell her mother about the uncle or neighbour who has made sexual advances towards her. This silence encourages the abuser and he gets emboldened to continue the abuse also to press his advantage to subject the child to more serious kinds of sexual abuse. Generally children do not even realize that they are being abused.

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Some fears always moved indian families to keep their girls and their ‘virginity’ safe and several forms of social and cultural practices are built around ensuring this. This indicates that there surely is knowledge of the fact that a girl child is unsafe though nobody talks about it. However this fear is just around girls and also the safety net is usually not extended to boys. There is certainly an evidence from this along with other studies that boys are equally at risk.

As defined by the World Health Organization, child abuse in India is involvement of a child in sexual activity that he / she does not fully comprehend, is not able to give informed consent to, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society. Child sexual abuse is evidenced by this activity between a child and a grownup or any other child who by age or development is in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power, the activity being intended to gratify or fulfill the needs of the other individual. This might include but it is not limited to:

  • The inducement or coercion of a young child to take part in any unlawful activity.
  • The exploitative use of a young child in prostitution or any other unlawful sexual practices.
  • The exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials.

However, for the true purpose of this research, sexual abuse is defined as severe types of sexual abuse along with other kinds of sexual abuse.

Severe types of sexual abuse include:

  1. Assault, including rape and sodomy.
  2. Touching or fondling a young child.
  3. Exhibitionism- Forcing a young child to exhibit his/her private parts of the body.
  4. Photographing a young child in nude.

Other types of sexual abuse include:

  1. Forcible kissing.
  2. Sexual advances towards a young child during travel.
  3. Sexual advances towards a young child during marriage situations.
  4. Exhibitionism- exhibiting before a child.
  5. Exposing a child to pornographic materials.

The WHO estimates that 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 have experienced forced sexual activity or any other kinds of sexual violence involving physical contact, though this is actually an underestimate. Most of this sexual violence is inflicted by members of the family or other people residing in or visiting a child’s family home-people normally trusted by children and often are responsible for their care. Overview of epidemiological surveys from 21 countries, mainly high- and middle- income countries, found thae at least 7% of females (ranging up to 36%) and 3% of males (ranging as much as 29%) reported sexual victimization in their childhood. In accordance with these studies, between 14% and 56% of the sexual abuse of girls, and up to 25% of the sexual abuse of boys, was perpetrated by relatives or step parents.

In several places, adults were outspoken concerning the risk of sexual violence their children faced in school or at play in the neighborhood, but rarely did adults talk about children’s risk of sexual abuse in the home and family context. The shame, secrecy and denial connected with familial sexual violence against children foster a pervasive culture of silence, where children cannot speak about sexual violence in the house, and where adults have no idea what to do or say if they suspect someone, they know is sexually abusing a child.

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