The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Indian Medical Association (IMA) have joined hands to strengthen the response of medical practitioners in identifying, reporting and treating cases of child sexual abuse (CSA).
CSA is a widespread phenomenon and can cause lifelong consequences on the physical and mental health of a child. About 4.5 percent of girls aged 15-19 years have been subjected to sexual abuse. Boys are also exposed to sexual violence but usually to a less extent.
In 2012, India adopted the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, a comprehensive law which defines a child as any person below the age of 18. The Act applies to all cases of sexual assault on a child. It defines sexual offences as penetrative sexual assault, non-penetrative sexual assault, sexual harassment and use of a child for pornography.
Announcing the special partnership, UNICEF India and the IMA said that they will equip medical practitioners with a detailed understanding of diverse facets of child sexual abuse, along with relevant legal provisions. Medical practitioners are often the first point of contact in a child sexual abuse case, and are required to take prompt action to ensure immediate and effective treatment of the child.
The programme aims to build a nationwide cadre of doctor-trainers who can later disseminate the knowledge at different levels. Under the supervision of IMA state branches, these doctor-trainers will take the training forward to state and district levels. To assist these trainers, UNICEF has provided technical support to IMA for the preparation of a teaching manual and key messages for doctors. The focus will be to inform and implement 10-key action points about CSA that every doctor should know while handling cases of sexually abused children.
Speaking to reporters in New Delhi, David McLoughlin, UNICEF India Deputy Representative, said, “Violence against children is all too often unseen, unheard and under-reported. This partnership with the medical fraternity of the country will play a key role in strengthening the care for child survivors and in bringing new ideas and expertise to support our mission in generating awareness among medical and allied professionals”.
“Medical professionals have a critical role to play in the prevention, detection and response to sexual offences against children. They are often the first point of contact who come across a child abuse case and are required to take prompt action to ensure immediate and effective treatment of the child,” said Dr KK Aggarwal, Secretary General IMA.
“Every case of child sexual abuse has to be taken as medical emergency. Treatment has to be provided free of cost by the government as well as private medical facilities. In a case of sexual assault of a child, it is the legal duty of a doctor to give medical care, collect forensic evidence, report the offence to the police and give testimony in court if required. Under Section 166B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a doctor who refuses to perform a medical examination in a case of sexual assault can be punished with imprisonment up to one year and / or fine” are a few of the messages to be known by every doctor in the country, Dr. Aggarwal further added.
Supporting the initiative, Indian classical dancer and choreographer Sonal Mansingh, said, “All children have the right to live free from violence. Violence harms their physical and mental growth. I appeal to one and all to support the initiative whole-heartedly and respect their dignity and self esteem.”