India child sex victims ‘humiliated’ by police: HRW

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Child victims of sexual abuse in India are often mistreated and humiliated by police, the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a new report published on Thursday.
It said the Indian government’s systems to deal with the issue of abuse were inadequate, adding that sexual abuse was “disturbingly common” in Indian homes, schools and care homes. Reports say more than 7,200 children, including infants, are raped every year in India. Child rights activists believe many more cases go unreported.
A government study in 2007 reported that two of every three children in India were physically abused and that 53 percent of the nearly 12,300 surveyed children reported one or more forms of sexual abuse. The 82-page report – Breaking the Silence: Child Sexual Abuse in India – was released in the Indian capital, Delhi, on Thursday morning.
It said the authorities were failing to protect children both from sexual abuse and also when it came to treating the victims. “Children who bravely complain of sexual abuse are often dismissed or ignored by the police, medical staff, and other authorities,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of HRW. The report said many children were “mistreated a second time by traumatic medical examinations and by police and other authorities who do not want to hear or believe their accounts”.
It said the government efforts to tackle the problem, including new legislation to protect children from sexual abuse, would also fail “unless protection mechanisms are properly implemented and the justice system reformed to ensure that abuse is reported and fully prosecuted”. Campaigners say children were sexually abused by relatives, neighbours, at school and at care homes for orphans and that most of the cases go unreported because in India’s traditional system, parents and families were afraid of attracting social stigma.
In May last year, India’s parliament passed the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act which, for the first time ever in the country, made all forms of child sexual abuse a criminal offence. But campaigners say that better laws alone will not help – what is needed is a change in the prevailing social attitudes and the way the police, medical officials and the judiciary deal with cases of sexual abuse of children.