Every year, at least half of the street children in Bangalore suffer sexual abuse, but the incidents go unreported due to lack of awareness. Extensive consumption of drugs makes street children more vulnerable to sexual abuse.
According to a Nimhans study of 2010, which draws attention to the particular vulnerability of boys, “almost all of these children reported one or more incidents where they had either been forced into or paid for or offered drugs in exchange for sex.”
Rampant sexual abuse among street children has increased their risk of contracting HIV infection. In about 90 per cent cases of sexual exploitation, intoxicated male culprits do not use barrier contraception (condoms), despite the knowledge of using it. That makes the young victims vulnerable to HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases. It is feared that this may acquire epidemic proportions in future.
Despite the lack of accurate statistics on sexual abuse of children, the amount of sexual activity among the City’s street children has grown to approximately 51 per cent, according to the Nimhans study.
Most work in deplorable conditions; about 80 per cent of them sleep in open public places, making them vulnerable and exposed to the risk of being sexually exploited and drug abuse.
When officials of the Karnataka State Aids Prevention Society were contacted, they said that figures for street children who are HIV positive are unavailable, as the victims are highly mobile.
They, however, confirmed unofficially that HIV infection among street children had gone up drastically in the last five years.
Although many child rights protection groups such as Child Rights Committee, child welfare offices at police stations, State Child Protection Commission and district child protection units have come up, nothing has been done to provide proper shelter to street children under the Juvenile Justice Act, Sheela Devaraj, Director of the Association for Promoting Social Action, said. The government seems to be “careless” about the needs of these children, she said.
“As our surveys show, 90 per cent of the street children who were interviewed did not even know how the disease got transmitted or its symptoms and had contracted the virus through sexual abuse,” Devaraj said.
Many child rights activists complained that the police and the judiciary were not sensitive towards these children.
“Almost all the children (more than 90 per cent) had been abused, violated and exploited by policemen at some point of time in their lives,” the Nimhans report said.
Bosco, an NGO working for the development of children, reported that Bangalore had witnessed a rise of 40 per cent in the number of street children subjected to sexual exploitation in the past five years. Girls over the age of 15 have reported higher incidence of sexual abuse, whereas boys are sexually abused at a much younger age by their elder adult male group members.
Nagasimha Rao of the Child Rights Trust said that the increasing migration of children from neighbouring states to the City would deteriorate the situation in future. “It is a huge task to monitor this mounting number of children on the streets and give them protection. For their safety and security, the government needs to stop their migration,” he said.