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Indian study reveals widespread child abuse Australia, April 9, 2007

It has been revealed more than half the number of Indian children questioned in a landmark survey were physically or sexually abused. India's Minister for Women and Child Development, Renuka Chowdhury, said the survey of 15,000 children and young adults across the country was the first attempt by the Government to document the extent of child abuse in India. "We always say our children are safe, we take good care of them -- these bad things don't happen here," Ms Chowdhury said.

"We never had any kind of introspection that this is not true."

Two out of three of the 12,446 respondents between the ages of five and 18 had been physically abused, which included slapping, kicking or beating with a stick, the study said, in most cases by parents or teachers.

More than 50 per cent had been sexually abused in ways that ranged from severe, such as rape or fondling, to milder forms of molestation that included forcible kissing.  The study also interviewed 2,324 young adults between the ages of 18 and 24, almost half of whom reported being physically or sexually abused as children.

A fifth of the child respondents had experienced severe sexual abuse, the study said, and in almost 80 per cent of the cases the abuser was a person well known by the child. Ms Chowdhury said a culture where children were taught to obey adults unconditionally and where there was a strong taboo on talking openly about sex contributed to the problem. 

"Quite often they end up being silent victims," she said. 

In 70 per cent of the cases of sexual abuse, the child told no one. The study was conducted in 13 states by Indian non-governmental group Prayas and backed by the UN's child welfare agency UNICEF and Save the Children Fund. Children, chosen at random, were questioned on the street, at jobs, in schools, in institutions and in their own homes. Of India's billion-plus people, more than a third are aged under 18.

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