Maneka Gandhi Comes Out In Support Of A Petition For Gender-Neutral Child Sexual Abuse Laws
In 2017, activist and film-maker, Insia Dariwala, started a petition, “Order an in-depth study on male child sexual abuse in India #EndTheIsolation,” on change.org to Union Minister For Women & Child Development, Maneka Gandhi. In the petition, Insia shares hers and her husband’s personal trauma and appeals for a society which treats all child abuse victims the same way, regardless of gender. On Wednesday, Maneka Gandhi replied on the same platform that her ministry has been aware of Insia’s petition since September 2017, and she had instructed National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to “look into the issue of male survivors.”
As per a Ministry of Women and Child Development report titled, “Study on Child Abuse: India 2007,”
- 53.22% children reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse.
- Among them, 52.94% were boys and 47.06% girls.
- 50% abusers are persons known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility.
Any kind of child abuse is a heinous crime, however, Insia’s petition points out that male victims are “pressurised by society to pass off their sexual abuse as a rite of passage.” In fact, most people in our society scorn at the idea that men can be victims of sexual abuse too. Gender roles constrain men and boys from reporting such crimes for fear of being ridiculed and their sexuality being questioned. Even when reported, it is shrugged off as “sexual exploration” rather than “sexual exploitation” and young boys feel obligated to let go of the issue. The physical pain may fade but the emotional scars never truly heal, leading to a lifetime of silence and isolation.
Maneka Gandhi mentions that in an earlier NCPCR conference, results of a preliminary study conducted by Insia on 160 male survivors, showed a possible correlation between unresolved childhood trauma and increasing violence on children and women. If not properly addressed, victims can become perpetrators and thus, a never-ending cycle of violence in society. Insia and Adrian Philips of Justice and Care, have been invited by NCPCR to conduct a larger study on male survivors of child sexual abuse, with an initial focus on Observation Homes, and Special Needs Homes.
In her reply, the minister listed various initiatives under consideration such as, incorporating measures to help adult survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA) to report their abusers, and noted that “boys who are sexually abused as children spend a lifetime of silence because of the stigma and shame attached to male survivors speaking out.” NCPCR held a conference in November 2017, on International Child Rights Day, to find out solutions to male child sexual abuse problem and recommended that schemes to protect CSA survivors should be extended to victims of all genders. NCPCR is going to hold a follow-up conference this week to address holistically the different facets of CSA.
The Logical Indian take
Piece-meal reforms and populist laws, instead of focusing on underlying social issues, have become a trend in contemporary India. Child sexual abuse is a distressing reality and ground-level actions need to be undertaken so that reporting such crimes is easier and safer, followed by speedy trials. Also, awareness measures are a must because society often victimises and judges the victim while the abusers and predators roam freely.