National

Need to help boys disclose sexual abuse, say activists

Smriti Irani. File  

The government informed Parliament last week that the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) will for the first time collect gender disaggregated data on sexual assaults against children. But activists say that for this to be a success, a lot will have to be done to ensure boys or transgender children open up about sexual abuse.

Gender distinction

“I am informed by the officers who serve NCRB that earlier cases did not make a referral to the gender of the victim. Hence, to refine the data now, States are being implored to ensure that a distinction in terms of gender can be made between a male victim and a female victim, so that in terms of rehabilitation and other support facilities given to that victim,” Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani said in the Rajya Sabha last week.

In fact, the NCRB started the exercise of collecting data for crimes under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences, 2012 (POCSO), against girls, boys and transgender children in 2018, according to the forms sent that year to States for collection of data. Social activists rue the delay in making this important information public. The last annual report on crime statistics was made public in 2017 for the year 2016.

“Though the gender-wise data collection on victims of sexual abuse is a welcome move, the government needs to release the crime reports since 2017,” said Prabhat Kumar, Head of Child Protection, Save The Children.

‘Equally vulnerable’

He adds, “The need for gender-disaggregated data was felt following a nationwide study in 2007, which showed that the number of boys who were victims of sexual abuse was slightly more than those of girls. Up to the age of 13-14 years, boys and girls are equally vulnerable and maybe boys are more vulnerable because of the myth that they are not abused.”

The Study on Child Abuse in 2007, commissioned by the government, surveyed 12,447 children in 13 States and found that 53.22% of them had faced one or more forms of sexual abuse. Of these, 52.94% were boys and 47.06% were girls. Only 5.69% of the victims had reported being sexually assaulted and most children did not report the matter to anyone.

The reluctance among children, especially boys, to disclose sexual abuse shows that the government needs to cover a lot of ground before the NCRB exercise can yield the desired results, say activists.

“We have seen from data collected through RTI (Right to Information) that there is hardly any reporting by boys of sexual abuse. The government must focus on ensuring a congenial environment for boys to disclose sexual assault and erode into the social constructs which deter boys from doing so. It can do this by not focussing exclusively on the girl child every time it talks about sexual violence. It must recognise in its messaging that all children, including transgender children, are vulnerable to sexual abuse,” said Vidya Reddy, founder, Tulir-Centre for Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse.

During the debate in Parliament on amendments to POCSO, Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien spoke of how, at the age of 13 in a public bus, someone ejaculated on his shorts. Mr. O’Brien said he did not talk about the incident for “six, seven years” before finally telling his parents.

Missing data

The RTI data collected by Tulir on the number of cases that reached the POCSO courts in Tamil Nadu showed that four districts didn’t provide any details, another four said they had zero cases, and the remaining 22 showed a mere 28 cases in a span of six years between November 2012 and September 2018.

Bharati Ali, co-founder, HAQ-Centre for Child Rights, said that along with gender, it is necessary to have age, caste, religion, ethnicity of victims and perpetrators as well as similar parameters for cases disposed of by courts.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2021 8:37:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/need-to-help-boys-disclose-sexual-abuse-say-activists/article28739509.ece

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