Monday, 26 March 2007

Close to 50 per cent of children face some form of abuse, says study

THE HINDU - 21st March, 2007

Special Correspondent
`It cuts across economic, social, and class barriers'

  • Menace defined under different categories
  • Child protection a low priority area

NEW DELHI: Child abuse is widely prevalent in the country and close to 50 per cent face some forms of exploitation irrespective of their background, according to the National Child Abuse Study, the first of its kind on child abuse.

Conducted by Prayas, a Delhi-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) for the Ministry of Women and Child Development, in collaboration with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and Save the Children Fund, the study suggests that 30 per cent are sexually abused by relatives or known persons, nearly 50 per cent are emotionally abused, 40 per cent physically and 60 per cent economically (including child labour).

"This is the largest study on child abuse in India and the findings are being analysed by a Drafting Committee set up by the Women and Child Development Ministry before a final conclusion is arrived at," Prayas general secretary, Amod Kanth told The Hindu .

Until now it was presumed that child abuse was prevalent only among street children or those in juvenile homes and orphanages.

But the study has shown that it cuts across economic, social, and class barriers. Only the forms of abuse are different, Mr. Kanth said.

While a child born in a well-to-do family may not face economic and physical abuse, he or she is prone to sexual and emotional abuse, the ones born under difficult conditions are vulnerable to all kinds of exploitation, he explained.

The study, likely to be released by the end of this month, will be presented when the United Nations reviews the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) later this year.

According to the survey, more than 40 per cent of the children have faced corporal punishment and at least 5 per cent of the respondents have resorted to substance (drugs) to cope with the sexual or physical trauma they were subjected to.

Child abuse has been defined under different categories such as emotional that includes gender-based discrimination; sexual abuse that can range from fondling to rape; economic abuse as forced labour and physical abuse when force is used by people in position, be it parents or teachers.

Covering 13 States including Delhi, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Kerala, Bihar, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, the survey interacted with about 16,800 children. Of these 13,000 were below 18 years, 3000 young adults (18-25 years) and about 800 stakeholders like the NGOs and those involved with children's issues.

The study clearly brings out that child protection is a low priority area in the country with only a minuscule percentage of the annual expenditure (Rs. 215 crore last year) being spent on children.

Rs. 2,000 crore sought for scheme

However, this time round the Women and Child Development Ministry has sought Rs. 2,000 crore under the Eleventh Five Year Plan for implementation of the ambitious Integrated Child Protection Scheme.

The study is expected to pave the way for the speedy implementation of the Scheme. There are close to 35 million children in the country living under difficult conditions, one-third of whom are destitute. In contrast, the total availability of shelters in the government and private sector is only for 36,500 children.

Importantly, there is hardly any provision for children in the age group of 6-18 years while those below 6 years are covered under the Integrated Child Development Scheme.

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