UNICEF and the Indian Medical Association (IMA) have joined hands to help medical practitioners identify, report and treat cases of child sexual abuse.
Child sexual abuse is a widespread phenomenon and can cause life-long consequences on the physical and mental health of a child. In India, 4.5 per cent of girls aged between 15-19 have been subjected to sexual abuse. Boys are also exposed to sexual violence but 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 and defines sexual offences as penetrative sexual assault (Section 3), (non-penetrative) sexual assault (Section 7), sexual harassment (Section 11) and use of a child for pornography (Section 13).
Announcing the special partnership, UNICEF India and IMA said they will equip medical practitioners with a detailed understanding of diverse facets of child sexual abuse (CSA), 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 nation-wide 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 child sexual abuse that every doctor should know while handling such cases.
“Medical professionals have a critical role to play in the prevention, detection and response to sexual offences against children,” said A Marthanda Pillai president, and Dr KK Aggarwal, secretary general, IMA.
“In a case of sexual assault on 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,” added Dr Aggarwal.
Releasing the set of 10-key action points about child sexual abuse for medical practitioners, Dr Aggarwal said, “These messages will be distributed to more than 2.5 lakh doctors through 30 state level branches and 1,700 district branches of IMA.”
Launched by UNICEF as a global initiative, the ‘End Violence against Children’ campaign builds on the growing consensus that violence against children can no longer be tolerated and that serious attention and collective action are required to reduce violence against children.