Child sexual abuse is alarmingly becoming common in India. The increasing number of cases of child sexual abuse in homes, residential care facilities, religious institutions, and schools is horrifying. The latest report of abuse in Mahabodhi temple in Gaya goes onto the list with the Muzaffarpur Shelter Home case.
“Breaking the Silence: Child Sexual Abuse in India”, a Human Rights Watch report stated that there was not much awareness about child sexual abuse. 10 years ago, the government took notice of the rising incidents through interviews of 12,500 children from 13 states.
Now, with the rising number of child sexual abuse cases, the government has to step up and take the reins of the problem. Child sexual abuse cases need to be dealt with the utmost seriousness.
In regards to this, The Policy Times gives an insight into what is sexual abuse and the impact it leaves on the child.
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- What is Child Sexual Abuse
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes child sexual abuse as the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend. “The dynamics are often very different to that of adult sexual abuse, and therefore an abuse of this nature cannot be handled in the same way.”
Excerpts from Dr. Asha Bajpai’s chapter on ‘Child Sexual Abuse and Law’ states, “the perpetrator can be anyone who exploits the child’s vulnerability to gain sexual gratification. It involves mental, physical and emotional abuse of a child through overt and covert sexual acts, gestures and disposition.” Child marriages are also a form of child sexual abuse.
Every child has a right to his/her childhood. The impact of child sexual abuse is lifelong. It leaves the child traumatized, among others:
- Recurring thoughts of the abuse/nightmares and flashbacks
- Emotions and reactions such as fear, shame, humiliation, guilt, and self-blame
- Depression and anxiety
- Distorted self-perception
Moreover, the victim starts believing that they deserved it and this goes on to self-destructive relationships in adulthood.
Laws and Policies
The ‘Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012’ is a comprehensive law that protects children from the offenses of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography. It safeguards the interests of the child at every stage of the judicial process by incorporating child-friendly mechanisms for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and speedy trial of offenses through designated Special Courts.
The POCSO Act of 2012 defines a child as any person below 18 years of age. It defines the various forms of sexual abuse: penetrative and non-penetrative assault; sexual harassment and pornography. Sexual abuse is aggravated under circumstances such as the abused child being mentally ill or handicapped; or when the abuse is committed by a person in a position of trust or authority vis-a-vis the child like a family member, police officer, teacher or doctor.
Stringent punishment awaits for perpetrators, as per the gravity of the offense, ranging from a fine to rigorous imprisonment for life.
Child Sexual Abuse is a crime, a serious crime. Children are very vulnerable. They look up to adults for guidance and protection.