Author: Danish Raina, I year of B.A. LLB.(H) from Symbiosis Law School Pune
Abuse and neglect are defined as “trauma, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, negligent treatment or abuse of a person”. The abuse may be of different sorts according to the World Health Organization (WHO) -physical, emotional, mental or in the form of neglect or victimization. It brings about conditions causing damage to the person’s health, well-being and safety. Child abuse, in its different forms, can be seen everywhere in Indian cities and agricultural households, at the houses of the wealthy and the poor, and on the streets and schools. Fifty-Three percentages of children in India face child abuse. The National Crime Records Bureau says that the cases of rape and murder of children proliferate every year. Child abuse in India has been increasing day by day. It is computed that there are more than 1 million cases of child abuse in India.
This number is expected to rise even further over time. Besides, the statistics show that over half of all cases are committed by children under 18 years old. These numbers are unnerving as they include many children who have been abused at a young age. This is because of the lack of awareness among parents on how to handle their children. It is also because most of them do not understand the consequences of their actions. This is where the problem starts. According to a report from UNICEF, approximately one in every five children under the age of 5 is being abused. The abuse robs the children of their innocence and leaves them with lifelong trauma and many other emotional scars that affect their lives in the long run. It also gives the child trust issues and the majority of times it leads to the child becoming secretive and reserved. The child may be afraid of others, and they might even become aggressive towards people around them. This may lead to depression and anxiety. Very unfortunately, Oftentimes, the abuser is a person known or close to the child and the child feels protective towards him/her and thus does not open up about the issue.
Child protection laws in India have been made for the protection of children from abuse. These laws include: - Child Protection Act 1998-the Indian anti-cruelty act 1979-Child Protection Act 1986-Child Protection Law 1992-the Indian anti-bullying legislation 1995-Child Welfare Act 1996-Children Protection Act 2004-Child Welfare Law 2006-the Indian anti-bullying legislation.
The issue of Child Abuse is one of the most important social stigmas connected to society. There are several books and journals out there that take a detailed and sometimes graphic approach to the topic of child abuse. While some of them are fictional, others are completely based on real-life events. Various authors and social activists have conjointly written concerning this drawback and concluded that this is a social evil that must be eradicated from society for its welfare.
In development settings like the Republic of India, the burden of risk and vulnerability falls disproportionately on youngsters. Fifty-three percent of kids in the Republic of India face some form of abuse in their childhood. (Infochange & WADIA Havovi, 2011) Child abuse and domestic violence have steadily increased throughout the years, and sadly it is a common problem in many Indian homes.
Journalist and best-selling author Pinki Virani wrote a book, revealing shocking and unspoken truth about our society and the plight of our little children, “Bitter Chocolate” which gives an explicit account of the numerous cases of child abuse across the country including the accounts of her own experience. She also reveals that a minimum of 20% of girls and boys under the age of 16 are sexually abused regularly; half of them in their own homes, by adults who have their trust. (Pinki Virani, 2014) The book opens with an account of the author's trauma with her perceptive analysis of the issue characterizing what constitutes abuse, why and how this happens, its devastating after-effects that haunt the victims as they grow into adulthood. The book is composed for the youthful parent and guardians, head and educator, judge and police, attorney and public investigator, youth and the future citizens.
A big eye-opener on a largely untouched topic was the research article by Dr. Mohammad Reza Iravani on Child Abuse in India which shed light on the various heinous practices that are being followed in the country which never reach the media. It gives accounts of various incestuous marriage which are practised by many groups, such as the Baiga invalidating the frequently rehashed anthropological cliché that "no known clan\tribe has ever allowed incest" since supposing that it was permitted society would stop working. (Dr. Mohammad Reza Iravani, 2011)
A report issued by the national crime branch shows thirty percent of men and forty per cent of women remember having been sexually molested during their childhood defining "molestation" here as actual genital contact, not simply exposure. Almost half of these misconducts were directly incestuous by family members or blood relations, while the other time it was the guiltiness of caretakers in a minimum of eighty per cent of the cases. As high as these molestation rates appear, however, they represent solely a little of actuality rates, as a result of solely aware reminiscences were counted, and also the earliest seductions of youngsters are nearly never remembered except throughout psychotherapy.
Child abuse is a highly derogatory crime. It is alarming and unacceptable in every society and universally disapproved of. A child is the most innocent being of all and misleading it into the stratagem of abuse is extremely facile. When a caretaker, a person of trust or faith, a confidant or any other individual performs such malicious conduct as abusing a child, there ought to be varied reasons behind such conduct. These can be related to the abusers past, his present or the child’s present or permanent conditions.
The psychological impact of child abuse includes age-inappropriate sexualisation of the child. This implies that the child indulges in improper sexual activities at a very tender age and conceptualizes sex as explained by the abuser which is generally distorted. It also leads to a lack of awareness of sexual identity for the child. The child would find it difficult to understand his own body, which might even draw inkling to assumptions of homosexuality. Anxiety in daily activities of life and fear from specific people or objects (objects of abuse) or strangers or to the ‘touch’ of people is a general impact of physical or sexual abuse. Eating and sleeping disorders are one of the primary impacts of child abuse. The child may have nightmares and fall short of sleep. He would also have problems in building trust relationships with people due to his past experiences. Sexual, physical, emotional abuse or neglect is one of the core reasons behind depression in children. Parent’s unusually high expectations of good behaviour or academic excellence push children into a constant state of dilemma and disgust. Child abuse adversely impacts the child’s confidence and self-esteem. This might lead to the child becoming emotionally dependent and susceptible to outside, unwarranted influence. It might also show submissiveness in behaviour.
Physical harm to the child is a result of abuse, mostly in cases of physical or sexual abuse. This harm is in the form of bruises, marks, burns, wounds, or bleeding, swelling, scratches etc. The unfavourable work environment that is common in places that uses child labour and the frustration from the experience often leads to the child being aggressive or overly sensitive. The child might express these by abusing other children. It can also lead to worsening of parent-child relationships, disrespect for moral values etc. Recapitulation of abuse is more profound in boys when compared to girls. Physical impacts of abuse result in self-mutilation of body parts or even at times it leads to suicidal attempts by the child. Children who are diagnosed with Sexually Transmitted Diseases are generally associated with an abused past. Child workers in factories or mines subsequently develop heart and lung diseases with time. They also suffer from a lack of immunity to airborne diseases and face an early old age. Neglecting a child can lead to its under-development. It can also cause a lack of mental growth and the child may succumb to seclusion and isolation from its surroundings – peers, relatives, teachers etc. When children are neglected, they are easily prone to obesity and malnutrition.
The socio-economic impact of child abuse is significantly larger than it seems to be. Child labour is one of the major components of abuse highlights the perilous outcomes in society. In India especially, the economic effect of child abuse is often ignored or overlooked. Indirectly it affects the economy adversely and leads to a deficit in the growth of the economy. Child abuse results in perniciously affecting the child’s education and work performance. This reduces the child’s productivity as a human capital which is in turn detrimental to the development of the nation. It is common in children who have been abused to turn towards drugs and substance abuse.
As a social issue that deserves interest and intervention, child abuse and neglect is still in their infancy in India. Child abuse is extremely difficult to fight against. It is a complex problem and has several different causes. It is also pervasive. Still, we should not give up. It is very much something that can be dealt with and eradicated. Despite the absence of strong evidence to guide our preventive efforts, we can do many things to try to prevent abuse. One important step is to give more attention to parents and guardians. Taking care of a child is also a skill that should be developed and enhanced.
It is easy to feel disheartened by how large the issue of child abuse is in our country. It appears to be a complication that doesn't seem to have an imminent solution. Even though child abuse is a problem that is present in most countries, in India it more prevalent due to factors like the highly patriarchal society and the weak legal framework related to the same. The fact that Indian culture does not appreciate the open discussion about such matters just makes the matters worse. However, this can be changed. Proper education for both children and adults can go a long way in tackling the issue. We also need stronger laws.
We cannot hope to resolve the problem of child abuse by ourselves. The change should be brought about at every level, be it International, National, state community or even our own homes to actively prevent child abuse Multiple studies have shown that countries with the most munificent social services have the lowest rate of child homicide across the globe. We should lobby for greater availability of drug and alcohol treatment programs, more shelters for the homeless, more accessible mental health care and more shelters for abused women and children. Programs that provide parenting skills, support groups and respite care for parents and caregivers should be available in every community in every part of the world.
· PINKI VIRANI, Bitter Chocolate Child Sexual Abuse In India 60-65 (Penguin Books, 2000)
· LOVELEEN KACKER, Childhood Betrayed: Child Abuse and Neglect in India 30-34 (Harper India, 2015)
· Dr. MOHAMMAD REZA IRAVANI, Child Abuse In India, 7, 150-153 (2011)
· UMA A. SEGAL, Child Abuse In India: A Theoretical Overview, 52 TIJSW, 293-301(July 1991)
· PRADEEP NAIR, Child Sexual Abuse And Media: Coverage, Representation and Advocacy, 6, No 1, 38-45 (March 2019)
· NARENDRA SAINI, Child Abuse and Neglect in India: Time to act, 56, JMAJ., 5, 302-309 (2013)