The State of Child Abuse in India

The State of Child Abuse in India

In India, a child is abused every 15 minutes – the National Crime Records Bureau Report reveals a sharp increase of offensive incidents against children.

An unfortunate incident of a 10-year old rape victim urged us to address this issue with urgency. Though the perpetrators received jail sentences, the discussion is far from a conclusion. Instead, it brings us to another cause of concern – online trafficking of children.

The increased dependencies on internet and smartphones in our lives has given way to tech enabled crimes like online child abuse.

From United States to Britain to India and Philippines, children are bearing the brunt of cybersex trafficking – they are sold for sex through social media channels or classified advertising websites and are abused over livestreams. “It has never been easier to abuse children online,” Baroness Joanna Shields, founder of WeProtect – an association to put a stop to child exploitation online said this from a recent summit in Stockholm.

“Technology … is providing offenders with unprecedented access to victims, new capabilities, and increasing confidence to abuse children on a mass scale,” added Shields, previously an executive at Facebook and Britain’s internet safety minister.

UNICEF, United Nations children’s agency says 1.8 million children are trafficked into flesh trade every year.

Irrespective of the mode of exploitation, online or physically, children are being abused daily and the numbers are simply alarming. So what are our law enforcement agencies and Indian judiciary doing to protect the happening of this heinous crime?

Let’s take a look.

Legal Provisions Relating To Child Sexual Abuse

Until 2012, India had no proper legal framework that dealt with child sexual abuse. Goa Children’s Act, 2003 was the one and only child abuse legislation that existed before the 2012 Act came into place. The following sections of Indian Penal Code were applied for child sexual abuse:

  • I.P.C. (1860) 375- Rape
  • I.P.C. (1860) 354- Outraging the modesty of a woman
  • I.P.C. (1860) 377- Unnatural offences

However, these laws were not enough when it came to protect the minors, owing to various loopholes, like:

  • IPC 375 offered little protection to male victims or anyone who were victims of any other form of sexual penetration apart from “traditional” peno-vaginal intercourse.
  • IPC 354 offers a vague definition of “modesty”. Also, it doesn’t offer protection to the “modesty” of a male child.
  • IPC 377 doesn’t define the term “unnatural offences”. Also, it fails to properly criminalize sexual abuse of children.

Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act (POSCO)

Just as every cloud has a silver lining, in the year 2012, the Parliament of India passed the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act (POSCO) for the victims of child sexual abuse below 18 years of age – the best part of this Act is its gender neutrality. The consent of the child doesn’t matter in this act.

Secondly, section 19(1) mandates the reporting and recording of the sexual offence performed against a child. It becomes compulsory to report the abuse.

Thirdly, Section 3 of the POSCO Act proposes, “A person is said to commit “penetrative sexual assault” if (a) “he penetrates his penis, to any extent, into the vagina, mouth, urethra, or anus of a child or makes the child to do so with him or any other person”; Since the words “any other person” are used in Section 3(a), women may also be offenders or victims under the second part of Section 3(a)”.

Fourthly, it offers protection to the children during the entire judicial process.

Besides, Section 67-B of the Information Technology Act deals with the child pornography and includes punishment to anyone who publishes or transmits sexually explicit content through any form of electronic or digital media.

But even though a few sections of the POSCO Act are strong and comprehensive, when it comes to implementation, things turn blurry. One of the chief hindrances for implementation is the skeptical attitude of victims and parents to report the crime. The societal stigma, lengthy judicial proceedings and fear of apathetic law enforcement are the key reasons behind such perceptions.

Be the Change

Understanding the gravity of the situation, we as a society need to come forward and not just protect vulnerable minors from the nefarious crime-masters, but also ensure them that they don’t fall prey to such harassment and abuse through proper education and counseling. Because we know when cases go up to the judiciary, a serious lack of sensitivity, empathy and awareness exists among the finest breed of people in power, and that’s where we have to nudge. And that’s only possible if we all come together and start being the wheels of change!!

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