Boys and girls on the street are vulnerable to sexual abuse

One in every four street children in the metropolitan cities of India is a victim of some form of substance abuse and over half of such children living in difficult conditions are illiterate.

A new study has shown that boys and girls on the street are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse by strangers, adult street dwellers and at times by family members. It also reveals that nearly 86 per cent of boys in the age group 14-18 years are sexually active; however, a very low number of them knew about safe sex protection and condom usage.

According to a study brought out by the Assocham Ladies League on “Situational Analysis of Street Children in Metro Cities,” covering 2,000 kids has revealed children in metros are victims of one or other substance abuse, including inhalants (35 per cent), alcohol (12 per cent), cannabis (16 per cent), chewing tobacco and gutka (16 per cent) and smoking (21 per cent).

Mockery of RTE

One out of every five children is involved in rag picking. The study also revealed that 52 per cent of the street children are not literate. This percentage makes a mockery of the Right to Education Act which makes elementary education a constitutional entitlement for every child between the ages of 6 and 14 years, the study said.

The study done between May 2013 and June 2013 revealed that one out of every five (20 per cent) of the street children is involved in rag picking, followed by street vending (15 per cent), begging (12 per cent), working on road side repair shops (12 per cent), dhabas/hotels (6 per cent) and those employed in manufacturing units comprise a mere 2 per cent.

Spine-chilling

The national Capital is home to over 1,00,000 street children followed by Mumbai (1,25,000), Bangalore (1,10,000), and Kolkata (85,000) reveals the Assocham latest study. North Delhi has the highest concentration of street children at 55,000 of a total figure of over 1 lakh estimated to be living in the city, Harbeen Arora, chairperson, ALL, said that the statistics are spine-chilling.

Over 49 per cent of the street children slept in slums, 46 per cent in open or public places and only 4 per cent slept in shelters provided by non-governmental organisations or the government and 30 per cent slept in other places including under flyovers and bridges, railway platforms, bus stops, parks, and market places. Most of the minors (about 6-12 years) start with tobacco and graduate to inhalants when older. By the time they are 13, they would have moved on to alcohol. They also experiment with illicit drugs like cannabis and brown sugar, at this age, adds the report. Those using inhalants included girls also.

The Assocham estimated that there were around 6-8 lakhs street children in cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Kanpur, Bangalore, Kolkata and Hyderabad and around 1, 25,000 in Delhi alone.

Most of them unemployed

Majority of them are unemployed (44 per cent), managing their drug use expenses through stealing (47 per cent), are dropped out of the school after 5th Standard (47 per cent), staying with family (50 per cent), daily meeting their family members (41.7 per cent), have average relationship with family (38.9 per cent), have drug using friends (92 per cent).

Majority of them are earning between Rs. 100 to Rs. 300 per day, the money was spent mainly on procuring food, drugs and clothes, in this order.

Most of them migrants

The study reflects that most of the families of street children are migrants. They have migrated from small places in the hope of employment and have been staying here for number of years. The families have moved from Bihar, Rajasthan, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh to metro cities for survival and also to have better means of earning.