Child sexual abuse in India: A systematic review


Child sexual abuse in India: A systematic review examines qualitative and quantitative data on child sexual abuse in India. It was published on October 9, 2018, by PLOS ONE – a peer-reviewed, open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science, California.

Quoting a 1999 report by the World Health Organization, the paper defines child sexual abuse as “…the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society.”

The paper studies the prevalence, determinants and impact of child sexual abuse across genders and seeks to identify the gaps in current research on the subject. It finds that child sexual abuse is rampant among both girls and boys in India – “grounded in the interplay between individual, family, community, and societal factors.” Men engaging in homosexual acts, sex work professionals and women with psychiatric disorders are more likely to have suffered such abuse as children.

The 32-page paper reviews 51 academic articles published in English between 2006 and 2016. The articles were identified through PubMed, POPLINE and PsycINFO – online research databases on health and psychology – using 55 keywords, such as ‘sexual abuse’, ‘perpetrator’ and ‘domestic violence’. As high as 35 of the 51 reports used quantitative analysis, 11 used qualitative analysis and five used both methods.

The authors of this paper are researchers Ameeta S. Kalokhe from the medicine and public health schools of Emory College, Atlanta; Klaus Beier from the Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine, Berlin; Radhika Dayal and Divya Pillai from the Haryana-based Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI); Vikas Choudhry from PHFI and Sambodhi Research and Communications, Noida; and Vikram Patel from PHFI and Harvard Medical School, Boston.


  1. Citing Study on Child abuse: India 2007, a report by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, government of India, the study notes that 53 per cent of the 12,447 children surveyed had experienced sexual abuse, and the abuse among 20 per cent of the children was severe. As low as three per cent of the offences uncovered during the survey were reported to the relevant authorities.

  2. The paper classified perpetrators of sexual violence against children into two groups. The first set – accounting for 60 per cent of the ‘officially known’ offenders – comprised of individuals showing no signs of a ‘sexual preference disorder’. The actions of these offenders were attributed to causes such as mental health ailments, antisocial behavioural traits and others. The second group comprised of people exhibiting sexual preference disorders such as paedophilia (erotic preference for prepubescent children) or hebephilia (erotic preference for early pubescent children).

  3. An assessment of the qualitative studies revealed that victims of child sexual abuse were often known to the perpetrators – and in many of the cases they were family members. These incidents often go unrecorded due the unwillingness of the family to punish the perpetrator and instead protect the abuser.

  4. The review emphasises that “precocious exposures” to sexual behaviours and acts, traumatic sexual experiences during childhood and failure in romantic relationships, often lead to a greater risk of becoming young sexual offenders.

  5. An analysis of the articles with data on school and college students led to the conclusion that about 4-41 per cent of girls and 10-55 per cent of boys, had experience either contact, non-contact or forced child sexual abuse.

  6. The prevalence of child sexual abuse among school-going girls below 18 years ranged between 4-41 per cent. Among women over 18 years, the range of prevalence was 3-39 per cent. Among sex trafficked girls and women, the cases of child sexual abuse ranged from 4-66 per cent.

  7. Child sexual abuse severely affects the physical, mental, behavioural and social well-being of survivors, often resulting in fraught or estranged parent-child interactions, obsessive compulsive behavioural traits, suicidal tendencies and clinical depression – the report states.

    Focus and factoids by Debadrita Saha.


Vikas Choudhry, Radhika Dayal, Divya Pillai, Ameeta S. Kalokhe, Klaus Beier and Vikram Patel


Vikas Choudhry, Radhika Dayal, Divya Pillai, Ameeta S. Kalokhe, Klaus Beier and Vikram Patel

Published in the journal PLOS ONE


09 Oct, 2018