Child sexual abuse (CSA) has been identified as a serious and widespread problem all over the world which is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation.
CSA includes an array of sexual activities like fondling, inviting a child to touch the private part of the perpetrator or touch the private parts of the child, molestation, intercourse, exhibitionism, involving a child in prostitution or pornography, or online child luring by cyber-predators. Most sexual abuse offenders are relatives of the child, most often brothers, fathers, family friends/relatives, neighbours etc. Approximately 10% of child sexual abuse offenders are strangers.
The effects of CSA can include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, physical injury and many other problems. Studies have found that 51% to 79% of sexually abused children exhibit psychological symptoms.
India has a large child population that is vulnerable to all types of abuse, neglect and exploitation. Some studies have found that around 53% of Indian children are experiencing different kinds of abuse like inappropriate touching, forceful nude photography, and sexual abuse.
According to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau, 44,189 cases were reported under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act(POCSO) in 2019. This shows that 121 children are subject to sexual assault every day. Uttar Pradesh accounted for the highest share with 7,444 cases, followed by Maharashtra (6,402), and Madhya Pradesh (6,053).
However, the conviction rate for crimes reported under the POCSO act was 34.8% only. According to the ministry of women & child development, the child sexual abuse cases reported on various platforms, from March 2020 to September 2020 has crossed 13,000.
Recently the Mumbai city-based Praja Foundation released a report which shows that the number of rape cases in Mumbai went up from 728 in 2015-2016 to 904 in 2019-2020 (a 24% increase), which also stated that children were victims in 61% of the rape cases in Mumbai in 2019.
A more pathetic aspect of this scenario is the recent injudicious statement by the Mumbai High Court related to child sexual abuse. Though sex education is still a taboo in India, NGO’s, media’s, parents and teachers are putting a lot of efforts in creating awareness among children. Therefore many children are now aware of at least good touch and bad touch. That is why they are disclosing abuse.
But the controversial statements related to child sexual offences by the Mumbai court have come as a shock to the society. It sent a message that the victim rather than the perpetrator bears responsibility for the assault. These types of ruthless judgements are supporting the sexual predators on the prowl.
In addition, finding such loopholes in laws to protect the perpetrator creates a sense of contention and loss of credibility in the system of judiciary. Needless to say, it is the responsibility of the judiciary to enforce laws that protect children from all forms of abuse and punish perpetrators to the maximum extent of the law.
Children’s rights must always be protected and continually be at the prominence. If the sexually assault children are not given the protection in terms of laws and therapeutic assistance they need, they are left to suffer in silence. The trauma associated with sexual abuse can create psychological and emotional disorders, that some children may never overcome.
Hence It is the need of the hour to give specific training to judges. They need soft skills training where they learn empathy and good communication skills which in turn helps to be sensitised for the rights of victims.