Scenario of Child Sexual Abuse in India

Sexual abuse is also termed as molestation and is serious crime. This issue has been a challenge globally. Lead India’s experts are compassionate and empathetic to understand the client’s situation and are well versed with the POCSO Act. We accordingly deal with it by keeping the identity and information confidential.

Effects:

  1. Psychological effects
  2. Interpersonal relationship
  3. Physical health
  4. Educational effects/Later life
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Overview

This article on Child Sexual Abuse has focused on the scenario in India and its effect on children. Different forms of sexual abuse committed against a child has been explained briefly in the article. Further, a statutory provision such as the POCSO Act has been discussed in the light of child sexual abuse. This article has also explained the procedure for reporting sexual abuse of children by any individual.  

Sexual Abuse In India

Sexual abuse can be described as sexually exploiting an individual which may include forced or unwanted sexual behaviour towards such individual.

Sexual abuse has been a major concern and pressing issue in India. Common victims of sexual abuse are children. It is known for a fact that millions of boys, as well as girls, are sexually abused, be it their home or outside their homes. And the abuser of the children is mostly known persons instead of strangers.

Sexual abuse and harassment are also faced by women at their workplaces. However, most children fall into the victim group in sexual abuse due to their gullible and vulnerable nature along with their tender age.

Often the child does not understand the nature of the act done with them along with the intimidation of their abuser. An Interpol conducted shows that approximately 2.4 million instances of online child sexual were reported in India from 2017 to 2020. According to statistics in India every 155 minutes, a child under the age of 16 years is raped.

The abuser or sexually exploiter of the children are the people who the children trust. This shows us that a child needs protection from sexual abuse even at home. Most of the cases are not even reported because of fear. The trauma a child faces due to the abuse is drastic and affects him throughout his life.

Forms Of Sexual Abuse

The several forms of child sexual abuse are the following.
  1. Physical form of Abuse- Most sexual abuse involves physical contact between the abuser and the victim. The physical form of sexual abuse includes rape, exhibitionism, touching or fondling, and sodomy. The sexual intent behind touching as well as kissing is also regarded as a physical form of sexual abuse.
  2. Non-Physical- sexual abuse can occur without any physical contact. This includes children being exposed to obscene videos or pictures or showing pornographic pictures, virtual sex, filthy remark, or voyeurism.
  3. Incest- the term can be described as the sexual relationship which is forbidden between close relatives in a family such as a sexual relationship forbidden between a brother and sister or a parent and the child.
  4. Commercial exploitation- in this case, a child is sexually abused by the adult in return for remuneration. The child here is treated as a commercial object. Commercial sexual exploitation of children includes prostitution, child sex tourism as well as child trafficking.
  5. Online sexual abuse- The recent pandemic situation all over the world has increased online sexual abuse. The lockdowns and shutdowns imposed have shut to the outside environment. Thus driving the children to the internet world. There are several social networking sites or online game sites to which younger people are prone to cyberbullying, grooming, sexual exploitation as well as emotional abuse.

Statutory Provision By Government Against The Child Sexual Abuse

The issue of child abuse has been addressed by various government as well as non-government organizations. For penalizing child sexual abuse there are several laws in India. The Indian Penal Code covers various aspects of abuse.

However, it was not adequate to address offences such as sexual assault, harassment, pornography, and violence against boys. IPC addresses the above mentioned offences against women majorly. Therefore, there is a need for enacting other statutory provisions to protect children from abuse.

India being a signatory to the UN Convention of Rights of Children, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) was enacted. The enactment of this Act ensured a child-friendly process of reporting child abuse and complies with Article 15 (3) of the Constitution of India. Article 15 states the protection of women as well as children.

Some of the following features of the POCSO Act-
  • This Act deals with several offences such as contact and non-contact sexual abuse, penetrative, pornographic offences, etc. and provides punishment for the same.
  • It also lays down a provision for paying compensation to the victim who is a child.
  • The Courts having jurisdiction designated as POSCO court deal with the concerns of the child abuse act.
  • The Act requires a mandatory report of the commission of offence against the child under the POCSO Act. When one is aware of such a commission of offence, he or she is required to report, failing which will lead to action against him or her.
Following are a few offences and their punishments under POCSO Act are-
  • Any penetrative sexual assault caused to the child will attract enhanced punishment which was amended in 2019 to imprisonment for life. If the offender of the act is under the age of 16 years, the punishment will be 20 years along with a fine.
  • Any sexual assault without penetration will attract imprisonment for 3 years which can be extended to 5 years along with fine.
  • When an individual possesses, displays or propagates other than the purpose of reporting materials, any child is liable to be punished with imprisonment for 3 years or with fine or both.
  • When a child is used for the purpose of pornography which leads to aggravated sexual assault, leads to imprisonment for 5 years which can extend to 7 years according to the Amendment Bill, 2019.

Procedure Of Reporting

The Act is gender-neutral by ensuring both male and female child is protected and any form of sexual abuse against them is liable to be punished. The offenders of child sexual abuse include relatives, public servants, management, staff of jail or custodial institutions, etc.

As far as the reporting of the offence is involved, anyone including the child has the right to report any form of sexual abuse against him or her or any other. However, a parent being the responsible guardian of the child or any individual within whose custody the child lives should be reporting any such offence immediately and mandatorily.

Generally, a report of child sexual abuse is made to the nearest police station where a Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU) is present. This unit is specifically trained for child-friendly procedures. A Zero FIR can also be filed by the police if the jurisdiction is in concern and later it can be transferred to the police station having proper jurisdiction. The complaint should be in the language which the child understands and to be recorded in the same language.

POSCO makes provisions for presenting the case to the Child Welfare Committee within 24 hours of the reporting of the case.

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FAQs On Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse can be described as a physical or mental violation of the rights of the child with sexual intent by a person who is in a position of power or trust of such child.
Forms of sexual abuse include physical, non-physical, incest, commercial sexual exploitation of the child, and online sexual abuse.
The POCSO Act is gender-neutral, thus provides punishment for offences against both the male as well as female. It defines the forms of sexual abuse along with descriptions of the offenders. The form of sexual abuse under this Act covers child pornography. The Act also provides stringent punishment against the trafficking of children and avoids re-victimization of the child.
Anyone including the child can report offence of sexual abuse against them to the nearest police station having Special Juvenile Police Unit. The unit is formed under the POCSO Act by providing child-friendly procedures to the unit.
Most cases of child sexual abuse go unreported and unrecognised. And in most of the cases, the children are resilient and threatened by their abuser. Therefore, one has to pay attention to the behaviour of a child. other factors for detecting child sexual abuse are depression, symptoms of depression, or unusual sexual behaviour.
POCSO Act provides punishment for the sexual form of abuse of children imprisonment for 20 years which can be extended up to life imprisonment or death.

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Trishna Kumari

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