Child Abuse

By – Supriya

According to Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) ,” child abuse” can be defined as – ” Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker , which results in death , serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse , or exploitation , or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm to the child.” WHO defines it as : ” Child Abuse or maltreatment constitutes all forms of physical and / or emotional ill – treatment , sexual abuse , neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health , survival , development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility , trust or power.”

Child abuse is one of the most heinous and inhuman crimes. It means to maltreat a child physically or emotionally . Thus , any commission or omission of an act by a parent which leads to a harm or possibility of harm to the child can be categorised as child abuse. Not only the parents but also those who happen to be in the social circle of a child can be a cause of this I’ll treatment. In India, many gruesome incidents of child abuse have been recorded in the past . In 2010, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights received 75 cases of child abuse in India up to October 31, including cases of corporal punishment , with the highest number being reported from the national capital and Uttar Pradesh . Especially , those in the age group of 5-12 years reported higher levels of abuse. Ranging from incest , rapes , sexual abuse, digital rape , sodomy , inappropriate touch to sexual assaults , India has a higher category of child sexual abuse than other kind of abuses.

The worst part is that a stunning majority of these cases go unreported . Also, reasons like shame , plain depravity and family honour contribute towards shunning and covering the cases of child abuse . According to a government commissioned survey, more than 53% of children in India are subjected to sexual abuse, but most don’t report the assaults to anyone. The survey covered different forms of child abuse- physical , sexual and emotional – as well as female child neglect and found that two out of every three children are physically abused . The report , which surveyed 12447 children , found that 52.94 per cent of victims were boys.It also revealed that ironically parents and relatives , persons known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility were mostly found to be the perpetrators of child sexual abuse in the country. The report also brings into light that harmful traditional practices like child marriage, caste system, discrimination against the girl child, child labour and Devadasi tradition impact negatively on children and increase their vulnerability to abuse and neglect. Children on street , children at work and children in institutional care reported the highest incidence of sexual assault. Child abuse traumatizes a child in various ways. From not providing required environment for a healthy growth , inflicting physical torture, mental trauma to sexually maltreating a child . While choking, burning , hitting and striking comprise physical abuse , any kind of sexual association in any form between a child and an adult results into sexual abuse. Emotionally depraving a child , hurting his self esteem or inflicting any other kind of mental trauma is a physiological abuse against the child. Child Abuse may also include not providing required food, shelter , clothing , education and an environment to the child that is necessary for an overall development of child’s personality.
Cultural norms, unsuccessful marriage and drug addiction of parents comprise as the main causes of child abuse. In an unhappy marriage, spouses vent the entire frustration on the child. Sometimes a child might also be inflicted to abuse without it being in the notice of the parents , for example , at the school , at the hands of some relative or the immediate neighborhood . It can be both, intentional or unintentional. Presently, though India has the highest number of sexually abused children in the world, there is no special law in India dealing with child abuse and child sexual abuse. The Indian Penal Code does not spell out the definition of child abuse as a specific offence ; neither does it offer legal remedy and punishment for ” child abuse”. However, to fight against this heinous crime, in 2011, Union minister of women and child development has introduced the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill in Rajya Sabha. This means India will soon have a comprehensive law to deal with sexual offences against children. Defining what constitutes such offences , the proposed law aims at protecting children against penetrative sexual assault, sexual harassment , pornography and also provide for establishment of special courts for speedy trail. It will provide for stringent punishment of up to 10 years jail term , which may even be extended to life imprisonment , if warranted.

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