Hindustan Times, Nandini R Iyer, New Delhi, March 9, 2007
Every second child in India has suffered some form of abuse finds the world's largest-ever study on child abuse. Conducted by Prayaas with support from Unicef and the Department of Women and Child Development, the study, which interviewed 17,000 children and such stakeholders as teachers and NGOs, reports that over 50 per cent children interviewed reported some form of physical, sexual or economic abuse.
At least 25 per cent respondents had been sexually abused - 30 per cent of them by family members of relatives - finds the National Study on Child Abuse. Forty per cent of all children interviewed said they were subjected to physical violence, and five per cent of these said they had resorted to substance abuse to cope with being battered regularly. The year-long study that covers 13 states including Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Goa and Madhya Pradesh concluded in December 2006. Findings were submitted early this year to the government which is expected to make the study public by the end of the month. "The findings are indeed very serious," said a senior official with the Department of Women and Child Development. "We were aware that there is a problem of child abuse in the country which is why we participated in the study." Based on the study, the department will be asking the Planning Commission for Rs 2,000 crore in the 11th Plan (as against Rs 215 crore in the last plan) for various child protection schemes, said sources. "This study will act as a base for various legislations and schemes," said senior police officer Amod Kanth, who is the founder secretary of Prayaas.
"Child protection is a matter of serious concern," he said, but refused to discuss the findings of the study. Significantly, the study also notes that by the government's own admission, 35 million homeless children in India need protection. But only an abysmally low 35,000 are actually placed in shelters provided by the government and non-government organisations.