Thiruvananthapuram: Famous as a tourists` paradise, nearby Kovalam beach town has been hit by rampant incidents of sexual and physical abuse of children in the
12-18 age group, according to a study.
Nearly half of the 705 children interviewed during the study in Kovalam and five nearby coastal hamlets had undergone some sort of abuse, mostly by tourists, relatives and their
teachers, the study conducted by a women NGO Mahila Samakhya Society claims.
sections, including children of fisherfolk. Complaints were
also received from inmates in orphanages and child homes run
by charities, project director Seema Bhaskar says.
"The most shocking aspect of the study was that many were
victims of continuous sexual abuse, right from the age of
nine," Bhaskar said.
14 children revealed they were abused by tuition teachers
and others by their elder siblings. 39 were sexually abused by
foreign tourists after offers of cash and gifts. In some
cases, they were given mobile phones, fashionable clothes
and cosmetics, she told a news agency.
Of 705 children, 6.36 percent were physically abused in
their homes. This included severe beatings and other such
forms of torture, the study claims.
The Mahila Samakhya Society, with support of the state
Social Welfare Department, conducted the study in Kottukal,
Kanjiramkulam, Vizhinjam, Karinkulam and Venganoor panchayats,
"We suspect there is a racket in the area in arranging
children for customers who want sex, with the support of many
youth who unfortunately act as middlemen," she says.
A consolidated report would be presented to both the
Central and state governments next month after analysis and
compilation of the data.
On the methodology of the study, Seema said children were
given a questionnaire during a workshop held in these areas
with the help of local Anganvadis.
Children were first counselled to persuade them to reveal
their mental trauma without making them nervous. Classes were
also held on matters like child rights, gender problems and
various types of child sex abuse, Bhaskar said.
To change the scenario, "a deeper study is necessary to
know the link between backwardness, livelihood and educational
standards, and the hapless conditions of children," she said.
As part of steps to end child abuse, the organisation has
set up `Vigil Groups` of mothers in the area and made them
aware of the rights of children and how to guard them.
Bhaskar said the Tourism department should also send a
clear message to visitors that child abuse would not be
The NGO plans to run a campaign on child rights in the
area and take steps to bring the dropouts back to school, with
the support of Education department, she said.
The study was held as part of programme for empowerment
of women and girls in rural areas.