Sexual violence is hard to quantify as it comes in many forms. Addressing sexual violence in India is difficult due to stigmas around gender and sexuality. Furthermore, victims of sexual violence are primarily children. Educating youth and providing resources for victims is crucial to reducing sexual violence in India.
Prevalence of Sexual Violence
India has a much lower rate of sexual assault cases than the United States. However, it is likely that most sexual assault incidents go unreported. This is due to social stigma, cultural expectations of marriage and the prevalence of sexual violence against children.
Less than 10% of sexual assault victims seek assistance from law enforcement. Due to limited law enforcement in rural areas, the police neglect around 100,000 reported rape cases per year. Additionally, only one-third of these cases lead to a conviction.
Sexual violence against children is rampant in India. A Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment study estimated that 53% of boys and 47% of girls experience sexual abuse during childhood. Girls are at high risk of suffering from sexual violence between the ages of 15 and 17. As a result, it is much less likely that victims will report the abuse they experience.
Child Marriage and Violence
It is common in India for girls to enter into arranged marriages at a young age. Around 45% of girls marry before reaching 18 years of age. Additionally, 22% have their first child before the age of 18. Victims of sexual violence often know their perpetrators. Furthermore, most husbands consider their wives property. As such, police frequently overlook cases of domestic violence.
Schools often neglect to teach students about sexual violence due to its taboo nature. A 2017 survey found that 15% of adolescents felt comfortable discussing sexuality with their parents. However, over half of the sample could not define what sex was.
Sexual education programs are becoming more common throughout India. Yet, these programs often do not discuss the nuances of sexual relationships and power dynamics between genders. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends implementing comprehensive sex education into curriculums. This curriculum helps delay the age at which young people enter into sexual relationships and reduces the number of sexual partners. This aids in preventing unplanned pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
The YP Foundation – Empowering Youth
The YP Foundation emerged in 2002 and works to educate young people in “feminist and rights-based leadership.” Know Your Body Know Your Rights (KYBKYR) is a program that provides a series of workshops for young students. This program is led primarily by young women who educate students about gender issues and safe sexual behavior. Every year, around 1,500 young people attend KYBKYR workshops that cover gender expression, relationships, violence, anatomy, body image, puberty, HIV, sexual orientation and discrimination.
SNEHA – Resources For Domestic Violence Victims
SNEHA is a nonprofit that emerged in 1999 with outreach programs that prevent, address and monitor abuse against women and children across India. One program includes five crisis centers and four women’s hospitals in Mumbai that provide counseling, medical attention and legal assistance. About 16,328 women have received counseling from this program.
Furthermore, SHENA uses mobile phone technology to collect data before, during and after treatments at these counseling programs. Thus, data points allow statisticians to assess the programs’ effectiveness.
Additionally, SNEHA has trained 7,915 law enforcement officers, 10,722 hospital staff and various other professionals on how to handle cases of sexual assault appropriately. SHENA has also helped pass the Women Against Domestic Violence Act in 2005 and the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offenses in 2012.
Combatting sexual violence in India requires refined education and adequate access to counseling for adolescents. Breaking down the communication barriers about sexuality and domestic violence is important in addressing this issue. An open discussion about cultural norms and the pervasiveness of sexual assault against children is necessary to create a safer place for everyone.
– Elise Brehob