NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Sexual violence against children remains a taboo subject in India despite reports of children being raped, molested and trafficked for sex surging by almost 70 percent in the latest data, activists and government officials said on Tuesday.
There were 14,913 reported sex crimes committed against children in 2015 against 8,904 the previous year, says the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in the most recent published figures. These include rape, molestation, exploitation for pornography, and trafficking minors for sex.
But in India's socially conservative society, it remains ignored within families and communities, where victims are afraid to come forward for fear of being blamed for the abuse.
"From all the types of violence that we talk about when it comes to children's safety, this is the one that is least mentioned. This is the one with a 'hush hush' attitude around it," said Razia Ismail from the India Alliance for Child Rights.
"We are told not to talk about it as it will ruin and dishonour the family's reputation. But if we don't prevent it, doesn't it dishonour our society, doesn't it dishonour India?"
Ismail, who was speaking at the launch of a campaign by the charity World Vision to end child sexual abuse in India, called for civil society groups, the government and the public to break the silence around sexual abuse in order to end it.
Child sex abuse is widespread in India. A 2007 government survey found that 53 percent of children had faced one or more forms of sexual abuse, but few reported the assault to anyone.
The NCRB data in 2015 showed that almost 95 percent of child sex abuse crimes were committed by people known to the victims such as parents, relatives, neighbours and teachers.
The Indian media has in recent years voraciously reported cases of child rapes and other incidences of sexual violence against minors, but in most homes and schools, children are not given any type of sex education, say activists.
World Vision India Director Cherian Thomas said the charity's campaign would target five million children across India over the next five years.
"A lot of the work will be in the community because a lot of the abuse happens within the home," said Thomas. It will be in prevention, it will be in awareness, it will be in getting children to learn to say 'no'."
(Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)