Child if the perpetrator is a close
Child sexual abuse is the most heinous of all sexual crimes that can be perpetrated against children. It connotes inappropriate sexual behaviour with a child by an older person for sexual simulation. It is one of the gravest problems of this century which has deeply disturbed mankind’s conscience. In the last couple of years, there has been an enormous and rapid statistical increase in child sexual abuse all over the world despite adoption of innumerable international legal documents, growing national, legal and social concern for the horrendous child abuse problems. Child abuse can be in any form, be it sexual molestation, incest, rape, making the child fondle the adult’s genitals, commercial sexual exploitation or pornography. Nearly 53% of the total children in India are victims of various forms of sexual abuse, irrespective of age, gender or class.
The shift towards an urban culture, increasingly modern lifestyle, increasing prevalence of nuclear families and lack of awareness makes a child more vulnerable to sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is not only found in institutions or workplaces but the risk of such abuse can also be at home especially by family members and relatives, sometimes even by caretaker at schools . So, the risk of such abuse at any place cannot be ruled out. Most of the victims suffer silently and often bear the mental and emotional scars for their entire life. The few who build up the courage to complain about the abuse are not taken seriously; they are often disbelieved and many times silenced especially if the perpetrator is a close family member or a well known member of society.
To curb the menace of such maladies and to protect the children from sexual abuse, the “Protection of Children from Sexual Offence Act, 2012” was enacted. The objective behind the enactment was to protect children from sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography. Apart from POCSO there are certain other international conventions and enactments regarding protection of child’s right. But these are not enough to solve all the issues regarding child sexual abuse in India.
Child and Child Sexual Abuse; Conceptualisation and NatureUnless otherwise provided, the term “child” usually refers to a person less than eighteen years including adults apart from minors. A person who is of immature intellect and imperfect discretion, is unable to foresee and comprehend the consequences of his own act. In POCSO Act, 2012, a child is a person who is below 18 years of age. Child abuse involves four elements viz.
, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect. It involves an incident wherein an adult engages a minor in a sexual act or exposes the minor to inappropriate behaviour or material. It even includes those actions wherein a child is coerced into performing any sexual activity by another child. It may involve use of threats and physical force but usually involves subtle forms of manipulation in which the child coerced into believing that the activity is an expression of love. It does not mandate physical contact between a perpetrator and a child. Some of the usual forms of child sexual abuse includes obscene phone calls, text or video interactions, fondling, exhibitionism or exposing oneself to a minor, masturbation in the presence of a minor or forcing the minor to masturbate, intercourse; sex of any kind with a minor including vaginal, oral or anal; producing, owning or sharing pornographic images/movies of children; sex trafficking, asking or pressuring the child to engage in sexual activities; displaying pornography to a child; physical contact with the child’s genitals or viewing child’s genitals without physical contact; sexual molestation involving kissing, sexual innuendo, verbal sexual abuse, rape by penile penetration for both heterosexuals and homosexuals; incest; prostitution of children as part of commercial sexual exploitation; sex tourism involving children; and molestation at the time of toiling and meeting bathing needs of the child by the father. This kind of sexual abuse has always targeted both children and adolescents in incomprehensible sexual activities to which they are unable to give informed consent. Sexual relationships should be formed only with free will and informed consent without any type of coercion.
Child sexual abuse is rampant and prevalent over all types of society irrespective of economic and social status, class, geography, culture and religion. It can happen in any city, village or institution and by any person be it father, brother, grandfather, relatives, priest, caretaker, neighbour, teacher or even a stranger. Perpetrators are mostly males, related or known faces to the victim in whom he/she invests faith and who are in position of trust and responsibility. It is a shameful as well as astonishing fact that, most of the child sexual abuse takes place in juvenile justice homes i.e., observation homes, special homes /shelter homes, schools, and day care centres. Broadly speaking, these are the places where the child is supposed to be the safest. There can be many reasons for why children are a soft target for the perpetrators.
Firstly, they are so innocent that they can be lured and enticed by small presents. Additionally, the belief that person suffering from Syphilis and Gonorrhoea will be cured upon having sex with a minor girl child, perpetrators testing their sexual capabilities, marital dysfunction and domestic violence, and poor support from the extended family can be one of the other causes. Child sexual abuse is detrimental to child’s mental, emotional or physical welfare. It may destroy the future of the child, resulting in psychosomatic response and psychiatric disorders. Long lasting emotional problems, like youth suicide, regression, sleeping and eating disorders, lack of self esteem, nightmares, self hatred, promiscuous behaviour, aggression, sexual difficulties, lack of confidence and poor parenting skills, may also remain. Even physical effects like headache, stomach ache and sleeping disturbances cannot be ruled out.
Some of the emotional effects which are commonly found in the young victims are depression, fear, anxiety, anger and shame. There might also be some behavioural problems such as withdrawal, aggression and inappropriate sexual behaviour.