India is home to over 35.3% of the younger age, between 0-14 years, of the world population. As Jawaharlal Nehru once told, “Children are like buds in a garden and should be carefully and lovingly nurtured, as they are the future of the nations and citizens of tomorrow”.
India provides governing laws that safeguard; protect the rights of the children, developing schemes and policies. Despite many changes in laws and amendments implemented, so many things remain the same. Although governments, state and central, put special focus on the abolishing of exploitation, abuse, and labor, the situation remains the same. Child abuse is frequent and the main reason for this is found in poverty with domestic violence, substance abuse, and illiteracy.
Child Abuse is the failure of upbringing a child in a way resulting in disruption of their social life and physical health. Child abuse can happen anywhere, in school, homes, and social media as well. It can show a huge impact on the development of personality and sometimes can last their lifetime. In India, many NGOs are formed to safeguard the rights of children. The Indian constitution contains fundamental and legal rights for their protection. Child abuse can be classified into: physical, psychological, sexual, and child neglect.
The harm caused to the child physically by their parents or caregiver. They can be shown in the form of punishments like beating a child, forced labor, and bullying.
Child psychological abuse:
It is a challenging abuse as finding proof for such cases is extremely hard. Children who fall prey to emotional abuse go through difficult emotional development patterns. Threatening, blackmailing and subjugation are a few examples.
Child Sexual Abuse:
A child involved in sexual activities in which he/she is not in a position to comprehend and approve what is happening to them. It can be done by the physical contact by kissing, holding them in a sexual manner, forcing them to touch the genitalia, vaginal or anal intercourse, sexual exploitation, and rape. The other types of abuse in this category, without contact, are obscene remarks, online solicitation, child pornography, sexual instructive comments, stalking, and voyeurism.
Children having no adequate food, clothes, shelter, supervision of nutrition, medical care, and education can be considered neglected. Although it is harmful, it is considered inactive as it does not affect a child-like previous form of abuse do.
Impact of violence:
- Result in death.
- Lead to severe injuries.
- Impair brain and nervous system development
- Result in negative coping and health risk behavior
- Impact opportunities & future generations.
India focuses on the inalienable rights of the children and guiding the policymakers to safeguard and promote their rights.
The Constitution of India provides special provisions for development and protection.
Article 14: Ensure that every citizen, man, woman, the child is equal before the law.
Article 15: Prohibition of discrimination and allowing the state to make special laws and provisions for women and children.
Article 21A: Makes free education mandatory for children of the age of 6-14 years.
Article 23: Prohibits the trafficking of human beings and forced labor.
Article 24: Prohibits employment of children below 14 years of age in factories, mines or other hazardous work environments.
Indian Penal Code 1860:
IPC gives a special focus on Acts of the children. Section 363A (4)(b) defines the term “minor”: i) In the case of a male, a person under sixteen years of age and ii) In the case of a female, a person under eighteen years of age. As per general exceptions, Part IV, it gives special provisions under sec 82 and 83 and other punishments to the acts done against the will of the children.
DOLI INCAPAX ACTS OF CHILD:
Section 82: States that any act of child under 7 years of age is an offense.
Section 83: States that if a child in the age group 7-12 years, commit an offense knowing the nature of his/her act, such a child is punishable.
Section 363A: Whoever kidnaps any minor or, not being the lawful guardian of a minor and obtains the custody so that the minor is employed or used for the purposes of begging shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Section 366(A): Whoever, by any means whatsoever, induces any minor girl under the age of eighteen years to go from any place or to do any act with the intent that such girl maybe, or knowing that it is likely that she will be, force or seduced to illicit intercourse with another person shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine.
Section 369: Whoever kidnaps or abducts any child under the age of ten years with the intention of taking dishonestly any movable property from the person of such child, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Sexual Offense u/s of IPC:
Rape of Minor:
In the year 2018, due to increasing cases of rape of minors, there were amendments made to rape laws for the inclusion of sections 376AB, 376DA, and 376DB in the Indian penal Code.
In the year 2018, Mohd. Akhtar vs The State Of Jammu And Kashmir, there was a rape case of 8-year-old minor being abducted, raped, and murdered in Kathua, J&K. She was found to have been gang-raped and was murdered. The case led to a huge outcry in public. “The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO)” was amended and severe punishments were imposed. The minors needed much protection and care, which added the above sections in the category of “sexual offense” in the penal code of India.
Internet Child Pornography:
Section 67 B of the IT Act establishes punishment for publishing or transmitting material depicting children (under the age of 18) in a sexually explicit act. It also punishes the person who cultivates, entices, or induces children to online relationships with one or more children for and on sexually explicit acts or in a manner that may offend a reasonable adult on the computer resources or facility. This is punishable by the POCSO Act with imprisonment that extends up to seven years.
Child labor Prohibition and Regulation Act 1986:
Under Section 2(ii), it prohibits and regulates the child labor; it also classifies operation into two categories, hazardous and non-hazardous. Section 7 fixes 6 hours as the maximum time limit a child be put to work, included within these 6 hours, is the time spent for interval and in waiting for the work. Section 7(4) prohibits night work from 7 pm to 8 pm and Section 7(5) prevents double employment in any establishments. Section 14 deals with penalties for the violation of any of the provisions of the Act.
The contravention of the Act is punishable with imprisonment for a period not less than 3 months and may extend up to 1 year with a fine amount not less than 10,000 and may extend up to Rs 20,000 or both. In addition, those who are found to be guilty under Section 3 or commit offense afterward are to be awarded a jail term not less than 6 months which may also extend to 2 years.
Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act ( POCSO ) 2012:
The Act was established to protect children anyone under the age of 18 during the time of the offenses like sexual abuse, sexual harassment, pornography and it prevents victimization at the hands of the judicial system. It ensures the setting up of a child-friendly system for trial. The Act gives definitions of different types of sexual abuse both penetrative and non-penetrative.
The Act has provisions for considering certain sexual offenses as aggravated if is committed against a mentally ill child or if it is committed by a member of the armed forces or security forces or a public servant, or a family member or any other person in a position of trust or authority of the child. Those who are aware that such an offense is committed and fail to do so can be punished with six month’s imprisonment or fine. The procedure is to record a child’s statement within 30 days, the special court with in-camera proceedings, and in presence of the child’s parents.
Juvenile Justice Act (Care and Protection) 2000:
JJ Act is the governing legislation with respect to children in conflict with the law and in general, provides special provisions for the care and protection of children in order to cater to their special requirements for their development and growth. The law propounds a child-friendly approach in adjudication and subsequent rehabilitation to the children-in-conflict with-law. The amendment came into act in 2015, to try those of age group 16-18 years, who committed heinous crimes, as adults provided with the approval of the Juvenile Justice Board.
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act,2006:
The act, which is new, prohibits child marriages, protects, and provides relief to the victims. It enhances punishments for those who promote, solemnize, and abet child marriages. It provides for the appointment of a Child Marriage Prohibition Officer and it also criminalizes the act of marital rape by the husband of the minor.
Child abuse is an everlasting and grave issue affecting the victims causing harm to the individual, society, economy, and to the whole nation. It is therefore important to take appropriate steps to reform and prevent this heinous crime against the children. It is important to improve the mental and emotional stability of the children victimized by abuse working towards their psychological development. Sexual education should be mandatory in schools and NCPCR should improve its policies to ground level.
Children should be made aware of their rights and awareness programs, workshops should be conducted by government and NGOs. People should accept that child abuse can happen anywhere and to anyone.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is usually found in the victims of child abuse. A few victims may turn into bullies and recite the abuse of other children. Institutionalizing more centers of psychological assistance for such children is essential as their experiences may act as a basic manifestation in the maltreatment of other children.
2.9 million cases of child abuse are reported every year in the United States. In May 2016, a global WHO plan of action is endorsed by the World Health Assembly to address interpersonal violence, in particular against women and girls, and against children. According to WHO, nearly 3 in 4 children or 300 million children aged 2–4 years regularly suffer physical punishment and/or psychological violence at the hands of parents and caregivers. One in 5 women and 1 in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child aged 0-17 years.
120 million girls and young women under 20 years of age have suffered some form of forced sexual contact. The consequences of child maltreatment include impaired lifelong physical and mental health, and social and occupational outcomes can ultimately slow a country’s economic and social development. Every year, there are an estimated 40,150 homicide deaths in children under 18 years of age, some of which are likely due to child maltreatment. This number almost certainly underestimates the true extent of the problem, since a significant proportion of deaths due to child maltreatment are incorrectly attributed to falls, burns, drowning, and other causes.
Statistics in India:
In India, according to 2015 data from the National Crime Records Bureau, 8934 (6.7% of all suicides) students are committing suicide every year. That’s one student every hour. Despite being one of the most advanced states in India, Maharashtra has the highest number of student suicides with 1230 of the 8934 suicides occurring here (14%) and Tamil Nadu has the second highest with 955 of the 8934 suicides (10%). Every hour one student commits suicide in India, with about 28 such suicides reported every day, according to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
The NCRB data shows that 10,159 students died by suicide in 2018, an increase from 9,905 in 2017, and 9,478 in 2016. Laws against child labor are not properly implemented and child beggary is highly prevalent in States across India. The abolition of child labor should be strictly implemented. Several programs are being introduced by the Indian government like child helpline number 1098 and https://cybercrime.gov.in/ to file complaints online. The authenticity of these programs is debatable and awareness of such programs is not known to the majority of people.
As days go on, the crime and abuse numbers are going up but, WHO, in its research, found that it can prevent child abuse. Target 16.2 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to “end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against, and torture of, children”. “Preventing and responding to violence against children requires that efforts systematically address risk and protective factors at all four interrelated levels of risk (individual, relationship, community, society)”.
This article draws attention to child abuse and its effect on the victims. It also shows the governing laws implemented in India, the articles in the Constitution of India, acts in criminal law, and the special acts for the protection of the children’s rights. The laws must be implemented strictly and at a faster pace. More number of awareness programs and campaigns regarding child abuse must take place at schools, colleges and use social media platform wisely. The awakening of society is required for the protection and enhancing their childhood. This would pave a path for the nation to stand among the greatest with its children looking up to innovation and a great future rather than looking down defeated and derailed.
Venkatesh Telukapalli | Advocate, Hyderabad
- “Child Abuse in India- An Analysis” by Amisha U. Pathak
- “Special Laws Relating to Children in India” by Legal Bites
- World Health Organization, Violence against children, (https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-children)
- Constitution of India, 1950
- Indian Penal Code, 1860