A few days ago, a 10-year-old rape victim, whose abortion plea was turned down by the Supreme Court, delivered a baby through C-section at one of the government hospitals in north Indian city of Chandigarh. The news was shocking. But, it wasn’t the first such case in this great country. Child sex abuse is rampant in all parts of India.
Even a district like Dakshina Kannada, which is an education hub in country, has had 147 cases registered under Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act from 2014 to June 2017, out of which 13 were cases of pregnancy. Since the law allows termination of pregnancy only within 20 weeks, some of the minors had to deliver the babies and give them up for adoption.
Sexual abuse is traumatizing for anyone who goes through it, but for a child, the scars can run much deeper. Opening up about such horrific incidents is often very difficult for anybody, especially in an age where you are hardly aware of such things. Abuse by close family members and other familiar faces makes it all the more difficult. However, continuous awareness programmes such as workshops by concerned government departments and non-government originations, combined with the efforts of schools to educate children about “ill-intentioned” touches have helped many such incidents come to light.
In recent years, more and more teenagers and preteens are coming out about sexual abuse or violence faced by them. More and more cases on child abuse are even getting reported. Not just girls, even young boys facing sexual abuse have been talking about it lately.
“It is not that such incidents weren’t happening earlier. There is an increase in such incidents coming to light due to better awareness among children. It is important that we teach children what is safe and unsafe touch. Most of the victims are sexually abused by persons known to them. Victims have been counseled and sent to rehabilitation centers,” said K Nikesh Shetty, president of Child Welfare Committee, Daksina Kannada.
The highest number of cases registered on sexual abuse of minors in Dakshina Kannada district are from Sullia and Belthangady taluks that have large areas of woods. Children walking through such lonely roads are often easy to target as they are surrounded by thick vegetation. Nikesh said that the attacker commonly hides there, waits for the victim and drags them to the woods where they are assaulted.
The youngest child pregnancy was reported from Bantwal in 2014, where the survivor was a 9-year-old. She was assaulted by a neighbor and delivered a baby.
Another case of a 12-year old was found out when she broke down in front of the CWC officials during a workshop on Posco in Mangaluru. It was her uncle who had been abusing her for about a year. When medical examinations were conducted, the preteen was found to be four months pregnant. The uncle was arrested and jailed, while the baby delivered by her was given for adoption. She resumed her studies and is doing well now.
In yet another case, a teenager was forced into prostitution in Belthangady. 7 auto rickshaw drivers were booked under the Posco act for sexually assaulting her. The ASHA workers who visited her found an unusual growth of her body and medical examination revealed pregnancy. She is now in a rehabilitation center, her education and other facilities are being taken care of to ensure a decent life and earning conditions for her, said Nikesh. The good news is that law is getting tougher with such criminals and courts do not grant bails to such accused easily, he added.
Awareness programmes help children open up about sexual abuse in Dakshina Kannada