Wednesday, 25 February 2015

UNICEF and Indian Medical Association partner against Child Sexual Abuse

UNICEF and Indian Medical Association partner against Child Sexual Abuse (CSA)
Launches 10-key action points about CSA, for medical practitioners

NEW DELHI, February 25, 2015:  UNICEF and the 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 is a widespread phenomenon and can cause lifelong consequences on the physical and mental health of a child In India, 4.5% of girls aged 15-19 have been subjected to sexual abuse [1]. 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 (Section 3), (non-penetrative) sexual assault (Section 7), sexual harassment (Section 11) and use of a child for pornography (Section 13).

Any sexual activity with a child is a crime.

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 (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 program 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 CSA that every doctor should know while handling cases of sexually abused children.

Addressing a press conference David McLoughlin, UNICEF India Deputy Representative, said, “Violence against children is all too often unseen, unheard and underreported. 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 Padma Shri Awardee Dr A Marthanda Pillai National President and Padma Shri Awardee Dr KK Aggarwal, Honorary Secretary General IMA in a joint statement.

“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 added Dr. Aggarwal.

Releasing the set of 10 key action points about CSA, for medical practitioners, Dr. Aggarwal added, “These messages will be distributed to more than 2.5 lakh medical doctors through 30 state level branches and 1700 district branches of IMA.”

Supporting the initiative, eminent Indian classical dancer and choreographer Padma Vibhushan Awardee, Dr. Sonal Mansingh said, “All children have the right to live free from violence. We believe that they are closer to God and therefore any violence on them is a sin. Violence harms their physical and mental growth. Violence against children is entirely preventable, when people come together and say that it is not acceptable. When they make the invisible visible. I appeal to one and all to support the initiative whole-heartedly and respect their dignity and self esteem.”

In addition to developing the capacities of medical practitioners, the two organizations, together with media partners, will pool resources to strategize and provide a platform to create a discourse on child sexual abuse in India.

This association is another step forward in UNICEF’s work to address violence against children and hence it also becomes a very important part of UNICEF’s campaign to ‘End Violence against Children’.

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.
Several other  celebrities have voiced their concern and pledged to protect children against violence. A video capturing voices of UNICEF celebrity Ambassadors and advocates was screened at the launch today.

Veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan, has called everyone to fight against child abuse, “Join us. Speak up,” he says in an audiovisual message. Madhuri Dixit Nene says, “Children deserve a serene childhood, without humiliation, suffering and violence.” Farhan Akhtar, director and actor, says, “Every single one of us knows there is violence and that it is perpetuated on the most helpless, fragile citizens amongst us all—children.” Ace cricketer Virender Sehwag says violence is never the answer to anything. It breaks children’s trust in you. Actor Priyanka Chopra says, “Children trust easily and that trust must never be broken.” She pledged to break the silence of every child who suffers alone. Kareena Kapoor Khan said, “Violence against children is no way to show concern or discipline.” To see, other celebrity pledges, please visit
The UNICEF-IMA project will also aim to advocate for training on child sexual abuse in the curriculum for medical students and doctors through Medical Council of India and the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare of the Government of India.

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