India child sex abuse report: Sita's story

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The Indian government has failed to curb the rampant sexual abuse of thousands of children, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. One of them was Sita (not her real name) - a 12-year-old girl living with HIV whose parents were too poor to look after her.

Sita was placed in a small residential facility in Haryana state - the Drone Foundation - that was supposed to give her specialised care.

But she says she was raped by the son of the woman who ran it - a 42-year-old man who also had HIV.

Start Quote

He would take me to a room and say that if I told anybody about this, he would throttle my neck”

End Quote Sita, 12, abuse victim

"He used to come drunk. He would take me to a room and say that if I told anybody about this, he would throttle my neck," she told counsellors after she left the facility.

When she told other people about the abuse, she says they slapped her.

In January 2012 an employee at the Drone Foundation called Childline - a telephone helpline for children in distress.

Within hours, the facility was raided by police and the children rescued. The manager and her son, who deny wrongdoing, are on trial.

'Systemic failure'

But Sita's ordeal did not end there.

Haryana state's child welfare committee sent her to another residential home, Apna Ghar, that was run by a respected local charity.

But three months after Sita was placed there, three other children escaped to Delhi and reported shocking levels of abuse.

Investigators heard that Sita had been forced to work as a cleaner, while other children who had been there longer reported violent sexual abuse by the owner and members of staff.

"She used to beat some people naked. Some were hung from the ceiling fan and beaten by her. Others were tied to their bed or the window grill," one girl said.

Some said they had been forced to have sex with policeman and other strangers, and to have abortions.

After the raid the home was closed down, but inspectors from the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) said Haryana state government should have detected the abuse much sooner.

"The mechanism of monitoring the facilities has actually entirely failed in the state of Haryana. It is not neglect, it is systemic failure," Vinod Tikoo of the NCPCR told Human Rights Watch.

Nine people accused of the abuse, as well as the policeman in charge of the initial investigation, are awaiting trial.

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