Child Sexual Abuse in India

Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is one of the most neglected social problems faced by our society. It is because of this neglect that child sexual abuse incidents are increasing in India at an alarming rate. It needs to be noted that this problem has multiple dimensions to it because of which the society has been unable to combat it. Child sexual abuse not only leaves a profound impact on the victimized child but also on the society as a whole. Most of the cases of child sexual abuses in India go unnoticed because the families are uncomfortable bringing out these matters in the public as the general notion says that ‘such things should stay inside the walls of their own houses’. There is a constant fear about the dignity of the family being marred if the child sexual story comes out in the open.

What is Child Sexual Abuse and it’s Forms?

Child sexual abuse is a form of abuse in which an adult or an elder adolescent sexually exploits a child for their own pleasure. As disgusting as the definition might seem, equally appalling is the reality that India happens to be among those countries infamous for maximum child abuse incidents. Child sexual abuse is also termed as child molestation. Child sexual abuse occurs in many forms which both the parents and the child should be made aware of so that the incidents can be prevented. It so happens that a child is not made aware of indecent touches and the child thus is unable to identify if he/she has been a victim of molestation and thus it becomes all the more important on the parents’ part that they discuss the types of touches with their children openly.

Child sexual abuse includes offences like sexual assault (wherein an adult uses a minor for the purpose of sexual gratification) and sexual exploitation (wherein the child is victimized for a profit like prostitution). The types of indecent touches and contacts which a child should be made aware of include- fondling, lewd comments and messages, masturbation, intercourse, oral sex, prostitution and pornography. Molestation may consist of a single incident or many acts over a long period of time.

Genesis of Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is not a new problem or only a problem concerning India. It is a global concern. This issue has become a public issue since the 1970s and the 1980s. Prior to these years, this issue was unspoken off. The first estimate of the number of molestation cases were reported to be in the year 1948 and till the 1920s, there were no formal studies on child exploitation. As far as India is concerned, the topic is still a taboo topic as these issues stay confined to the walls of the homes and is not allowed to come out at all. In a conservative society like ours where a girl is uncomfortable discussing the topic of menstruation with her mother, it becomes completely unimaginable that she will discuss if she has been touched at inappropriate places because she has been advised to keep silent. Similar is the case with boys who are not able to freely talk on the issue of sexuality with his parents. This is the primary mindset of the society on the whole which acts as an encouragement for the abuser. The abuser takes the advantage of the fear that has clouded the mind of the innocent child, the innocent child who may not even be aware if he/she has been sexually exploited.

Laws to deal with Child Sexual Abuse

Though, the Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides provisions (such as Sections 376, 354 etc) to deal with various types of sexual offences committed against women and also Section 377 punishes unnatural sexual acts against both man and women, but there was no specific legislation to counter sexual offences committed against children of both the sexes. Thus, the Parliament enacted a specialized legislation in the year 2012 in the name of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 to protect children of both sexes from this social menace and to punish the perpetrators. Prior to this Act, Goa Children’s Act, 2003 was the only Act in practice. The new Act criminalizes acts of immodesty against children. However, the law doesn’t severely punish the molester and seems to lack in its deterrent character.

Who are the Abusers?

Even today, the perpetrators most of the times are people who are known to the victim or the victim’s family or are close to the victim. This proximity is the factor which is taken undue advantage of by the abuser since the abuser is aware that he will be able to escape the confrontation as after all, this is a family concern and then this may also take form of repeated assaults by the abuser on the victim. A molestation incident takes a toll on the psychological well being of a child. The effects may include depression, sleeping and eating disorders, phobias among the many more dangerous symptoms.

Present Scenario

Child sexual abuse even today is an offence which goes overlooked because people avoid talking on it. The occurrence of such incidents can be reduced to a great extent if efforts are made to create awareness about the subject. The fear needs to be instilled in the mind of the perpetrators which is only possible if people are ready to confront them. It is high time that parents should initiate discussions on the topic in order to make the child aware about such issues. The educational institutions should also organize awareness camps which are helpful in providing accurate knowledge on the topic of sexuality. Though some efforts have been made in this direction through feature films like Slumdog Millionaire which have dealt with child prostitution, much more needs to done. The laws again need many more stringent rules and sections in order to make sure that the abusers do not go scott-free without even undergoing heavy penalties for the crime. Lastly, the issue of child sexual abuse should no longer be treated as an issue which can be overlooked since it hampers with the functioning of the society in an efficient manner and leaves profound impacts on the minds of the young ones as well.

Author: Namit Srivastava

I am Namit K Srivastava (Assistant Professor in Delhi University), I did my L.L.M. and L.L B. from Campus Law Centre, Faculty of Law, Delhi University. Beside that I have also done B. Tech. in Computer Science and Engineering.

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