Growing increasingly aware of molestation and sexual assault of young boys, the civic body will soon set up ‘Nirbhaya’ centres that, apart from providing medico-legal, surgical and psychological counseling to women victims, will also specifically cater to adolescent boys who have been subjected to such assaults.
Director of medical education and tertiary-care hospitals Dr Suhasini Nagda said the standard operating procedures for the centres that are scheduled to be set up in the three tertiary-care hospitals — KEM, Sion and Nair, had been finalised. “The budget allocation has also been done by the corporation. They will start functioning soon,” Nagda said.
According to activists, sexual violence to be addressed by the centres will include cases that pertain to a range of acts, such as showing pornographic videos and inappropriate touching.
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The centres are set to open up just when doctors at the three main civic-run hospitals in the city have noticed a gradual rise in the number of cases in which young boys are victims of sexual abuse. At Nair Hospital alone, head of the forensics department Dr Sailesh Mohite admitted that every month one or two such cases crop up.
“It is not common to find cases of boys being sexually molested. But it might be happening and not getting reported as well. The collection of medical evidence is the almost the same for male and female except that in case of boys, we do not fear pregnancy,” Mohite said.
While no figures are available with either the police or BMC on the number of cases where boys are physically abused, Mumbai Police spokesperson DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni said such cases are dealt with under Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSOA). “We feel that the reportage of young boys being molested is higher than girls, as families are willing to disclose the case to the police,” he countered.
Experts, however, are divided on the issue. Chitra Joshi, from NGO Dilasa Centre, said such cases are higher in slum and slum-like areas where boys aged less than 10 years are the usual targets.
“In several cases, parents ignore the child’s complaints of physical abuse until health complications such as abdomen pain, difficulty in excretion or injuries surface. That’s when hospital investigations reveal the assault,” she said.
She said that although reported cases of boys being sexually abused are few, the number cannot be ignored. “Of the total sexual assault cases, 50 per cent are that of children. Cases of boys may be less than 25 per cent. Under the POCSOA Act, we counsel both – boys and girls,” she added.
The BMC has now decided to locate these centres close to the out-patient department at each hospital, but not directly in public view, to allow some privacy to the survivor. At Sion hospital, the one-point crisis centre is located on the first floor of the post-mortem centre. “We will shift it to a better location,” Nagda said.
A woman in-charge will also be allocated to each centre. “At the centre, the survivors will be given the necessary medical intervention and counseling. In some cases, they will also be provided legal help,” Nagda added.