End Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation in India

Target: Government of India

Goal: End the sexual abuse of children in India

Following the gang rape and murder of a New Delhi student in December 2012, a recently conducted Human Rights Watch study entitled “Breaking the Silence: Child Sexual Abuse in India” has concluded that Indian homes, schools, and residential facilities are fraught with instances of child sexual abuse. The authors of the Human Rights Watch report analyzed case studies to determine the Indian government’s role in protecting children and preventing abuse. Researchers conducted over 1000 interviews with child abuse victims and their relatives, government officials, independent experts, police officers, doctors, social workers, and other professionals associated with child sexual abuse cases. At its heart, the report reveals a fundamental, systemic failure on the part of India’s state and local communities to protect children from widespread and rampant sexual abuse.

The Indian government must address the widespread sexual exploitation and abuse of children as a part of broader reform efforts targeting women’s rights. After the New Delhi attack, a government appointed committee found that India’s child protection programs “have clearly failed to achieve their avowed objective.” Similarly, a 2007 government study found that nearly two out of every three Indian children are physically abused; of the 12,300 children surveyed, nearly 53% of them reported one or more forms of sexual abuse. Other reports have claimed that nearly 7,200 of India’s children are sexually abused each year.

Although child abuse and neglect have proven to be reoccurring problems throughout the world, India’s criminal justice system, inefficient bureaucracy, and contempt for victims’ rights have created an unparalleled level of indifference and exploitation within Indian society. For instance, the Human Rights Watch report claimed that a vast majority of child sexual abuse victims were either mistreated or humiliated by government officials, doctors, and police. In many other instances, abuse goes unreported—reflecting the social and cultural stigma of coming out publicly with the abuse. Both the victim and family share fears of shame and humiliation if the abuse is reported.

The widespread sexual and physical abuse India’s children must come to an end. Study upon study has concluded that both the state and local levels of government have failed to protect and prevent children from being sexually abused. The Indian government must pursue substantive reform that will help fix a broken system, and end the continual cycle of victim blaming, inaction, and indifference shown by government officials.


Dear President Pranab Mukherjee,

Over the past several years, numerous government-sponsored and privately funded studies have concluded that Indian children are being subjected to horrific sexual exploitation and abuse. An Indian government-sponsored study in 2007 found that nearly two out of every three children are physically abused. Similarly, of the 12,300 children surveyed, 53% reported suffering from some form of sexual abuse. Furthermore, a recently published Human Rights Watch report has concluded that India’s criminal justice system, inefficient bureaucracy, and other government-funded programs have failed to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse. Reform of India’s criminal justice system must be coupled with effective legislation as to ameliorate your government’s indifference and inaction toward child sexual abuse.

The Indian government can no longer stand idly by as its children are sexually and physically abused. Prevent sexual exploitation and abuse by enacting stricter inspection laws in orphanages, hospitals, and police stations. A zero tolerance policy may also help change the cultural and social stigma of reporting abuse.

As a party to the core international human rights treaties protecting children, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Child, and the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the India government has a responsibility to protect its women and children from sexual and physical abuse.


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