South Asia

Bangladesh disabled children sexually abused - study

Half of all the disabled children in Bangladesh are sexually abused, mostly by close relatives, according to a new study.

Most of the offenders are male, the study says. Of the victims, 52% are girls and 48% boys, aged between seven and 18 years.

Those with mental disabilities are at even greater risk, the study says.

According to the 2001 census, Bangladesh has nearly 12m disabled people.

The study was conducted jointly by the Bangladesh Protibondhi Foundation (BPF) and Save the Children Sweden-Denmark.

Researchers collected data in six districts over six months and based their study on 216 disabled children and 535 disabled adults. They also talked to family members, teachers and NGO workers.

"Disabled children are exposed to a higher risk of sexual harassment or rape because they cannot protect themselves," Selina Ahmed, director of child protection, Save the Children Sweden-Denmark, told the BBC.

"Intellectually challenged children are more harassed than other disabled children because they do not understand what is good touch and what is bad touch," she said.

The study says most of the offenders are men and include close relatives.

In many cases, even teachers and therapists were found to be guilty.

"When they [disabled children] are harassed, they get hardly any legal support. They are often treated with disdain.

"And in most cases, the tormentors escape punishment," Ms Ahmed said.

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