Did you know a study conducted by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has found that 55% of children in India have experienced some kind of abuse, with 25% facing physical abuse, 16% facing sexual abuse, and 11% being victims of verbal or emotional abuse?
These statistics indicate a significant problem that needs to be addressed urgently. Child abuse is a grave concern in India, manifesting in various forms, such as physical assault, burning, and unwanted sexual advances.
Although India has laws to protect children, the challenge lies in making these laws work on the ground. We've got a bunch of rules to shield our little ones. But here's the hiccup, these rules struggle to kick into action because we're short on authorities on the ground and services that really help.
Child abuse is happening way too much in India, and we need to tackle it head-on. So, let’s delve into child abuse laws in India in detail.
What constitutes Child Abuse in India?
Child abuse, whether it's physical harm, emotional pain, or neglect, occurs when someone, be it an adult or another child, inflicts harm on a child. This issue doesn't discriminate; it's found across all cultural, ethnic, and income groups.
The harm can take various forms, from physical injuries to emotional scars, and tragically, it can even lead to a child's death. In India, the harsh reality of child abuse is slowly gaining attention, shining a light on the global problems of gender violence, including rape, sexual abuse, and harassment. It's time to address these issues and ensure the safety of our children. Now, let’s discuss some challenges:
Children are special in the eyes of the law because it thinks they're not quite ready to make all their own choices. Usually, their parents or guardians decide stuff for them.
Child abuse is an extremely serious issue that can have severe legal and social consequences. It can lead to legal problems, such as getting in trouble with the law, and can also damage a person's reputation, causing them to lose their good name. It is necessary to report any suspected incidents of child abuse to the appropriate authorities to ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable for their actions.
Figuring out the laws about child abuse can be tricky, so if someone's facing those charges, it's crucial to talk to a local advocate who knows the ropes. Only an experienced advocate can give the right advice for that specific situation.
Child Abuse Laws in India
Child abuse laws in India evolved from early, general provisions to targeted legislation with the Juvenile Justice Act of 1986. Subsequent amendments, notably in 2000 and 2015, reinforced child protection, prioritizing their welfare, rights, and rehabilitation in response to emerging societal challenges.
Since then India has been witnessing progressive changes in laws, policies, and the recognition of human and child rights. The Constitution of India ensures the rights of children under these articles:
Article 21A of the Indian Constitution guarantees free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6-14 years.
Moreover, Article 24(a) ensures that children are protected from any hazardous employment until they turn 14.
Children in India enjoy equal rights as adult citizens, such as the right to equality (Article 14), right to personal liberty and due process of law (Article 21), and right to protection from being trafficked and forced into bonded labour (Article 23), among others.
Other Child Abuse Laws
Child Protection Laws in India are framed in line with these constitutional provisions for safeguarding child rights. More than 250 statutes in India have been passed by the Union and State Governments. Some of the important laws are:
1. Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC)
Section 75 says that if someone is cruel to a child, they can get in trouble. And if someone helps or encourages a child to hurt themselves (like suicide), that's a problem too, covered under Section 76.
Now, if someone leaves a child under twelve years old all alone, Section 317 kicks in. The punishment for abandoning a child could be up to seven years in prison or a fine, or both.
Section 366A of the IPC pertains to the crime of kidnapping, abducting, or inducing a woman to compel her marriage against her will. This section criminalizes actions that involve kidnapping or enticing a woman to force her into marriage without her consent.
Sections 372 and 373 deal with selling or buying young girls for bad reasons, like prostitution or other unlawful things. If caught, the punishment could be up to ten years in prison and a fine. These rules are in place to make sure kids are safe and protected from harm.
2. The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (IEA)
As per Section 118 of this Act, any person, regardless of age or health conditions, can be considered a witness in a court of law as long as they are capable of understanding the questions asked of them and providing coherent answers. The only exceptions are cases where the person is too young, too old, or suffering from a condition that affects their ability to comprehend or communicate effectively.
3. Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC)
Following the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013, the punishment for rape of a minor girl has been made more severe under section 376(2)(i) of the Indian Penal Code. Specifically, the punishment for rape of female minors below the age of 16 shall be a minimum of ten years of rigorous imprisonment, which can be extended to life imprisonment. This amendment represents a strong stance against sexual violence towards minors and seeks to serve justice for victims of such heinous crimes.
Child protection laws passed by the Centre
1. Children Pledging of Labour Act, 1933 (CPLA)
As per this Act, it is strictly prohibited for parents or any other person to pledge the labour of children. Additionally, no person is allowed to employ children who have been pledged for labour. This legislation seeks to protect the rights and welfare of children by preventing their exploitation and ensuring that they receive an education and opportunities to develop their skills.
2. Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 (CLA)
This 1986 Act is a law in India aimed at protecting children from exploitation in the workforce. The act strictly prohibits the employment of children in hazardous occupations and sets a minimum age for employment in any kind of work. The act recognizes the importance of education and the rights of children to have a happy and healthy childhood free from the burden of labour.
3. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1987 (ITPA)
This law says it's not allowed to get, move, or employ someone for sexual exploitation or prostitution. It's also a big no-no to traffic children for any reason, whether they're boys or girls. This rule is there to make sure everyone, especially kids, is kept safe from harm.
4. Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (POCMA)
POCMA follows these basic premise:
To make a child go through marriage is an offence, and
A child or minor is a person up to 18 years of age in the case of girls and 21 years in the case of boys.
5. Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009
As per the Right to Education, the State is responsible for providing free and compulsory education within ten years. Initially, it was only a Directive Principles of State but now it has been acknowledged under the fundamental rights, making it a justiciable right under Article 21A. The RTE Act, 2009 outlines the modalities for providing free and compulsory education to children aged between 6-14 years in India.
6. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act)
The law aims to tackle and prevent sexual harassment, exploitation, assault, abuse, pornography, and immoral acts against children. It applies to anyone below 18 years, irrespective of gender. Its key features are:
Gender Neutrality: It doesn't favor any gender and punishes those encouraging child abuse.
Child-Friendly Approach: The law ensures a child-friendly atmosphere throughout legal proceedings to avoid re-victimization.
Strict Punishments: Perpetrators of child sexual abuse face severe penalties. For assault on a child under 12, it's a minimum of 20 years imprisonment, possibly life. For ages 12 to 18, it's a minimum of 10 years, possibly life.
7. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (JJA)
This is effective since January 15, 2016, addresses the treatment of underage offenders. It defines a child as below 18 years, categorizing them as 'child in conflict with law' and 'child in need of care and protection.'
The Act establishes Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees to safeguard children's rights and ensure their overall development. Notably, it allows trying certain juveniles aged 16-18 as adults for serious offenses, a provision sparking debate.
The Act also prescribes punishments for offenses against children and underwent an amendment in 2021, enforced from September 1, 2022.
8. National Commission for Protection of Child Rights
This has been established by the central government under the Ministry of Women and Child Development to regulate all laws and programs with a child-centric approach. The commission has the authority to take suo moto cognizance for any violation of child rights.
9. Child Welfare Committee (CWC)
This has been constituted under the Woman and Child Development Department to take care of children who need protection and care. In case of child abuse, the police officer is required to inform the Committee within 24 hours. A professional is then appointed to support the child and ensure their psycho-social well-being. The CWC representative will also keep the child's family informed of the case. Any reporting of child abuse can be done by dialing the toll-free number 1098.
What to Do if You Suspect Child Abuse?
If you suspect that a child is in trouble, it is important to act fast! You can either call the local police or visit the Child Protection Unit in your state.
Many states in India have a 24-hour helpline for reporting child abuse as well. You can also reach out to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) or the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) for additional assistance.
Do not hesitate to file a complaint with the Child Welfare Committee, which is responsible for protecting abused children and ensuring that they receive the necessary assistance.
Taking these steps can help ensure that justice is served and every child's rights are safeguarded.
Talking about the implementation of child abuse laws, they are alleged to not be that stringent as in some cases, challenges such as a lack of awareness, inadequate resources, and delays in legal procedures may impact the enforcement of these laws. Then, there have also been concerns about underreporting of child abuse cases due to societal stigma, fear, or lack of awareness. Additionally, the conviction rates in some cases may be low, indicating challenges in the legal process.
Strengthen Laws: Revise and enhance child abuse laws to be more comprehensive, clear, and imposing stricter penalties.
Raise Awareness: Conduct nationwide awareness campaigns to educate parents, teachers, and communities on recognizing and reporting signs of abuse.
School Programs: Integrate age-appropriate educational programs into school curriculums to empower children with knowledge and equip teachers to identify abuse.
Dedicated Helpline: Establish a dedicated and easily accessible helpline for reporting child abuse, coupled with swift and thorough investigative processes.
Promote Open Dialogue: Foster a culture of open communication within families and communities to reduce stigma, encourage reporting, and emphasize collective responsibility for child protection.
In India, child abuse is a serious concern that demands immediate attention as more than 90% of Indian youngsters face some kind of abuse before hitting 18, and that's a tough pill to swallow (Source: India Today).
Though we have many legislations fighting against child abuse in India, still strengthening and enforcing these protective laws, raising awareness, and promoting open communication must be ensured. By prioritizing the safety and well-being of children, we can collectively create a society where every child is shielded from harm, ensuring a brighter and secure future for the next generation.
What do you think are the most effective ways to actively combat child abuse in India? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!
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