The Ministry for Women and Child Development (supported by Save the Children and UNICEF) has just released the results of an empirical national study on child abuse that spanned 12,500 children and 4,800 young adults in 13 Indian states. And it's a blockbuster: It asserts that two out of every three children have been physically abused and more than half of the respondents were subject to sexual abuse.
I'm a bit skeptical, primarily because none of the stories I've read have defined the exact boundaries of physical or sexual abuse, nor have they addressed the issue of methodological rigor. Prayas, the NGO that did the data collection, offers some insight on its methodology on its Web site, but a little more clarity would be nice. Statistics conceal as much as they reveal (or, in the words of Andrew Lang, "He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts -- for support rather than illumination"), and everything, from the phrasing of questions to the people deployed to collect information, can distort reality.
Regardless, this report seems like an excellent opportunity for some thoughtful follow-up reporting -- whether to broach the reliability of such surveys, to address the issue of gender as it affected the findings, to discuss ways of raising awareness and bucking the trend, &c. Will any media outlets take up this challenge, or are they content to simply project images of young girls playing barefoot in the dirt under headlines such as "Girls want to be boys"? I'm not so optimistic, but perhaps someone will prove me wrong.