Union ministry of law and justice has ratified a proposal of women and child development ministry to remove the time limit and age limit for reporting cases of sexual abuse among children.
Who is a child?
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines child as “a human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”
Forms of child abuse:
According to UNICEF violence against children can be “physical and mental abuse and injury, neglect or negligent treatment, exploitation and sexual abuse.
- Physical Abuse: Physical abuse is the inflicting of physical injury upon a child.
- Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse is inappropriate sexual behaviour with a child.
- It is the act of engaging a child in any sexual activity that he/she does not understand or cannot give informed consent for or is not physically, mentally or emotionally prepared for.
- It includes inappropriate touching, intercourse, incest, rape, sodomy, sexual exploitation, using a child for pornography, sexual materials, prostitution
- Emotional Abuse: 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 behavioural, cognitive, emotional, or mental trauma.
- Neglect: It is the failure to provide for the child’s basic needs. Neglect can be physical, educational, or emotional
Impact of child abuse:
- Can result in death and lead to injuries
- Impair brain and nervous system development.Exposure to violence at an early age can impair brain development and damage other parts of the nervous system. violence against children can negatively affect cognitive development and results in educational and vocational under-achievement.
- Result in negative coping and health risk behaviours.Children exposed to violence and other adversities are substantially more likely to smoke, misuse alcohol and drugs, and engage in high-risk sexual behaviour.
- Mental health: Children exposed to violence have higher rates of anxiety, depression, other mental health problems and suicide.
- Child sexual abuse can lead to unintended pregnancies, induced abortions, gynaecological problems, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
- Violence contribute to a wide range of non-communicable diseasesas children grow older
- Impact opportunities and future generations:Children exposed to violence and other adversities are more likely to drop out of school and have difficulty in employment. Violence may also affect future familial relations and impact future generations
Crime against children in India- Statistics
- According to CRY, there has been a steady upward trend with a significant increase of more than 500% in crime against children from 2006 to 2016
- According to NCRB, in 2016, more than 50% of crimes against children have been recorded in five states, namely Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi UT and West Bengal.
- Kidnapping and Abduction of children was biggest crime against children, accounting for more than 50% of all crimes against children in 2016.
- A total of 111,569 children (41,175 boys and 70,394 girls) were reported to have been missing in 2016. The maximum cases were reported from West Bengal (15.1%).
- 36,022 cases were recorded under POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act.
- Uttar Pradesh recorded maximum number of crimes under the categories of ‘Kidnapping & Abduction’ and ‘POCSO Act’
The constitutional provisions that deals with rights of children are:
- Article 21: provides for right to life and personal liberty
- Article 21 (a): State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years
- Article 24: No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.
- Article 39(f): children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment
- Crimes punishable under IPC:
- Foeticides (Crime against a foetus) Section 315 & 316 IPC.
- Infanticides (Crime against new-born child) (0 to 1 year) Section 315 IPC.
- Abetment to Suicide (abetment by other persons for commitment of suicide by children) Section 305 IPC.
- Exposure & Abandonment (Crime against children by parents or others to expose or to leave them with the intention of abandonment): Section 317 IPC.
- Procuration of minor girls (for inducement to force or seduce to illicit intercourse): Section 366-A IPC.
- Selling of girls for prostitution (Section 372 IPC).
- Buying of girls for prostitution (Section 373 IPC).
- Rape (Sec. 376 IPC)
- Kidnapping and Abduction (Sections 360, 361, 363, 366, 367, 369 of IPC)
- Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015:
It is the fundamental law in India in dealing with children in need of care and protection. It caters to their needs through care, protection, development, treatment, social reintegration, through its child-friendly approach by addressing matters in the best interest of children.
- Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act), 2012
The Act was established to protect the children against offences like sexual abuse, sexual harassment and pornography. It was formed to provide a child-friendly system for trial and punishment perpetrators.
- Definition of child: Any person below eighteen years of age
- Sexual abuse: Sexual abuse includes penetrative and non-penetrative assault. It also involves sexual harassment, pornography, etc.
- It deems a sexual assault to be “aggravated” under certain circumstances, such as when the abused child is mentally ill or when the abuse is committed by a person in a position of trust or authority vis-à-vis the child, like a family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor.
- People who traffic children for sexual purposes are also punishable under the provisions relating to abetment in the Act.
- The Act prescribes stringent punishment graded as per the gravity of the offence, with a maximum term of rigorous imprisonment for life, and fine.
- The Act provides for the establishment of Special Courts for trial of offences under the Act, keeping the best interest of the child as of paramount importance at every stage of the judicial process.
- The Act incorporates child friendly procedures for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and trial of offences.
Recent developments in POCSO:
- In 2018, the Centre cleared the ordinance on POCSO act whereby death penalty will be given to those convicted of raping a child up to 12 years of age
- In October 2018, the Union ministry of Law and Justice ratified a proposal by the Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry to scrap the time limit for reporting child abuse cases. The move has been applauded by activists on the grounds that this would enable victims to disclose such incidents when they gain the courage to report the matter as adults
- Other Protective Legislations
- Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
Note: In 2017, the SC criminalized sex with a child bride
- Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation Act), 1986, amended in 2016
- Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), 2009
The scheme is based on the cardinal principles of “protection of child rights” and the “best interest of the child”. The important objectives of the scheme are:
- To institutionalize essential services and strengthen structures
- To create database and knowledge base for child protection services
- To strengthen child protection at family and community level
- To raise public awareness about child rights, child vulnerability and child protection services.
- CHILDLINE India: It is a project of Ministry of Women and Child Development. The Childline India foundation, a NGO, operates a telephone helpline called Childline, for children in distress
- National Policy on Children, 2013:
- The policy recognizes that a multi-sectoral and multidimensional approach is necessary to secure the rights of children.
- It has identified four key priority areas: survival, health and nutrition; education and development; protection and participation, for focused attention.
Lack of database: The biggest challenges in child protection are the creation of a database of all child protection services, creation of a knowledge base, and tracking of missing children.
Issues with POCSO and ineffective implementation:
- No provision of police training to deal sensitive cases of children.
- No counselling available for children to recover the post crime trauma.
- It encompasses the biological age of the child and silent on the mental age considerations so many victims of cerebral palsy are not taken care of.
- Police harassment dilutes the effective functioning of special efforts by government.
- Lack of medical professionals in remote areas.
- The majority of abuse cases take place within the family environment, the perpetrators being close family relatives. Thus, most of the cases go unreported.
Annually, large numbers of children go missing and there attempt to track them or trace them is largely inadequate.
- Legal measures, child protection schemes should be effectively implemented. Further, there is a need to develop standard protocols on child protection mechanisms at the district, block and village levels to ensure effective protective environment for children.
- There is a need for allocation of adequate financial and human resources to child protection schemes in order to create a protective environment for children through strong service delivery mechanisms, outreach services and effective interventions.
- To help child abuse victims there is a need to strengthen outreach services including professional help in the form of trauma counselling, medical treatment, police intervention and legal support.
- The existing Childline service providing emergency outreach services to children in difficult circumstances should be expanded.
- With rising number of missing children, there is an urgent need to track them. Further the processes of their rescue, rehabilitation, repatriation and reintegration should be reviewed and strengthened while keeping in view the best interests of the child.
- there should be a synergy between efforts being made by different stakeholders to address the issue of violence and crime against children.
- Child rights and protection issues should be integrated into the curricula of administrative institutes, police training academies, law colleges, medical colleges, etc. so that the professionals have both the sensitivity and the knowledge to deal with these issues.
- To deal with child sexual abuse and ensure better reporting, there is a need to enhance parenting skills, knowledge of the subject and sensitivity.
- Platforms addressing issues of child rights should have adequate children’s representation with the opportunity for them to express their views.
- There is an urgent need to spread awareness on child rights, on the issues of violence against children and their impacts. Positive social and cultural norms, attitudes, traditions, behaviours and practices, which are essential to address issues such as gender-biased sex selection, child labour, and other protection concerns should be promoted