Down Dark Alleys

The weekly news roundup was  full of the  scam and of the unholy nexus between our media, politicians and corporate mafias. It was hard to believe many young, apparently innocuous looking women reporters were at the helm of the dirty games. In the middle of all this, was this news item which caught my attention.

India will soon have its first law to deal exclusively with child sexual abuse cases. The provisional draft of the bill, titled ‘Sexual Offences Against Children Bill, 2010', seeks to substitute the word ‘rape' with technical terms and cover several forms of abuse of both boys and girls, which now remain grey areas in the absence of a specific legislation. The proposed legislation calls for setting up of special courts, special prosecutors and child friendly courts. The information was given to the media by the Union Minister for law,  Veerappa Moili, last week.

At present, cases of sexual offences against children are being tried under the Indian Penal Code, which does not take into consideration the age of the victim. With such offences attracting only such sections that deal with rape, unnatural offences and outraging the modesty of a woman, many sexual offences against children, especially those against boys, were not getting a focused trial, it was felt.

It is a long-hidden issue that India is finally beginning to wrestle with. The scale of abuse, according to a  National study, is far worse than anybody had thought. (Ministry of Women and Child Development : "Study on Child Abuse: India 2007) It reports that 69 per cent of all Indian children are victims of physical, mental or emotional abuse, with New Delhi’s children facing an astounding abuse rate of 83.12 percent.

The survey, which involved interviews with 12,447 children, also highlighted that, it is usually family members (89 percent) who perpetrate such crimes and that more boys face physical abuse (72.61) than girls (65 per cent). Overall, Indian children were found to be victims of a slew of sexual crimes … rape, sodomy, exposure to pornographic material, fondling, forcible kissing and sexual advances, among others. The study also noted that child sexual abuse in India begins as early as five, ratchets up dramatically during pre-pubescence and peaks at 12 to 16 years. Ironically, 71 per cent of sexual assault cases in India go unreported.

This means, the chances are, every other child you see on the road is a victim to some kind of sexual abuse. Hard to believe?

India is home to more than 375 million children, comprising nearly 40 percent of our population,  the  largest number of minors in any country in the world. Despite its ethos of non-violence, tolerance, spirituality and a new emerging  trillion-dollar economy, India hosts the world's largest number of sexually abused children, at a far higher rate than any other country. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in every four girls and one in every seven boys in the world are sexually abused, hardly encouraging, but still far below India’s totals.

Worse, child abuse is one of the least documented violations in the country,  records author Grace Poore in the book, The Children We Sacrifice, which deals with the wide prevalence of child sexual abuse in India.
The reasons are manifold. In India, much like the rest of Asia, children are expected to respect and obey authority figures such as teachers, religious guides, and principals and not question their actions. Rebellion is perceived as a sign of a bad upbringing. This sensibility perpetuates a culture of abuse by encouraging sexual predators.

Also, Indian adults often exercise a very  tight hold over their children,  demanding  complete and unquestioned  obedience. A culture of silence and shame  also  swirls  around cases of sexual violence against children. Unsurprisingly,  the  notion  of  shame is the single largest culprit in perpetuating sexual violence against India’s children.

Apart from the legal dimension, child sexual abuse has serious psychological and emotional elements. Worldwide  surveys point out that such  abuse  negatively impacts  a child’s physical, emotional  and  mental well-being, leading to severe behavioral and psychiatric disorders. Suicidal tendencies and drug abuse are common long-term effects.

A   WHO  survey  also points out that there is an unambiguous behavioral and  emotional pattern  in  the abused. Usually the  child  hardly  talks about the incident. And, even if he or she does, no one takes  it seriously. That in turn  triggers feelings of self doubt and guilt, exacerbating  the child’s feeling that  it is his or her fault. As the child matures, compulsive   behavior reinforces this guilt.  Small wonder, that  many adult sexual problems, according to  psychoanalysts, trace their  roots to childhood abuse.

Where,  then, does the solution lie? Educating and enlightening kids about such issues, helping them  distinguish  between “good” and “bad” touch, is a partial answer. Children also ought to be  made  aware of impulsive decisions they may make under pressure from teachers, bullies and abusers. Sex education in schools is also productive. The Netherlands, a country  where teenage  pregnancy rates plummeted  from 60 per cent to about 25 per cent through aggressive sex information campaigns in schools, is an example. But attempts to introduce sex education in to our curriculum has faced strong objections from many quarters.

With child sexual abuse attracting so much scrutiny and public debate, the government has the added impetus to adopt strong and unequivocal measures to contain such crimes. For a country with nearly 40 per cent of its populace comprised of children, such measures are overdue.


  1. That was a very forceful and convincing case for stricter laws against child abuse. As noted in the statistics, majority of the abusers are family members- incest is not uncommon. But how effective will be the law in deterring potential abusers?

    The primary responsibility lies with the parents who should not be paranoiac but keep a watchful eye over the adults who behaves intimately with the children. But in these times when making money is more important than spending time with your family, how many parents bother about it? And then there are incestuous parents...

    Stringent laws are necessary, but more emphasis should be upon educating parents, teachers and the children themselves about child abuse. The best option would be to hold gatherings in schools where parents should compulsorily attend.

    Recently I chanced upon a Malayalam pornographic site that seems to cater mainly for the expats in the Gulf. It had more than 100 pornographic stories written in Malayalam ( all .pdf files). Among the many common traits I noticed in the stories, the most shocking and disturbing was the incestuous trend in the majority of them. Another was child abuse.

    I was reminded of the Malayalam pornography that i had exposure to in my teens. Of course, the advent of internet and the flood of porn is another story altogether, but I do not remember reading the kind of child sex and incest that I found in this particular site.

    All you can do is to take care of your child. Educate him/her early enough. Spend as much time as you can with your child. Let money and career take a second seat.

  2. Dr Antony,

    I have become fond of your blog because it is always issue based. You picked another issue that needs to be addressed. Thanks for keeping us informed about these issues.

  3. That was a really strong post. . Many foreign pedophiles are comin to india because of the fact that our judicial system is very slow and lack of proper laws. . I hope it'l change soon. .

  4. its a good piece of information,I usually keep an eye on my kids and frequently ask him about anybody bully him or abusing him...Actually we need to talk to our children and try to keep them safe..negligence of any kind is harmful!

  5. This has always remained a critical issue always.your write up was impressive and elaborate ;staisticsof child abuse were surprising!I NEVER KNEW IT WOULD BE THT HIGH!I have a link for you ,it is really very nice.please take time to listen to this.

  6. Doc, I mentioned the Malayalam pornography to indicate the deeper dark tier of human psyche.

    One thing I omitted to note here is that the basic reason for child abuse is lack of parental attention and lack of an atmosphere of trust and love in the family. When children feel that they cannot confide or trust their parents, they seek out the 'sympathetic', who exploit them.

    Your post would be an important eye-opener to the younger readers; it would remind them not to take family values casually.

  7. @ Balachandran
    I understood your point and it is true as well.I have come across hundreds of pornography sites here,in spite of strict censoring.When you search for something,many of these sites come up.Recently I found in yahoo mail someone offering escort girls from Kerala!.
    I always tell my friends never to let children browse the net in privacy.It is safer kept at a common place at home,so that once in a while can be checked.
    I know many instances of molestations of children.Often the perpetrators are closest persons whom we blindly trust.Some are very sad stories.Children have curiosity,and they make use of it.It is really frightening.

  8. I appreciate for your wonderful and brilliant post.
    You are welcome at my new posts-

  9. Good information. Scary fact but true. I feel very strongly about child abuse. I wish more is done in terms of implementation of laws.

  10. Doc, you have taken up a subject that is far more pertinent than any other.
    And is very forcefully pleading .
    "Despite its ethos of non-violence, tolerance, spirituality ......., India hosts the world's largest number of sexually abused children, at a far higher rate than any other country", you thus quoted.The last is true about India , but are the matters of ethos any relevant or true about the society we live?
    Paedophilia and abuse of children I feel is a demoniacal crime that must be punished with the harshest of all retribution. There should be no room for such men or women to walk upon this earth.
    The redrafting of the law as you have noted may serve better in punishing the abuser and may deter to an extent better than now.
    However the premises and environment for abuse to happen may stay and must be squarely laid on the shoulder of the parents and also the near ones. When the child is emotionally distanced from the parents, the ground is laid for monsters who lurk with such intent to enter the confines of the child's world, and his/her misgivings, fear and loneliness. The damage begins to be inflicted there. And as you mentioned, leaving scars that may metamorphose into graver psychological problems in later life.
    In the present world of maniacal running for material wealth and comforts - people become so selfish and self centred that parents provide cursory or secondary preference to their child and his/her life. Regretting after is a matter that can be bust avoided , if only the child is seen as an extension of our self. And understand that his/her feelings are akin to what we may feel. And loneliness, happiness gotten out of love , or the lack of it , affection and care are of the same to a child as it is to us.

  11. Crime against children is so awful in any form but rape is at the top. We need to have our laws changed here also. Children can not protect themselves against a grown person, so we owe it to them to help with stiffer laws against those that commit these crimes. Thank you for bringing this subject to light. Most children are abused by people they know, this is so sad.

  12. its really scary to think even, but here mostly the parents are to blame,because many times it happens that if their child tells them about someone not good or their dislike, they brush it off without taking any notice.

  13. Frightening figures that require laws to be changed. Children are so vulnerable to the crimes that are inflicted upon them.

  14. Most of the parents in India are still not talking enough to their kids about the possible abuses from others or when to be suspicious or seek help. They themselves are ignorant about the seriousness of this issue. Or still living with the idea that everything that has this three word ‘S–E-X’, is taboo.
    The number, one out of three is so scary. I used to hate my father when he refused to let us go and stay with our relatives let alone a friend’s house.

  15. @A
    Thanks for the comment.Also partly because I have come across such problems in practice.
    Welcome to the blog.The issue of Pedophiles is at least well defined.Here we also have to deal with hidden predators!
    @ Harman
    It is a very difficult problem,Whom to trust and whom not.
    It is really. I didn't realize the seriousness till I had to deal with such issues.
    Thanks for the link.It is really unbelievable story."Victimizing the victim'.That lady really needs to be applauded.
    I am following your post!
    It is.We need tougher laws to deal with this.

  16. @Anil
    Your comment is stronger than the post. I understood your anger and fully agree.This is one instance where I wish we had radical punishments.
    With all the parental care,still such things happen.Being a doctor,and having come across many such issues,I still have seen very painful experiences in close families.The main difficulty is whom to trust and whom not.Our situations sometimes necessitate leaving children under care of someone whom we trust.And that some one becomes a sexual predator.
    It is indeed a demoniacal crime.
    Yes indeed. children are helpless victims.It is as if they are left open in the wild.
    Parents could be more careful.But whom to trust?
    Yes,frightening figures hard to believe. I had sent you a mail.
    In the past,it was hard to imagine such things.I remember going to my mother's house and staying for months during vacation.May be,attitudes were different those days.We are getting more aware. I could never let my children go anywhere unattended.Life is changing.

  17. @ All blogger friends
    Please watch the link which Raji has posted.
    it is worth.
    Thanks again,Raji.

  18. SO true SO TRUE... I wish law is stronger and more forced .. You have written exactly what my thoughts are.. and its not just there this is everywhere and so true its not the strangers kids are vulnerable most abuse is done by someone they know ...

    my blood boils capital punishment is what i wud love to see .. it breaks heart when a person is arrested and then some hot shot lawyer comes and on some bloody technical point makes sure the person walks free... how sad can it be ...


  19. Absolutely right. we need stricter laws and culprits need to be punished severely so that others are scared to repeat the same.

    I feel such sick people who abuse children need to be either executed or left to rot in jail for ever with out even parole. I read about a father who shot down his school going daughter's killer when he came out on parole. The guy was their neighbour and much elder to him. No one can blame that father.

    I would have done the same if some one hurt my daughter

  20. Good piece of information...All parents should have this awareness and educate their children in right perspective...
    The criminals should be punished severely , so that no one dares so..
    Tasty appetite

  21. @Bikram,Stranger and Jay
    All of you have the justifiable anger.I fully agree with this feeling.Children are ignorant and helpless.We need radical punishments to deal with this,not simple laws.Anyone can bypass our laws.

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. Useful post..Will be helpful for bringing awareness..
    When I am kid I remember 'child abuse' case on an American where the father is abusing his daughter..At that time I thought How sick Americans are??
    But lately I realized the bitter fact that it happens all over the world..Thanks for the info..


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