Child sexual abuse also called child molestation, is a form of child abuse in which an older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation. Forms of child sexual abuse include engaging in sexual activities with a child such as (whether by asking or pressuring, or by other means) indecent exposure, child grooming, and child sexual exploitation, including using a child to produce child pornography.
Features that describe child sexual abuse include:
- The culprit is typically a known and trusted caregiver.
- Child sexual abuse often happens over many weeks or even years.
- The sexual abuse of children frequently occurs as repeated episodes that become more aggressive with time. Culprits usually engage the child in a gradual process of sexualizing the relationship over time (i.e. grooming).
- Incest abuse accounts for about one third of all child sexual abuse cases.
Why does child sexual abuse take place?
Till date, there isn’t a particular answer justified for this, but as per various interviews, statistics and much more it has been ruled down to a few reasons.
- People who sexually abuse often have many victims and rarely disclose the actual motive of their abusive behaviour.
- People who sexually abuse are tremendously resourceful in the ways that they can put blame onto victims and minimise their behaviour.
- All sexually abusive behaviour is a matter of choice and people who sexually abuse choose to abuse by their own will.
- Some people may be sexually attracted to children and if they act out their feelings of sexual attraction toward children that is also sexual abuse.
- Some people may be generally sexually attracted to other adults but may sexually approach children when they are under a lot of stress, like losing a job or getting a divorce.
- Some people who sexually abuse were victims of abuse or neglect as children.
- Some people sexually abuse children so that they can feel the control and influence their feelings in their relationships with other adults or in their life.
Nonetheless, none of these reasons justify sexual relationship between an adult and a child. No matter what the reason for the abuse, the effects on children are severe and can last a lifetime.
In most of the situations, where children are abused it is by people who the children know. The abuser may be a parent, a grandparent, a caregiver, brother, sister, neighbour, teacher and so on. Often the person who sexually abused is in a position of trust and can take advantage of the opportunities that being trusted provides in order to sexually abuse.
Laws laid down in the Indian Constitution-
- The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO) came into force on November 14, 2012, and was formulated to deal with offences including child sexual abuse and child pornography. The Act through its 46 provisions increased the scope of reporting offences against children, which were not earlier covered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). This expanded the criminal penalty for aggravated penetrative sexual assault to include punishment for abuse by a person in position of trust or authority including public servants, police, armed forces, and management or staff of an educational or religious institution.
- The POCSO Act defines offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment, pornography and safeguarding the interest and well-being of children. It also sets out a child-friendly procedure regarding the recording of evidence, investigation and trial of offences, establishment of special courts and speedy trial of cases. The aim of the act is to provide protection to the child at every stage of judicial process.
- The Constitution of India provides that the state, as a directive principle of state policy, must seek to ensure “that 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.” The rights to equality, to protection of life, to personal liberty, and against exploitation are enshrined in articles 14–17, 21, 23, and 24 of the Constitution. Article 15, which protects against discrimination on various grounds, contains an important provision that “nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.”
- The Policy also provides that the State shall protect all children from all forms of violence and abuse, harm, neglect, stigma, discrimination, deprivation, exploitation including economic exploitation and sexual exploitation, abandonment, separation, abduction, sale or trafficking for any purpose or in any form, pornography, alcohol and substance abuse, or any other activity that takes undue advantage of them, or harms their personhood or affects their development.
- Lastly, the State shall promote child friendly jurisprudence, enact progressive legislation, build a preventive and responsive child protection system, including emergency outreach services, and promote effective enforcement of punitive legislative and administrative measures against all forms of child abuse and neglect to comprehensively address issues related to child protection.
The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, which received presidential assent on December 31, 2015, repealed and replaced a 2000 Act by the same name. In September 2016, the government delivered the Juvenile Justice Model Rules, 2016, which set out some of the procedures for implementing the Act.
Section 2 enumerates definitions of the terms “child,” “juvenile”, “child in need of care and protection,” etc. A “child” is defined under the act as “a person who has not completed eighteen years of age.” A “child in need of care and protection” is defined as
(i) who is found without any home or settled place of abode and without any ostensible means of subsistence; or
(ii) who is found working in contravention of labour laws for the time being in force or is found begging, or living on the street; or
(iv) who is mentally ill or mentally or physically challenged or suffering from terminal or incurable disease, having no one to support or look after or having parents or guardians unfit to take care, if found so by the Board or the Committee; or
(v) who has a parent or guardian and such parent or guardian is found to be unfit or incapacitated, by the Committee or the Board, to care for and protect the safety and well-being of the child; or
(vi) who does not have parents and no one is willing to take care of, or whose parents have abandoned or surrendered him; or
(vii) who is missing or is a run-away child, or whose parents cannot be found after making rational inquiry in such manner as may be prescribed; or
(viii) who has been or is being or is likely to be abused, tortured or exploited for the purpose of sexual abuse or illegal acts; or
(ix) who is found helpless and is likely to be inducted into drug abuse or trafficking; or
(x) who is being or is likely to be abused for unconscionable gains; or
(xi) who is victim of or affected by any armed conflict, civil unrest or natural calamity.
In spite of so many law reforms, there is a case of child sexual abuse almost every minute in every corner of India. One of the most highlighted case was the Unnao Rape case. The facts of the case were that a 17-year-old was gang raped and left to die. This case gained importance, after the father of the victim was arrested wrongfully. The rape survivor tried to burn herself outside the residence of Yogi Adityanath. After long court proceedings, the culprits were arrested. This case is the perfect example of sexual child abuse. A teenage girl who had her entire life ahead of her was now scarred for life.
Recently, The Protection of Children from Sexual offences amendment bill was passed. Many more reforms can be brought about, for example, meeting the survivors of the abuse and helping them and providing a better life, making a strict judiciary system for such abusers and lastly create awareness at a general level. It will take years to eradicate child abuse, but as a responsible citizen one should start from the root.