Child sexual abuse (CSA) is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the involvement of a child in sexual activity that the child does not fully understand, is unable to give informed consent to, is not developmentally ready for, and cannot give consent to, or that violates societal laws or social taboos. A variety of sexual behaviors are included in CSA, including fondling, enticing a child to engage in sexual contact or to receive sexual contact, intercourse, exhibitionism, involving a kid in prostitution or pornography, and online child enticement by cyber-predators. CSA is a significant issue that affects the entire planet.
Prevalence of child abuse in India
CSA has always been a hidden issue in India, generally disregarded in the media and by the criminal justice system. India pledged to safeguard its children from all types of sexual exploitation and abuse when it ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992. A child may not be forced or incited to engage in any illicit sexual behavior, according to the Convention.
The first extensive government-sponsored research study to evaluate the scope and form of child abuse in India was commissioned due to growing concerns about female infanticide, child rapes, and institutional abuse of children. The government-commissioned survey's startling finding that more than 53% of Indian youngsters experience sexual abuse or assault is frightening. Given the shame and associated sociocultural stigma, particularly if the abuse occurs in the setting of the family, it is not unexpected that CSA is significantly underreported.
In 2020, there were 1,28,531 occurrences of crime against minors reported. Kidnapping and abduction (42.6%) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012 (38.8%), which includes child rape, were the two largest crime heads under "Crime Against Children" in 2020. In 2020, there were 28.9 crimes reported per 1 lakh children, down from 33.2 in 2019. (Indian Crime 2020) According to reports, approximately 24 lakh cases of online child sex abuse were recorded in India between 2017 and 20; 81% of the victims were young girls under 14.
Types of Child Sexual Abuse in India:
A parent or another person in a position of power or authority can control a conflict or encounter that could result in possible physical harm to a child. This is known as physical child abuse. Whether or not the conduct was intended to inflict harm, the resulting injuries are nonetheless deemed abuse.
Emotional abuse is frequently identified by a pattern of behavior that impedes the child's emotional growth, making it very challenging to establish. The child protection system is thought to be seriously challenged by the dearth of proof of child emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is almost usually present when other types of abuse are discovered in a child.
A sequence of deliberate verbal or behavioral acts—or lack thereof—that give a kid the impression that they are unlovable, imperfect, undesired, in danger, or solely valuable for other people's purposes constitutes psychological abuse of children. Isolating a child, frightening them, and withholding emotional support are all examples of psychological abuse. A youngster witnessing domestic abuse is also seen as having experienced psychological abuse.
Any form of abuse that occurs online is considered to be online abuse. Any web-connected device, including PCs, tablets, and mobile phones, is susceptible to it. As well as social media, text messages, messaging applications, emails, online conversations, online games, and live-streaming websites can occur anyplace online.
Laws Governing Child Abuse in India:
Several Indian laws protect children. The criminal offenses relating to child abuse and neglect are outlined in the Indian Penal Code (IPC). These include harming children physically, sexually, and emotionally. These offenses are likewise subject to stiff penalties under the IPC.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012:
A law that addresses child sexual abuse is the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012 (POCSO Act). According to the POCSO Act, sexual contact or penetration between a child under 12 and an adult with the latter's consent or lack thereof constitutes child sexual abuse. The penalties under this law range from two years in jail to life in prison. Furthermore, the POCSO Act punishes anyone who aids another person in committing an offense.
The Indian Penal Code (IPC):
The abuse of children by their parents, guardians, or other caretakers is prohibited by Indian law. Violations against children, such as rape, kidnapping, and deaths brought on by parental neglect or abuse, are covered by the Indian Penal Code (IPC). These offenses are punishable by up to 20 years in jail.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015:
This law allows juvenile offenders between the ages of 16 and 18 who have committed offenses that would have put them in prison if they were adults to be transferred to special facilities rather than prison. Juvenile offenders must have demonstrated good behavior throughout their trial and must have pleaded guilty to at least one offense carrying a sentence of more than six months to be eligible for this treatment.
The Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Children Act, 1956:
The statute was enacted to combat the immoral trafficking of women and children. The statute makes prostitution illegal and punishes anybody who owns a prostitution enterprise. Anyone participating in any stage of the chain of events, such as recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, or receiving persons for prostitution, is subject to prosecution. If a person is found guilty of engaging a kid in any such action, they may face legal consequences and be imprisoned for seven or more years.
The Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000:
The Information Technology (IT) Act of 2000 contains suitable measures for dealing with current cyber security threats. Section 67B of the Statute imposes severe penalties for publishing, viewing, or transferring child pornography in electronic form. Furthermore, cyberbullying and internet stalking against women is punishable under sections 354A and 354D of the Indian Penal Code.
Causes of Child Abuse
There are many factors like isolation, lack of support, acknowledgment, unrealistic expectations, financial pressure, and many others that act as a social catalysts in child abuse. A traumatized juvenile may feel guilty, humiliated, or befuddled. If the abuser is a parent, other relative, or family acquaintance, the youngster may be scared to tell anybody about it.
Children from low-income families were likelier to have developmental issues, academic challenges, and victimization The analysis of the various factors like poverty and lack of resources is a sharp reminder of the possibility and necessity of focusing preventative, rehabilitation, and scientific research on children who face the pressures of economic hardship and abuse.
Lack of sex Education
Child-centered teaching, which educates minors to detect, resist, and expose sexual abuse, is frequently used to avoid child sexual abuse. Parents should safeguard their children through surveillance, supervision, and engagement and promote their child's autonomy, welfare, and identity. Juvenile sex education should be the duty of society, the community, and the school.
Cruelty, torture, deception, drugs, and denial thrive in dysfunctional households. Child's psychological needs are unfulfilled in these family units because the demands of the parents take precedence. Parents in these households frequently specifically prohibit their children from discussing their difficulties with outsiders such as friends, teachers, coaches, counselors, or church members.
Punishment for Child Abuse in India
(UNDER POCSO, 2012 & OTHER RELEVANT LAWS)
Penetrative sexual assault:
Penetrative sexual assault is punishable by imprisonment of either kind for a time that must not be less than seven years but may go as long as life in jail, as well as by a fine.
Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault:
Anyone who commits aggravated penetrative sexual assault faces a sentence of harsh imprisonment for a time that must not be less than ten years but may run as long as life in prison, as well as being subject to a fine.
Anyone found guilty of sexual assault faces a fine and imprisonment of either kind for a time that must not be less than three years but may go as high as five years.
Any person who sexually harasses a kid may be punished with imprisonment for a duration that may last up to three years and will also be subject to a fine.
Punishment for using a child for pornographic purposes:
The punishment for using a child or children for pornographic purposes is imprisonment of either description for a term that may not exceed five years and a fine. If it is a second or subsequent offense the punishment is imprisonment of either description for a term that may not exceed seven years and a fine. An example of child abuse will be if the person using the child for pornographic purposes violates the provisions of Section 3 by actively engaging in pornographic acts. In that case, they will be punished with either type of imprisonment for a term that must not be less than ten years but may go as long as life in prison and will also be subject to a fine.
Punishment for storing pornographic material involving a child:
Any person who stores pornographic information involving children in any form for commercial gain is subject to a fine, a term of imprisonment up to three years, or both of these penalties.
Impact of Child Sexual Abuse in India:
Physical health problems:
Some long-term physical consequences of abuse or neglect may manifest right away (such as brain damage brought on by head trauma), while others may not manifest or be detected for months or years. Physical abuse and physical health are related, but it's also crucial to understand that mistreatment can have long-term physical effects.
Mental health problems
Maltreatment as a child increases the likelihood of developing depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric problems as an adult. Adults with a history of ACEs attempted suicide more frequently than those without, according to studies.
Difficulty in trusting others
The most fundamental trust you have as a child—that your primary carer would safely and dependably provide your physical and emotional needs—is damaged when that carer abuses you. It is quite challenging to learn to trust others without this foundation. The fear of being in control or mistreated can make it difficult to maintain relationships. The adult's lack of understanding of a healthy connection may also result in toxic partnerships.
Difficulty in forming relationships:
Children in foster care who have been maltreated and then suffer early caregiving disruptions can develop attachment difficulties. The ability of a kid to have healthy peer, social, and romantic relationships later in life can be adversely impacted by attachment problems. For example, children who endure abuse or neglect are also more likely to grow up with antisocial qualities, which might result in criminal behavior as an adult.
Academic and professional goals:
There is a belief that neglected and abused kids are more likely to struggle in school. Furthermore, research indicates that children who have experienced neglect perform less academically than children who have experienced physical abuse. Children who have been mistreated are more likely to display poor social skills and behavior issues in school. These kids are much more likely to leave school before graduating high school.
Prevention and Protection Measures in India:
Laws and regulations:
India has a plethora of child protection legislation, and child protection is rapidly being recognized as a critical component of societal development. The problem is insufficient human resource capability on the ground to administer the legislation and provide excellent preventive and rehabilitation programs. As a result, millions of youngsters are at risk of being victims of violence, abuse, or exploitation. The core child protection legislation for children is enshrined in four main laws: The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006); The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act (2000, amended in 2015); The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (1986, amended in 2016) and The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (2012),
Child protection policies:
India has a variety of regulations in place to safeguard children, and it is increasingly recognized as a crucial aspect of social development. There are chances to ensure that all children have equal access to high-quality protection services thanks to India's reasonably extensive policy and legislative framework addressing children's rights and protection. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act (2000, amended in 2015), the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006), the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (2012), and the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act are the four main laws that contain the foundational provisions for protecting children (1986, amended in 2016).
Importance of education and awareness:
There has been advancement in raising public awareness, strengthening laws, and fostering action to stop child abuse, exploitation, and violence. UNICEF can significantly improve two crucial aspects of government action currently lacking: prevention and rehabilitation of child abuse and exploitation victims. This will build on India's growing awareness of child abuse.
Since prevention is the best defense against child sexual abuse and exploitation, prevention is at the heart of UNICEF's programming. More investment is needed than what is already being made, which is also geared toward post-incident responses to ensure that India's children are adequately protected. Together with the government, civil society groups, and other partners, UNICEF works to create families and communities where kids are secure from harm and exploitation.
Support for victims and their Families:
- Make the child comfortable in expressing his feelings
- Honesty is the key.
- Let the child feel control over their body and overall life.
- The needs of this child should not be left unattended at their lowest.
- Patience is important for victims of child abuse.
How to Identify and Report Child Sexual Abuse in India?
Neglect and child abuse are widespread. The CDC estimates that in the previous year, at least 1 in 7 children experienced abuse or neglect. Every year, April is designated as Child Abuse Prevention Month to celebrate and promote awareness of the crucial part that everyone can play in preserving families and assisting children. Children's safety from maltreatment and neglect is a civic duty. The majority of adults want to assist but may be unsure of how to do so. Always remember to recognize, respond to, and refer to.
An abused youngster could experience guilt, shame, or confusion. If the abuser is a parent, another relative, or a close family friend, the child can be reluctant to report the abuse to anybody. It is crucial to keep an eye out for warning signs, such as:
- Absence from friends or routine activities
- A change in conduct, such as animosity, hostility, violence, or hyperactivity, or a change in academic achievement
- Depression, anxiety, or strange concerns, as well as a rapid decline in confidence
- Nightmares and sleep issues
- An apparent oversight gap
- Frequently missing school
- Stubborn or rebellious behavior
- Suicide attempts or self-harm
The specific signs and symptoms differ depending on the type of misuse. Remember that cautionary indicator are just that: cautionary. The existence of warning indicators does not imply that a child is being mistreated in all cases.
Physical Indicators And Symptoms Of Abuse
- Unaccounted-for wounds, such as burns, fractures, or bruising
- Injuries that don't fit the description provided
- Injuries that conflict with a child's capacity for development
Symptoms And Indicators Of Sexual Abuse
- Inappropriate sexual activity or knowledge for a child's age
- A sexually transmitted illness or being pregnant
- Discomfort, bleeding, or injury to the anals or genitalia
- Declarations made by the child that they were sexually molested
- Improper sexual conduct with young children
Symptoms And Indicators Of Emotional Abuse
- Improper or delayed emotional development
- Loss of self-belief or respect for oneself
- Social detachment or a decline in motivation or interest
- Appears to be desperate for love
- A decline in academic performance or a loss of enthusiasm for learning
- A loss of developmental abilities already acquired
Reporting of child abuse
The number of cases that are brought to court for trial has increased after the (POCSO) Act went into effect in 2012. Within three months of making a police complaint, an investigation is carried out. After a month, a special court takes up the matter and renders a verdict in under two months.
Typically, the child's trusted adult turns out to be the abuser: According to a recent RAHAT research, parents were responsible for 91% of long-term sex abuse cases in Mumbai. It's crucial to look at the surroundings and the people in them. Pay close attention to families with a history of domestic violence, parents who are alcoholics, and kids who reside in dangerous settings like brothels, the streets, and orphanages. Institutions of higher learning must also guarantee the security of their pupils. In Bengaluru, a police-led inquiry in 2014 found that 10% of students had experienced teacher abuse.
Before reporting, you must have the child's permission: You don't typically have to wait for proof before filing a report. Nevertheless, getting consent is crucial. The Mumbai-based NGO Arpan published a paper titled Mandatory Reporting that examined the causes of and factors that discourage people from reporting child abuse. According to the study, victims of abuse felt betrayed when someone they trusted reported the abuse without their permission. The decision to report is "contextual and almost entirely dependent on the survivor's immediate and social milieu," according to the paper.
Make a call to the 1098 national child relief helpline: In addition to reporting the incident to the police, you can get in touch with one of the many state and city-based child rescue organizations For instance, Save The Child has offices all over the nation, but Mumbai-based Arpan focuses solely on CSA cases. There are numerous others, including Bosco in Bengaluru, Rahi in Delhi, El-Shaddai in Goa, and Tulir in Chennai. The youngster and the family will receive aid from these rescue facilities. The Childline Foundation established a national hotline number, 1098, with a team of volunteers in several towns and regions of the nation who also collaborate with more than 700 NGOs and the police.
It is against the law to know of a child abuse case but not to report it: Both people who are being abused and those who are aware of the occurrence of abuse are required to report cases, according to Sections 19 and 21 (1) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act. This includes those who work for media companies, hotels, clubs, studios, photo studios, and medical facilities. In Maharashtra, schools are required to report instances of sexual assault.
Compensation for Victims:
The number of cases where the issue of compensation has come up has increased recently, even though formerly there were very few requests for compensation. Victims have a variety of options for recompense. They may request compensation from the government through the criminal injuries compensation program or the abuser may be forced to make restitution on their own as a result of civil or criminal procedures undertaken by the victim. In addition, the victim may seek help from a third party who has failed to stop the abuse, such as a non-abusing parent or local government.
You may be entitled to financial compensation if you suffered abuse as a youngster. You have three options for receiving compensation:
- By "suing" your abuser in Civil Court, which is the legal term for bringing a claim against them. In this case, it is advisable to consult with a civil lawyer who specializes in handling abuse cases to guide you through the legal process.
- if your abuser is found guilty, through the Criminal Court.
- Originating with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
By Suing your abuser:
Suing the abuser is one option to try to seek compensation; for instance, if they assaulted you or made you fear for your safety, you might sue them.
If an organization, such as the local council, breached their duty of care to you, you could also file a lawsuit against them. An illustration would be if you reported that you were being abused to the child protection team, but they didn't believe you and didn't look into it.
If you are considering suing someone, you should seek legal counsel. While receiving legal aid is improbable, you might be able to hire a lawyer on a "no win, no fee" basis. This implies that even if you lose, you won't be responsible for your lawyer's cost.
If you choose to sue your abuser, you are entitled to anonymity. You cannot be named or otherwise identified in the media as a result.
To provide testimony, you might need to appear in court. Normally, this has to be done in front of the court, but you can ask for a private hearing. You can get help with this from a lawyer.
You may be eligible to file a claim for compensation with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority if a violent crime has seriously damaged your physical or mental health (CICA). This would be the case, for instance, if you had experienced physical or sexual assault. The abuser need not have been accused of the crime or found guilty.
Typically, you must submit your application within two years after the incident. If you're filing a claim for the abuse you experienced as a child, you can still apply after two years.
The Delhi High Court increases the compensation for victims of child sexual abuse from Rs. 7 lakhs to Rs. 10.5 lakhs.
The Delhi High Court mandated that the final compensation for victims of child sexual assault be the highest amount allowed by the scheme's schedule, increasing the amount of compensation for survivors from Rs 7 lakh to at least Rs 10.5 lakh under the 2018 Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme.
The court further stated that the Special Court must decide on the compensation sum, and the Delhi State Legal Services Authority must distribute it (DSLSA).
Although we have all types of laws in India for preventing different kinds of child abuse, there is still a need for education, awareness, joint efforts, and implementation of laws that will eliminate this grotesque menace of child abuse. Without everything in place, governmental machinery won’t function properly. We need to sensitize parents about such issues and strengthen non-governmental institutions that aim to protect and develop children.