Child sexual abuse: and laws in India.
In India, where children are considered as ‘flower of god’, they are the most imminent part of the society. Future depends on todays youth, and todays youth are the children of the society. Mental stability of the children is very important for stable future of the country. Child sexual abuse was acknowledged as a specific sexual abuse recently, prior to which it was considered as a part of rape under the criminal law.
This article covers the topic of child sexual abuse in a nutshell along with the laws prevailing in India for the same. It includes the problems and consequences that a child faces after being sexually abused/ assaulted. This article also covers the steps to protect children from sexual abuse.
In very simple terms child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse that includes sexual activity with a minor. Child abuse is a heinous crime as a child cannot give his consent for any sexual activity. Any sexual activity between two minors with consent is a crime. Sexual abuse consists of various sexual activities such as penetration of the vagina or anus by finger, penis or any other object, oral sex, touching the private parts, masturbation, exhibitionism, voyeurism, engaging a child in pornography and soliciting a child to engage in sexual activity. It also includes, fondling, obscene phone calls, text messages or digital interaction, or any kind of sexual conduct that is harmful for the child’s mental, emotional or physical welfare.
India is the second most populated country in the world, it’s a known fact. But the unknown and a shocking fact is that around 50% of children in India need care and protection and are prone to sexual abuses.
Such crime can happen with a child in school, at home, at child care institution or at any such place where a child goes often. The parents or the care taker of the child should be aware of the places were the child goes and should ensure that the place provides healthy atmosphere for the child and he isn’t at risk of sexual abuse.
Child sexual assault was not at all considered until late 1800s, making one believe that it did not exist but it surely did. The concept was just not labelled and known to the world. Child abuse has been documented throughout the history, along with biblical references to child sexual abuse. More extensive records are found in the Greek and Roman civilization. Even in colonial America, records suggest that child abuse, including sexual abuse, was widespread.
“The history of childhood is a nightmare from which we have only begun to awaken. The further back in history one goes, the lower the level of child care, and more likely children are to be killed, abandoned, beaten, terrorized, and sexually abused”
The above-mentioned statement suggests that sexual assault is certainly not a recent phenomenon and in 1800s it was just recognized by its victims. The first important work on sexual abuse was done by a Frenchman, Ampoise Tradieu. As a forensic medical expert, in the year 1862, he documented around 515 sexual abuse cases, 420 of which were committed on children under 15 years of age. In the course of 11 years he cited mare than 11,000 cases of attempted or committed rape, 80% of which involved child victims.
The crime of child sexual abuse was not considered and acknowledged in India. People kept this crime hidden for a long period. Child sexual abuse was not legally considered as crime when there were no laws for the protection of the children in India. Crimes against children like sexual abuse, harassment, and exploitation for pornography were in existence during the early ages but were simply not labelled as a crime.
Before the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, only Specific Legislation Goa Children Act, 2003 existed to protect children from the sexual offences. Before the commencement of the Act, child sexual abuse was trailed under Sections 375 (Rape), 354(Outraging the modesty of Woman), 377(Unnatural Offences), 509(Insulting the Modesty of a Woman). Yet, these sections could not effectively protect children from sexual abuse.
Highlights of the ‘Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012’
The Act defines any person under the age of 18 as a child and provides protection to all the children under the age of 18 years from the offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography.
For the first time such an Act was passed which covered the touched as well as non-touched sexual offences such as photographing child in obscene manner.
This Act assimilate child friendly procedures for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and trial of offences.
The media has been barred from disclosing the name of the child involved is such a case.
Many people think that marrying off their children would help to save them from sexual abuse as no other person except the husband would have the right on the girl. On other hand, in Bihar, among Naths, prostitution is the only way of surviving. They purchase and push the children in sex work so that they can earn and sustain their families. Disabled children who work at restaurants, hotels or homes are more likely to face sexual assault by the employer or customers.
According to a report, annually around 5 lakh children are forced into sex trade. Children form around 40% of total population of commercial sex workers. Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Bangalore are the metro cities in which 80% of sex workers are children out of which 71% are illiterate. Daily over 109 children were sexually abused according to data, which showed 22% jump from previous year. In 2017, 32,840 cases were reported where as 39,827 cases were reported in 2018 under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act). Followed by Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra ranked 1st in the number of child rapes cases reported.
Role of NGO’s:
Non-governmental organizations play an eminent role in preventing, protecting and prosecuting the child abuse cases. NGO’s decide a school and conduct workshop on various issues prevailing. They talk with the teachers and students at least once in six months. They explain the teacher about the effects and the solutions for handling the sexually assaulted child.
Role of Parliament:
The Parliament of India, passed the Protection of Children from Sexual Abuse Act,2012. The sole purpose of the said Act is to provide legal protection to the child from sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography. The Act recognises real, virtual, penetrative, non-penetrative, homosexual, heterosexual, bestial, verbal and physical, all kinds of sexual assault against children. The burden of proof is on the accused. This act is gender-neutral legislation.
It is also provided in this act that is a girl under 18 years of age approaches for abortion, the service provider is required to register a complaint of assault.
Many of the perpetrators are the ones who are known and trusted by the child or their family members. The actual problem is that the child is manipulated to keep quite and are scared some times. The offender uses power to threaten the child also he uses different tactics to keep the Childs mouth shut. This leads to emotional break down in children. They lose self-esteem and emotional confidence. This makes the child feel guilty and ashamed due to the abuse.
The child feels afraid to tell anyone about the abuse as the abuser threatens the child. The behaviour of the child changes, they became hyper-active, aggressive and hostile. Even minor incidences can make the child feel depressed. All of this leads to self-harm, attempts of suicide, withdrawal from friends, backout from usual activities, change in school performances, depression, anxiety, unusual fears or a sudden loss of self-confidence. All of these are just the warning sings that do not necessarily mean that the child is sexual abused.
Child abuse causes serious changes in the Childs every day behaviour as well as in the social interaction. It degrades children and causes serious damage. Any child can be a victim of child sexual abuse. Any child can face this challenge and shall lead to a distorted life of the child. The parents, caretaker, teacher or the trainers should keep a healthy conversation with the child and keep an update about the Childs interaction with people. If child feels uncomfortable with anyone, parents should ask the child that why is the feeling that way. Children are the future of country and their well-being is the most important thing.
Not only the parent, but also the society, including you and me should take care about the child. It’s a collective responsibility to prevent child sexual abuse. To enhance the Childs development, health and safety we must all initiate and support services and policies. It’s a joint liability that we should work together to combat the crime of child sexual abuse. This would result into safety of the children and bright future of the country.
I am Avantika Satish kharade, currently studying in second year. I am pursuing BA.L.LB (Hons.) Course from Maharashtra National Law University, Aurangabad. I keep special interest in family law. I like to write about the current prevailing issues. My spare time is devoted in reading.