A human rights group has published a new report that says child sexual abuse in India is "disturbingly common."
In its report entitled Breaking the Silence: Child Sexual Abuse in India
, Human Rights Watch examines how government responses are falling short, both in protecting children from sexual abuse and in treating the victims.
HRW's South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly says children who complain of sexual abuse are often dismissed or ignored by the police, medical staff and other authorities.
The rights group says India's criminal justice system needs "urgent reform" in its handling of child sexual abuse, from the time a complaint is lodged with police until the trial.
The report says the sexual abuse of children in residential care facilities is a "particularly serious problem" for India. It describes inspections of the facilities as "inadequate" in most parts of the country. It also says the government has "neither a record of all the orphanages and other institutions operating in the country, nor a list of the children they are housing."
HRW welcomed the enactment in 2012 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act. The organization notes that under the new law all forms of child sexual abuse are now specific criminal offenses for the first time in India. It also provides for the establishment of special child courts.
More than 100 people were interviewed for the report, including victims of child sexual abuse and their relatives, government child protection officials and independent experts, police officers, doctors, social workers and lawyers who have handled cases of child sexual abuse.