Laws against child sexual abuse in India
In India, disturbing studies show that over half of the population of children are abused sexually. What is even more horrifying is that the abusers are usually known to the children and they get away with this criminal act because the child is too afraid to come clean to his/her parents. What is worse than this is the fact that even when parents get to know, they refuse to believe or accept that their child has been abused, and either dismiss it as a figment of the child’s imagination because “these things don’t happen in India” or blame the child for making things up to harm their reputation in society.
One of the most common examples of child sexual abuse is usually found within a family – and a close relative, perhaps an uncle, an aunt or even a parent is responsible.
Recently there was a report in the new about a woman who was molested by her uncle who went to her parents with the problem only to be beaten for making up ‘horrible untruths”. She suffered at the hands of this man for years and after she was married, revisited the horror in the most terrible manner possible – by finding out that her husband was sexually abusing their young daughter. When she went to court she was told by the police and the judge that “these things happen only in America and Europe” when she tried to press charges.
And that is the unfortunate truth – that those in power will choose not to help when such crimes are reported. Not only does sexual abuse involve grievous physical abuse, it also involves extreme mental and emotional torture that the criminal employs to gain sexual gratification from a child. However, to curb such wrongdoing, the government of India has taken a stand and passed a law –the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, which will hopefully be well used to punish and to alleviate instances of such crimes. The act clearly distinguishes between child and adult victims and makes it possible to prosecute molesters as well as rapists.
This is the first time and act has listed the actions that fall under sexual abuse or molestation – both touch and non-touch behaviour( such as photographing a child inappropriately or verbal sexual talk) and even the attempt to commit an offence will be punishable. For more heinous offences such as penetrative sexual abuse, rape etc, the burden of proof is shifted on to the accuser – if there is proof against him, he will be taken to task without being given the benefit of the doubt.
The child’s identity will also not be disclosed – the media barred from doing this unless they have special permission from the Supreme Court.
This law is at least an indication that our society is willing to accept that such an evil lurks within the shadows. A mandatory reporting clause in the Act also ensures that anyone who hears of or witnesses child sexual abuse has to come forward to report it. Not doing so is a punishable offence. Hopefully this will encourage people to come forward and once they see that their reporting results in arrests and punishments, it will encourage them further.
We hope this law holds its ground as it is extremely necessary that perpetrators of child sexual abuse are out behind bars. Given the state of our country’s government and their failure at implementing laws, one can only hope that this Act is not swept into a corner to languish amongst cobwebs too.