By Anjali Bisht, Law College Dehradun.
As I was sipping coffee while going through the newspaper, a news caught my eye. My eyes remained stuck on the news as the subject has always baffled and filled my heart with disgust. The news was about an eight year old girl who was raped and brutally murdered in my very own city. This was happening around me and it made me ponder hard over the fact that today not even innocent children are spared when it comes to sexual crimes and become an easy prey for such monstrous acts.
What is Child Abuse?
The mistreatment of a child by an adult that harms that child or young person’s physical or emotional health, development or wellbeing is called child abuse. It’s of various types namely : Physical, Sexual and Emotional.
Child sexual abuse occurs when an adult, adolescent or child use their power or authority to involve a child in sexual activity.
Physical abuse of a child includes hitting , burning , throwing or any similar act by an adult or a young person.
Emotional child abuse generally includes rejection,criticism ,exposure to domestic violence etc.
It’s not a simple problem-
The sexual crime against children in India has reached to such a point that India now ranks among the Top 5 countries with highest rates of sex crimes against children. Citing the statistics of the report drafted by the Asian Centre for Human Rights , 48000 child rape cases were reported from 2001 – 2011 . The report further stated that between the stated period India saw an increase of 336% of child rape cases. This is a serious issue. One cannot even imagine the trauma and pain a child has to go through because some people just forget the line between humanity and sheer animalistic behaviour. It is shocking to see that children are not only victimised by strangers, but in majority cases it has been observed that the perpetrators of such activities are their close relatives and neighbours.
Why is it happening?
Different people have different opinions regarding the massive growth in such crimes. We do not have any particular answer, because let’s be true to ourselves there is no particular reason to determine why some people cannot control their urges and destroy an innocent life just to gain momentary sexual pleasure. Numerous campaigns have been organized time and again in an attempt to make the public aware about the dark shadows roaming in the open streets that have no fear of consequences of their heinous acts.
One problem, but no solution?
“Better late than never”, this statement stands true for our country as a need for a legislation to deal with this situation was finally realised by our Parliament. Numerous acts and agencies exist today as a part of country’s Child Protection Policies. ‘Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Bill, 2011’ was passed by our Parliament regarding child abuse on May 22 ,2012 as 53% of children in the country suffers from the abuse. Before the 2012 legislation was introduced the cases of child sexual abuse was prosecuted under the following provisions of the Indian Penal Code namely :
*.I.P.C. (1860) 375- Rape
*.I.P.C. (1860) 354- Outraging the modesty of a woman
*.I.P.C. (1860) 377- Unnatural offences
*.I.P.C. (1860) 511- Attempt
But, the above provisions had various lacunas. For e.g.: Under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code , a male could not be protected against sexual acts. Also, Section 354 of I.P.C. lacks a statutory definition of “modesty” and the penalty is weak and it’s described as a compoundable offence. Further, it fails to protect the “modesty” of a male child.
Global fight against Child abuse-
The battle against child abuse is being fought at international level as well. The rights of children have been a sensitive issue in the United Nations Organization and these rights have been protected by the U.N.O. under Articles 34 and 35 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which strives to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. This includes outlawing the coercion of a child to perform sexual activity, the prostitution of children, and the exploitation of children in creating pornography. It requires the States to prevent the abduction, sale, or trafficking of children. The stated convention has been ratified by 195 States except the United States and South Sudan.
Can Law alone combat such a situation?
The answer is negative. Effectiveness of law depends largely on how much the people are aware of their rights. The family of the victim feels immense sense of shame and avoid going to the Police which is one step towards promotion of such horrendous acts. The mindset should be changed. And, this can be done by the educated and aware folk of the society. We should engage in creating awareness in people regarding their rights.
There is a need to adapt a three-level strategy to mitigate this problem where at the grass root level, the children should be educated by their parents about the good touch and bad touch so that the child can immediately tell their parents openly if any such event took place with them. The confusions in the children’s mind in will only make him hesitant in confronting their parents when such situation occurs. The second level is where the parents need to come into action. They should be careful about their children’s safety and should never leave their kids alone or with people the child doesn’t feel comfortable. The emotional bond and trust between the child and parents should be so strong that they are able to communicate openly with each other. Thus, such problems can be prevented to a great extent solely by having a healthy communication. This has to stop because , every child has a right to live with dignity and happiness.