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


14 thoughts on “Indian Child Abuse Statistics – What Can We Do?

  1. 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


  2. 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…:-)


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  5. 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

  6. 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. 🙂

  7. 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.

  8. Galactica, thank you for your extensive comments. I tend to agree with you, however I have critical observations. As far as I can see, the report (PDF) does provide detailed statistical break down of all kinds of abuse. Exposure to pornography is also separately studied with breakdown of gender, states, whether the exposure was by school friends or uncles/neighbors, etc. You will not find any such data collected anywhere before in India.

    I would disagree about your remark about children in the US: the exposure to pornography is extremely regulated in the US.

    The report does distinguish between all types of abuse, with unbelievable detail. I am not sure if you are looking at the same report.

    Finally, numbers that get attention are required in India if there is any change we can hope for.

  9. 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

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