According to a 2007 study by the Indian Government of nearly 14,500 children from across 13 states of India, 53% of children reported having faced sexual abuse. 20% of those interviewed said they had been subjected to severe abuse, which the report defined as ‘sexual assault, making the child fondle private parts, making the child exhibit private body parts and being photographed in the nude’. The study also reported that 50% of abusers are known to the child or are in a position of trust and responsibility and for this very reason it was found that over 70 per cent of children had never spoken to anyone of what was done to them.
In the year 2017, the survey conducted by humanitarian aid organization World Vision India with 45,844 respondents in the 12- 18 age group, across 26 states in the country, revealed that one in every two children is a victim of child sexual abuse. It also reported revealed that one in every five do not feel safe because of the fear of being sexually abused. It also said one in four families do not come forward to report child abuse.
A research paper on ‘Child Sexual Abuse, links to later Sexual Exploitation/High Risk Sexual Behavior, and Prevention/Treatment Programs, Trauma, Violence, and Abuse’ by K Lalor, and R McElvaney in 2010 studied key findings of research literature on the incidence of CSA with emphasis on the relations between CSA and later sexual exploitation. It found that numerous studies suggest that sexual victimization in childhood and adolescence significantly increases the likelihood of sexual victimization in adulthood. Studies suggest that sexual victimization in childhood or adolescence increases the likelihood of sexual victimization in adulthood between 2 and 13.7 times.
What is Child sexual abuse?
Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is a form of child abuse. Child Sexual Abuse happens when a person uses a child for his/her sexual gratification. Child Sexual Abuse is mostly committed by someone who is in a position of power and/or authority, and sometimes, even in a position of trust. The very nature of abuse implies a relationship, and thus it is much easier for such a person to take advantage of the child’s helplessness and vulnerability. CSA may be physical, visual or verbal in nature. Child Sexual Abuse is a violation of the child’s body as well as of the child’s trust and is against the law. Child Sexual Abuse can be categorized as contact and non-contact abuse :
Contact Abuse –
- Penetration of anus, vagina, oral sex
- Fondling child’s private body parts
- Making the child fondle the abuser’s private parts. Also using emotional blackmail such as ‘you would do this if you loved me’ or comparing previous encounters to make someone feel obliged to do something sexual.
- Forcible kissing
- Sexual touching of any part of the body
Non-Contact Abuse –
- Making the child exhibit private body parts
- Exhibiting private body parts to the child
- Photographing a child in the nude
- Making the child view pornographic materials
- Online abuse including making, viewing or distributing child abuse images
- Encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts
- Using sexually explicit talk and sexually abusive language with the child
Protection of Children from sexual offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 –
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012 was formulated in order to effectively address sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children through legal provisions. POCSO received the President’s assent on 19 June 2012 and was notified in the Gazette of India the next day.
The objectives of the POCSO Act are –
- To protect children from the offences of
- Sexual assault;
- Sexual harassment
- To establish Special Courts for speedy trial of such offences.
The Salient features of the Act are that it –
- Defines the child as anyone below the age of 18
- Is gender neutral law, wherein the law takes cognizance of sexual crimes committed against both girls and boys under the age of 18 years.
- Addresses a wide range of sexual offences which include anything from complete and partial penetration, non-penetrative sexual assault, stalking of a child, showing children pornography, using the child for pornography and exhibitionism. The law protects children from both contact and non-contact sexual abuse.
- Places the burden of proof on the accused and ensures punishment for all perpetrators irrespective of age and gender
- Does not recognize consensual sexual acts among children or between a child and an adult.
- Prosecutes any person (including a child) for engaging in a sexual act with a child irrespective of whether the latter consented to it.
- Provides for more severe punishment, when the sexual offence is committed by a person in a position of trust or authority
- Introduces child friendly measures and defines the role of the Police as a child protector
- Pronounces the importance of Mandatory Reporting of sexual offences