Child Abuse is defined as “injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child”. This abuse can be of several kinds according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) –physical, mental, emotional, psychological or in the form of neglect or exploitation. Child abuse, in its various forms can be found everywhere in India -in cities and rural homes, in the homes of the rich and the poor, and in the streets and schools.
- The Constitution of India contains a number of provisions for the protection and welfare of the children.
- It has empowered the legislature to make special laws and policies to safeguard the rights of the children.
- Articles 14, 15, 15(3), 19(1) (a), 21, 21(A), 23, 24, 39(e) 39(f) of the Constitution of India contain provisions for the protection, safety, security and well-being of all it’s people, including children.
- Child abuse in India is often a hidden phenomenon especially when it happens in the home or by family members.
- Focus with regards to abuse has generally been in the more public domain such as child labour, prostitution, marriage, etc.
- In 80-85 per cent cases of child rapes in our country, the offender is a known person.
- They can be a neighbour, someone from the local community, a relative or even a family member.
- A sexual offence by a known person is one of the worst things that can happen to a child.
- Many a time, when the offender is a family member, the victims don’t report due to fear of social stigma.
- Sometimes minors do not even understand that they are being wronged.
- This data from the National Crime Records Bureau shows even the best of police systems and toughest of laws cannot ensure prevention of sexual violence against children.
- Police can punish the perpetrator after the crime is committed. However, by then the damage is already done.
- A jail sentence to the accused comes after years of legal battle, and hardly helps the victim in dealing with lifelong trauma.
- In many such incidents, victims are forced to change their statements in court just because the matter has been ‘amicably settled’ among the elders.
- Many rapes take place in urban slums, because children are left alone or with some person known to the parents.
- It brings about circumstances causing harm to a child’s health, welfare, and safety.
- It can also result in lasting lifelong physical and psychological trauma.
- Families and society also experience this trauma.
- As adults, victims of childhood abuse are more vulnerable to mental health trauma.
- Due to societal norms, there is hardly any discussion on sex—including safety—in the household.
- The perceived stigma attached to a victim has functioned as an escape tool for offenders.
- Poorer kids are more at risk than rich kids.
- In India a rising concern is the pressure children feel to perform well in school and college examinations, which can be seen as a form of emotional stress and abuse.
- Manufacturers exploit children as inexpensive labour.
- High incidence of malnourishment, child stunting and wasting.
- The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 address the crimes of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children through stringent legal provisions.
- Online complaint management system for easy and direct reporting of sexual offences against children and timely action against offenders.
- The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) ensure that all Laws, Policies and Programmes are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Integrated Child Protection Scheme
- Aimed at building a protective environment for children in difficult circumstances through Government-Civil Society Partnership.
- Operation Smile also called as Operation MUSKAAN is an initiative of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to rescue/rehabilitate missing children.
- Right to Education (RTE) Act.
- Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ programme