Children with disabilities (intellectual and physical) are 20 to 30 times more at the risk of being exposed to abuse, according to Shaibya Saldanha, founder of Enfold Proactive Health Trust.
Delivering a lecture on ‘Sexual abuse on children — solutions and the role of law as part of the child rights in action lecture series here on Wednesday, she spoke about the likely victims of child abuse.
A child of the “wrong gender” — more often than not a girl born into a family that was expecting a boy — is predisposed to abuse, Dr. Saldanha said, in addition to children with disabilities. “We have seen 14 to 15-year-old mentally challenged pregnant girls, some of who don’t even know they are pregnant. They are taken advantage of because they can’t report,” she explained.
Abusers, who are careful observers, target transgenders too, especially during the period of confusion for them as they discover their identity, she said.
Profiling the abusers, she cited figures from the Women and Child Welfare Department, Prayas and Unicef’s 2007 report, in which 12,447 children in 13 States were interviewed. Among these, two in three children admitted to being physically abused. While 88 per cent said they faced some form of abuse by parents, 65 per cent were also abused by teachers in the form of corporal punishment. As much as 21 per cent were victims of severe sexual abuse. Expressing discontent over the low conviction rate, Dr. Saldanha said of the children who are victims of abuse, only three out of 100 report it. Of those who report, only about 3 per cent will go to the court. Among these too, there are hardly any convictions, she said.
She criticised the way the three-and-a-half-year-old daughter of French diplomat, Pascal Mazurier, who was allegedly raped by her father, was made to undergo more than one medical test to confirm abuse.
The episode calls for introspection on how such cases should be handled, she said, suggesting that a unit consisting of child-friendly doctor, nurse, counsellor and lawyer, among others, be appointed to handle child abuse cases.