Child sex abuse is at least 10 per cent more among boys than girls. The cases are just not reported, according to activists.
The recent incident of a Class 4 student from a popular CBSE school in the city forced Bangaloreans to take note of the fact that male children are just as much in danger of being sexually assaulted as girls. In August, a boy was sodomised by his seniors at a four-day Scouts and Guides camp in Vasco, Goa.
“Parents are not as careful about their male children as they are about their girl children,” says Meena K Jain, chairperson, Child Welfare Committee (CWC). She stated that cases of boys undergoing abuse is much higher than girls, but not reported at all and attributes it to ignorance among parents.
Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Hemant Nimbalkar agrees. He says that boys aged 8 to 12 years were the most vulnerable to sexual abuse and parents should watch out for unwanted attachment towards certain elders. “The psycho-social setup completely sidelines the protection of boys and ‘virginity’ is always associated with girls only,” he said.
Jain said: “As much as parents take pains to teach their daughters that they could be sexually abused and molested, the boy child is never informed. The concept of child sexual abuse is highly gender-based. Only the girl child is focused upon, as she is the key reproductive individual.” Further, she pointed out: “When abused, the male child can be as physically hurt and traumatised as a girl child.”
Dr John Vijay Sagar, associate professor — Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) — said that there was an increasing trend of juveniles sexually abusing younger boys. “While it is assumed that a girl child is unsafe, some parents also hush it up when their male child may complain about sexual abuse because they think of the consequence: which is that a girl child may become pregnant, while a boy won’t,” he said. “When parents take a stance of disbelief, children are discouraged from disclosing their bad experiences.”
The abuse could occur among child labourers, kindergarten boys, in shops, schools and even at home. Abuse also occurs in institutions like detention homes, orphanages and residential care facilities.
In most cases the perpetrator is known to the child. “The abusers are all not men,” Jain warned.
As boy children may not think it appropriate to cry, and are less open about their feelings, they may not open up to their parents, she added.
Cultural and social reasons force parents to think that protecting a daughter is more important than protecting a son, former DG & IGP S T Ramesh said.
“It is generally believed that only girls need protection and boys do not. So, we take their security for granted. We protect only our girl children and ignore the fact that our boys may be abused by a person who enjoys the confidence of the family and the child himself,” he said.
Although there is no data being collected presently of the number of child abuse cases in the state, the only available data is Prayas - a 2007 study on child abuse by the Ministry of Women and Child Development done across 13 states. Of the 12,447 child respondents, 53.22 percent reported facing one or more forms of sexual abuse. Of these, 52.94 percent were boys and 47.06 percent girls.
When a study was done on severe forms of sexual abuse which included sexual assault, children being forced to fondle private parts and exhibit their own private body parts and photographing them in the nude, it was found that the percentage of male victims was 57.3 and 42.7 percent were girls - a clear margin of almost 15 percent.
“Contrary to general perception, the overall percentage of boy victims was much higher that girls. Of the 13 states that were surveyed, nine states reported higher percentage of sexual abuse among boys compared to girls,” said the report, that surveyed children aged between 5 and 18 years.