Orphaned boys as vulnerable to abuse as girls

Indo Asian News Service

New York, April 26 (IANS) Orphaned boys in low and middle-income countries, including India, are just as likely to experience physical and sexual abuse as girls, new research has revealed.

Physical and sexual abuse affects 12 percent of girls and 14 percent of boys in institution-based care, and 19 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys in family-based care annually.

By age of 13, approximately half of orphans experience abuse, regardless of gender or setting, the findings showed.

Led by Kathryn Whetten from Duke University in the US, the research was conducted as part of the "Positive Outcomes for Orphans" longitudinal study in India, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.

Despite the similarities in abuse instances across gender, international funding mechanisms -- such as the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the United Nations task force on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse -- often place a special emphasis on protecting girls while neglecting to address the need to protect orphaned boys from abuse.

"So much of our funding for children in adversity focuses on girls," said Whetten, a professor at Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy.

"This study demonstrates the critical need to invest in support services for boys, too -- not only for their own protection, but to help prevent them from becoming abusers themselves," Whetten said.

"And this, in turn, helps further protect girls in the long run," she pointed out.

The researchers examined self-reported prevalence and incidence of several potentially traumatic event types, including physical and sexual abuse, among 2,235 children.

The findings appeared in the journal Global Mental Health.