Child sexual abuse in India is "shrouded in secrecy [with] a conspiracy around the entire subject” according to Renuka Chowdhury, India's former Union minister of State (Independent Charge) for Ministry of Women and Child Development in the Government of India (2005-2009).
Today the Human Rights Watch released a detailed report of its findings in a survey conducted last year. Below I have excerpted highlights of the report but you can find a link to the entire report here Breaking the Silence: Child Sexual Abuse in India (emphases mine)
The government survey was based on interviews with 12,500 children in 13 different states and was one of the largest ever conducted in the world. Of the children interviewed, more than half (53 percent) said that they had been subjected to one or more forms of sexual abuse. Over 20 percent of those interviewed said they were subjected to severe forms of abuse, defined in the report as “sexual assault, making the child fondle private parts, making the child exhibit private body parts and being photographed in the nude.” Of those who said they were sexually abused, 57 percent were boysKeep in mind that this is representative of the cases reported - most survivors never speak out about their abuse because of the shame, guilt and blame they carry. In India, as in the United States, there are familial loyalties, fear of not being believed as well as an insufficiently trained police force to deal with child sexual abuse claims that also act as deterrants to reporting.
The head of a police post in Uttar Pradesh conceded...“The number of police persons is very low, and 99 percent are not well trained. If a girl is raped, most of them don't know how to handle the case."
In 1998 the Indian NGO Recovery and Healing from Incest (RAHI) conducted India's first study of child sexual abuse. It surveyed 600 English-speaking middle and upper-class women, 76 percent of whom said they had been abused in childhood or adolescence, 40 percent by at least one family member, most commonly an uncle or cousin.2005
More recently, in 2005, the international organization Save the Children and an Indian NGO, Tulir - Centre for Healing and Prevention of Child Sex Abuse, surveyed 2,211 schoolgoing children, from different backgrounds, in Chennai. At least 48 percent of the boys and 39 percent of the girls interviewed said they had faced sexual abuse of one form or another, mainly from people they knew, while 15 percent of the children complained of severe forms of abuse, defined in this study as “oral sex, sexual intercourse, making the child touch the offender's private parts, or making the children take off their clothes and looking at them or taking their pictures.”2012
In response to the widely reported rape and murder of a 23-year old student in New Delhi in December 2012, the UN resident coordinator in India and the UNICEF representative issued a joint statementcalling for better protection of women and girls against sexual violence. “It is alarming that too many of these cases are children. One in three rape victims is a child. More than 7,200 children, including infants are raped every year. Given the stigma attached to rapes, especially when it comes to children, this most likely is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Louis-Georges Arsenault, UNICEF representative to India.
The good news is that the as in the US, India's main stream media is now picking up some of the stories of abuse and are demanding action within their country.
India’s media has played a leading role in increasing awareness of child sexual abuse in the country. As well as highlighting the enormous scale of the problem, journalists have also exposed failings in the system to protect children, putting considerable pressure on the government to act. Public outrage after high-profile cases has forced the government to address the problem.
While progress has been made, more must be done
In May 2012, India’s parliament took a major step by passing the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. Under the law, all forms of child sexual abuse are now specific criminal offenses for the first time ever in India.This issue is not in the passing of laws, but the implementation of the laws. By passing The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act India's government has made tremendous strides towards acknowledging the issue of child sexual abuse in their country. However, "thus far the central and state governments have failed to enforce key safeguards [and these] shortcomings in the implementation of policies have left children vulnerable to abuse."
The report provides recommendations to both the central and state governements as well as reforms needed in the criminal justice system to help facilitate this implementation.