Indian Child Abuse Statistics — What Can We Do?

After cen­turies of being shoved under the car­pet, the truth is out. And we, as Indi­ans, should stop, hold our breath, drop our heads in shame, and intro­spect.

Here are the promi­nent facts:

  • India has the largest num­ber of chil­dren (375 mil­lion) in the world, near­ly 40% of its pop­u­la­tion
  • 69% of Indi­an chil­dren are vic­tims of phys­i­cal, emo­tion­al, or sex­u­al abuse (or read it as every 2 out of 3)
  • New Del­hi, the nation’s cap­i­tal, has an abuse rate of over 83%
  • 89% of the crimes are per­pe­trat­ed by fam­i­ly mem­bers
  • Boys face more abuse (>72%) than girls (65%)
  • More than 70% of cas­es go unre­port­ed and unshared even with parents/family

What can we do? Here are my thoughts:

  • Edu­cate our chil­dren about sex. While state gov­ern­ments are on a spree to ban sex edu­ca­tion in schools, we can make a dif­fer­ence our­selves. If you are par­ents, edu­cate your child about appropriate/inappropriate behav­ior, when to trust whom and how much, how to speak their mind out, etc. This can be (and should be) much before the “birds and bees” edu­ca­tion.
  • If you are not par­ents your­selves, but know and care about oth­er fam­i­lies of friends and rel­a­tives, open up this top­ic for dis­cus­sion and encour­age the par­ents to do what is right.
  • If you leave your child at a creche, play-house, or use baby-sit­ters, care­ful­ly screen such places and peo­ple. Talk to oth­er par­ents who have used their ser­vices before. Be safe and sure rather than trust blind­ly. I know nurs­eries in India who use opi­um or oth­er nar­cot­ic drugs to put babies and chil­dren to sleep so they can be man­aged (and usu­al­ly abused) eas­i­ly. If you think this is not true, talk to any child coun­selor or child care social work­er in any Indi­an metro, who will edu­cate you about the truth.
  • If you think talk­ing about sex is dif­fi­cult for you, don’t just be embar­rassed, shrug it off, and give it up. Many par­ents don’t know their chil­dren are vic­tims, and live in a fan­ta­sy world of “noth­ing like that would ever hap­pen to my child”. Talk to your par­ents in order to under­stand what dif­fi­cul­ties they had to face cul­tur­al­ly when bring­ing you up. That may give clues to how to over­come cul­tur­al taboos.
  • Change the “Elders are author­i­ty, always right, always to be respect­ed” cul­ture to “Elders are always to be respect­ed, unless they act wrong­ly” cul­ture. This atti­tude, for cen­turies, has encour­aged the per­pe­tra­tors of such crimes, and would be the most dif­fi­cult to change. But it’s nev­er too late to start.
  • Be sen­si­tive to your friends, fam­i­ly, and acquain­tances. Some of them may be vic­tims of a dark past. Be a friend and couselor for them if they ever need your sup­port.
  • Mon­i­tor, screen, and fil­ter if nec­es­sary, the way your chil­dren use the Net. Teach them about the impor­tance of pri­va­cy when using instant mes­sag­ing, email, or social net­work­ing sites. As a corol­lary, if you know par­ents who are not Net-savvy, but have bought a PC and net access at home for their chil­dren, teach the par­ents about the dan­gers asso­ci­at­ed with pornog­ra­phy and the Net. Not being savvy them­selves, they may be naive or not knowl­edge­able.
  • Talk and share your expe­ri­ences with oth­er par­ents. Let us learn from each oth­er, and do our best to make soci­ety safer for our chil­dren.
  • Final­ly, spread the word. Spread the aware­ness. We owe it to the next gen­er­a­tion.

With the knowl­edge that our chil­dren know the basic facts to safe­guard them­selves, we can at least hope to hold our heads high once again.

Fur­ther read­ing:

Hid­den Dark­ness: Child Sex­u­al Abuse in India

Sex, Lies, and Chil­dren

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  • Jay Khi­mani

    Hi Mahen­dra,

    As we dis­cuss­es, this is real­ly a very thought giv­ing arti­cle. Apart from the ideas you shared on what we can do, prob­a­bly you should post this arti­cle on oth­er blogs also or pass the link to oth­er blogs. Prob­a­bly the fastest way to pass the awak­ing thoughts


  • Hi Jay,

    Well, I hope I could’ve post­ed or passed the link to oth­er blogs, but can’t do that…not direct­ly, at least.

    I’m glad to have made at least some­one care about this issue…:-)


  • this is a great piece.
    astound­ing and heart­break­ing.

  • A nice approach Mahen­dra. Help­ful sug­ges­tions.

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  • Gina

    We are start­ing a project on Child Sex­u­al abuse and your arti­cle came up in a search. Could you give us ref­er­ences for the fig­ures quot­ed here and oth­er read­ing mate­r­i­al for the same

  • hi, its real­ly a won­der­ful infor­ma­tion

  • Mahen­dra, this is a very prac­ti­cal, use­ful post.

    When you wrote a com­ment about it in my blog first time, I want­ed to search for this post in your blog. I am glad you shared the link with me. 🙂

  • galac­ti­ca

    I was just read­ing the report (2 years late, I know). I do not know if there are new reports re: this, but this is def­i­nite­ly a step in the right direc­tion.

    A close read­ing of the report indi­cates many areas where fur­ther data is urgent­ly need­ed. For exam­ple, the report high­lights a shock­ing statistic—53% of chil­dren are sex­u­al­ly abused. One would think this means that almost every­one in India deserves to be in jail.

    But there is a prob­lem. Chil­dren are defined to be <18 (16? years). By the method­ol­o­gy in the study, I would guess the num­ber of sex­u­al­ly abused chil­dren in the US will be close to 100%—the study con­sid­ers “expo­sure to pornog­ra­phy” even by class­mates as sex­u­al abuse. This is my opin­ion is also the rea­son the per­cent­age of sex­u­al abuse is so high—and it clouds the claim that boys are abused more than girls.

    The report also does not dis­tin­guish haz­ing and child mar­riage from sex­u­al abuse—I am not say­ing haz­ing and child mar­riage should be tol­er­at­ed. Far from it. The way you act on the report becomes entire­ly different—just telling me 53% makes me want to put every­one in jail, telling me haz­ing is respon­si­ble means we fix our schools and col­leges, telling me child mar­riage is respon­si­ble means we pour more resources into edu­cat­ing our chil­dren and women.

    Per­son­al­ly, I would pre­fer future stud­ies use con­trol groups in oth­er coun­tries to val­i­date the num­bers. While I com­mend the zeal of those involved, it is impor­tant to paint a action­able pic­ture. Num­bers like 53% get you atten­tion, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t help any­one oth­er than those want­i­ng to use stud­ies like this as a weapon.

  • aaun

    hi we r sta­trt­ing a study about child abuse aware­ness among pro­fe­sion­als Could you give us ref­er­ences for the fig­ures quot­ed here and oth­er read­ing mate­r­i­al for the same . it would be help­ful for me to car­ry out the study

  • neha

    hi, this is an astound­ing arti­cle about child abuse in India. I am writ­ing a paper on a relat­ed issue. i would real­ly appre­ci­ate it if u could answer some ques­tions for me-
    -Have sim­i­lar surveys/work been done more recent­ly, because there isnt much that i found with more recent data
    -Which are the agen­cies that do these pri­ma­ry sur­veys? this infor­ma­tion is impor­tant for val­i­dat­ing the authen­tic­i­ty of the data col­lect­ed.
    Thank you

    • Neha,

      See the steps 1–3 and link in my oth­er com­ment. These stud­ies are car­ried out by the Min­istry of Women and Child Devel­op­ment.

  • Vis­it­ing your blog again. my thoughts on the issue .do read and leave your views