Any person below the age of 18 years is legally considered to be a child. Any actual or potential harm to a child’s survival, dignity, development and socialisation arising out of sexual, physical, emotional or psychological maltreatment or exploitation and neglect is considered to be child abuse. Even though, Child Abuse is not defined by any Indian statute WHO has listed down four facets to it which are widely recognized – Physical Abuse, Mental Abuse, Emotional Abuse and Neglect.
Any physical harm inflicted on a child which results in an injury, irrespective of intention is considered physical abuse.
It can primarily comprise of the following incidents:
- Excessive Punishments
- Beating / Hitting a child
- Leaving a child in an undignified posture
- Forced Work Conditions
Emotional abuse is also known as verbal abuse, mental abuse and psychological maltreatment. It includes acts or the failures to act by parents or caretakers that have caused or could cause serious behavioral, cognitive, and emotional or mental trauma.
This might include:
- Isolation or Exclusion of a Child
- Stigmatizing a Child
- Failure to provide a supportive environment
- Caregivers not responding to a child’s emotional needs
- Blackmailing a child
The Child Sexual Abuse is an involvement of a child in a sexual activity that he/she does not fully understand and approve of. Primarily, the child is naturally uninformed of the sexual activity and while being developmentally unprepared for the act, is unable to give an informed consent.
Child Sexual Abuse is primarily divided into two major types:
- Kissing or holding in a sexual manner
- Forcing to touch genital areas
- Vaginal or Anal Intercourse
- Sexual Exploitation
Non- Contact Type
- Obscene Remarks
- Virtual Sex
- Online Solicitation
- Exposed to Pornography
- Sexually intrusive comments
Neglect is a kind of an abuse which involves depriving a child of adequate food, clothing, shelter, supervision, medical care and education.
Neglect may primarily comprise of the following:
- Failure to protect from harm
- Inattention of Care
- Failure to monitor child’s progress
- Failures to report bruising
- Failure to provide nutrition
- Failure to monitor child’s progress
According to the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, Child Rights includes the Children’s Rights adopted in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on 20th November, 1989 and ratified by the Government of India on 11th December, 1992.
Our constitution grants certain fundamental rights to children which include:
- Right to Education (21A) – Under this right, state is supposed to provide free and compulsory education to each and every child till the age of 14 years
- Article 15 of the constitution provides for prohibition of discrimination and along with that it empowers the state to make special provisions for women and children.
- Article 24 prohibits Child Labor and the employment of children below 14 years of age in factories, mines or other hazardous work environments. This article protects children from being exploited.
In case of violation of a fundamental right a PIL can be filed either in the high court or the Supreme Court by any NGO, a public-spirited being or any individual with the intent to fulfill public interest.
The parliament in 2005 recognized the need to make specific laws in order to promote and protect child rights and therefore, passed the Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005
Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005
Under this act the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights was set up in the year 2007.The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is a statutory body that works under the aegis of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India and is the nodal agency for preserving the rights of children, spreading awareness against child abuse in all its forms and providing children with proper redressal and rehabilitation in case of violation of their rights
PROTECTION OF CHILDREN FROM SEXUAL OFFENCES ACT, 2012
Until 2012, the only sexual offences against children recognised by the law were covered by three sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) not specific to children. The only crimes registered were rape (sexual intercourse without consent—section 376), outraging modesty of a woman (unspecified acts—section 354) both of which failed to incorporate male victims and unnatural acts defined as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” (anal sex, homosexuality or bestiality—section 377). Consequently, other forms of non-penetrative sexual assaults, harassment and exploitation were not explicitly recognised as crimes and therefore not recorded (assuming they were reported). Hence, the need for a more specific, detailed and gender neutral law was felt which led to the passing of ‘Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012’.
- POCSO 2012 does not use the term ‘rape’ more commonly used and also does not confine penetrative sex to penile penetration. Instead, it broadens the offence termed ‘penetrative sexual assault’ (section 3) to include oral sex, as well as, insertion of any object into anus, mouth or vagina, in addition to penile penetrative sex in order to increase the cover of protection for children. The punishment for this offence shall not less than 10 years and may extend to imprisonment for life and a fine which shall be reasonable enough to fulfill the medical and rehabilitation expenses of the child. If the victim of this offence is below 18 years the punishment shall not be less than 20 years.
- This act defines sexual assault as any act performed by a person who, with sexual intent touches the vagina, penis, anus or breast of the child or makes the child touch the vagina, penis, anus or breast of such person or any other person, or does any other act with sexual intent which involves physical contact without penetration. The punishment for this offence is 3 years which might extend to 5 years.
- POCSO, 2012 criminalises aggravated sexual assault which includes sexual assault committed by persons in authority or position of power with respect to a child, committed by persons in a shared household with the child, in conditions such as: gang rape, causing grievous bodily harm, threatening with firearm or corrosive substances, during communal or sectarian violence, assaulting a child under 12 years of age, or one who is physically or mentally disabled, causing a child to become pregnant, or knowingly assaulting a pregnant child, or infecting the child with HIV, repeated assaults, or accompanied by public degradation. The punishment extends from a minimum of 5 to a maximum of 7 years of imprisonment.
- Sexual harassment under this act includes repeatedly or constantly following, watching or contacting a child either directly, electronically or through other means [section 11(iv)]—thus, covering incidents of child harassment via sexting or sexual cyberbullying. The penalty for this offence is imprisonment for a period of three years.
- Section 35 of the POCSO act mandates the setting up of Special Courts where trial proceedings may be conducted in a more sensitive manner with the victim’s testimony given either ‘in camera’ (i.e. privately), via video-link, or behind curtains or screens, is intended not only to reduce trauma but also protect the identity of the child. The Special Court plays a pivotal role in how the law and the evidence may be interpreted.
REPORTING INCIDENTS OF CHILD ABUSE
Online system for children to report sexual abuse
The Ministry of Women and Child Development’s ‘e-box.’ is an online reporting system enabling children to report incidents of inappropriate touching and molestation, anonymously if they choose. These reports are received by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
Report it to police
Police officers are legally bound to address child abuse complaint. Further, the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act makes it illegal to witness and not report suspected child abuse and not report it. The POCSO Act has increased cases brought to trial.
ARE ALL OFFENDERS IN CSA CASES MEN?
No, offenders can either be male or female. The example for this is Shailaja Ghole who is currently serving a term of 7 years in jail for aiding and abetting brutality, rape and murder of several children in an orphanage for mentally challenged children run by her husband.
Even though men have been identified perpetrators in most of the cases this doesn’t rule out the possibility that women can’t be the perpetrators.
HOW TO REPORT INCIDENTS OF CHILD ABUSE?
Online system for children to report sexual abuse
The national commission for protection of child rights provides for ‘e-box’, an online reporting system enabling children to report incidents of inappropriate touching and molestation, anonymously if they choose. The victims relatives, friends parents guardians can also register their complaints on email@example.com or 9868235077.
Link to the e-box: https://ncpcr.gov.in/index2.php
Report it to police
Police officers are legally bound to address child abuse complaint. Further, the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act makes it illegal to witness and not report suspected child abuse and not report it. The POCSO Act has increased cases brought to trial.Close
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT?
Signs of Physical Child Abuse:
- Unexplained Bruises, welts or cuts etc.
- Fearful or shy behavior etc.
Signs of Child Emotional Abuse:
- Excessive Shyness and Fear
- Behavioral Extremes
- Antisocial Behaviour
- Inappropriate Age Behaviour
Signs of Child Sexual Abuse:
- Behavioral signs –The child might display knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior or display unusual behavior- either being very aggressive or very passive.
- Physical signs – A child may have trouble sitting or standing, or have stained, bloody or torn underclothes. Swelling, bruises, or bleeding in the genital area is a red flag.
- Caregiver signs – The caregiver may seem to be unusually controlling and protective of the child, limiting contact with other children and adults.
Signs of Neglect:
- Child seems to be unsupervised
- Child may appear to have consistently bad hygiene
- The child might show troublesome, disruptive behavior
WHAT HAPPENS IN CASE A COMPLAINT FOR CHILD ABUSE IS REPORTED TO THE POLICE?
Police officers are legally bound to address complaints of child abuse, and if they are found lacking in discharging this duty, they can be acted against through an application to the Superintendent of Police under Section 154(3) of CrPC. Further, the aggrieved party can file an application under Section 156(3) of CrPC to request an F.I.R. and monitor the investigation.
You are entitled to a free copy of the FIR that has been filed by the police officer, and it also requires your signature, name, address, date, time, location, as well as the particulars of the offence and people involved.
The POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act makes it illegal to witness suspected child abuse and not report it. A police officer can take a complaint on the phone or in person.Close
WHO CAN REPORT CHILD ABUSE IN INDIA?
Anyone can report if they are aware of child abuse which includes parents, relatives, friends or any other person.Close
CHILD ABUSE SELF HELP