A new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) has discovered that child abuse victims in India are often mistreated and humiliated by police.
The 82 report ‘Breaking the Silence: Child Sexual Abuse in India‘ (PDF) says that Indian authorities are failing to protect children.
Human Rights Watch conducted more than 100 interviews with victims of child sexual abuse, government officials and those who have dealt with cases of abuse, including doctors and social workers.
According to Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of HRW:
“Children who complain of sexual abuse are often dismissed or ignored by the police, medical staff, and other authorities.”
The report says that many are “mistreated a second time by traumatic medical examinations and by police and other authorities who do not want to hear or believe their accounts”.
The report also examines a ‘conspiracy of silence’ surrounding abuse cases:
The fear of attracting social stigma can result in families trying to cover up the most horrific treatment of children. In a village in Uttar Pradesh state, the mother of a twoyear-old girl walked in on her child being molested by a 17-year-old male second cousin. The parents of the girl wanted to file a case with the police, but were persuaded by the extended family as well as the police to settle the matter privately. Rather than having the perpetrator arrested, he was instead told to leave the village. “We know that a lot of abuse is happening but people don’t talk about it,” said Anand Prakash, a local social activist. “It is all related to respect and the dignity of the family. If it comes out, the
family will be disrespected.”
In recent years this “conspiracy of silence” has finally begun to break down, thanks to activists working on the rights of women and children, the small but growing number of NGOs that counsel survivors and raise awareness, and to the central government’s Ministry of Women and Child Development, which has taken a leadership role on the issue.