Child sexual abuse is a serious concern that poses a significant danger to the safety and growth of children around the world, including India. This abhorrent act can have severe and long-lasting effects on the children and it follows them in adulting. Despite the sensitive nature of the subject, it is necessary to bring attention to the prevalence of child sexual abuse in India to increase awareness and stimulate action.
As per a joint study by the MWCD around 53% of children in India have been subjected to some form of sexual exploitation. The study further revealed that more than half of the children who reported being sexually abused were victimized by people they knew or their family members, such as relatives, neighbours, or friends.
Moreover, a report published by the NCPCR revealed that most cases of child sexual exploitation in India occur within the home or familiar settings. This emphasis the pressing need for preventive measures, awareness campaigns, and stringent legal frameworks to safeguard children from abuse.
Adults role in child sexual abuse prevention
In our previous blog, we talked about how adults fail to protect children from sexual abuse. Factors like generational trauma, improper communication, societal attitudes and beliefs and more importantly, difficulty in recognizing and reporting crime play a major role in Child Sexual Abuse Prevention.
We are here to talk about how to overcome these problems and make the world a safe space for all the children. Following can be the solutions:
- To overcome Generational trauma
Children are very prone to face the trauma their parent’s have faced. This has been followed generation by generation. The way culture, morals, language is transmitted generation to generation, the same way trauma is too. Parents need to take a bigger step to become a barrier between the past generations and their own children to safeguard them from these traumas.
It also becomes hard for the adults to deal with their own trauma. So, it is extremely necessary for them to take counselling so as to heal from those traumas, so that they do not pass it on to their children.
Today, it has become easier to acknowledge and access help to heal. Adult therapy makes a greater impact in the individual’s life and furthermore for them to provide a better and safe environment for their children.
- To establish Proper Communication
Primary reason being the generational gap, it becomes difficult for adults to establish proper communication with children. Stereotypes, social norms, myths, taboos etc. take a toll on the comfort the child has with the parent.
In this case, parents need self education. They need to understand that there is a need to grow and adapt with the new generation. Loosening the generation gap will automatically loosen the communication gap. Proper communication will make it easier for the child to open up about such incidents, have uncomfortable conversations with trust and confidence and the child will know that his/her parents will listen and be there for them no matter what. That is what matters, isn’t it?
- To stand up against Societal Beliefs
As a part of the society, adults tend to blame children for sexual abuse. It’s hard for the parents to believe when the abuser is from their own family. Although, in 96% of the cases abusers are the persons known to the family, which becomes a huge hinderance in child sexual abuse prevention.
These societal attitudes and beliefs should be challenged. Parents need to prioritize their children above everyone and everything else. You are all your children have. Society will not lead children, parents will.
- To fight Power Dynamics
Abusers take undue advantage of power by manipulating, dominating and compelling the victim and his/her family.
Adults need appropriate education of the rights that each and every individual has and understand better what the child goes through. With proper knowledge of education and rights, general public can feel more empowered and make their case strong in legal terms.
- To Recognize and Report Abuse
Having knowledge about what is considered “Sexual abuse”, what to do when you come across this scenario, who to go to, helpline numbers etc. are of utmost importance. It helps us in play a very important role in child sexual abuse prevention.
There are also 2 important legislative acts that work for child sexual abuse prevention.
- POCSO ACT
- JJ ACT
Here’s a gist about the 2 acts mentioned above for you to know your rights.
The POCSO Act, 2012
It was enforced on 14th November 2012 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. It is an Act to protect children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography and provide for establishment of Special Courts for trial of such offences and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
The NCRB also provides data on child sexual exploitation cases filed under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. According to the latest available data from 2021, there were 34,449 cases of child sexual exploitation reported in India. However, it is important to note that these figures likely represent only a fraction of the actual incidents, as many cases go unreported due to various social and cultural factors, fear, and lack of awareness.
Team BSTI provides workshops to parents, teachers, lawyers and Police officials on the POCSO act.
Procedure of Reporting Cases under POCSO act
- The offence is to be reported to the Childline number, Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU), DCPU, DM or the local police.
- In case, the child needs care and protection, SJPU/ local police makes immediate arrangement to give him/her such care and protection including admitting the child into shelter home or to the nearest hospital within twenty-four hours of the report
- Within 24 hours, SJPU/ local police are supposed to report the matter to CWC(Child Welfare Committee) and Special Court/Court of Session.
A report of child sexual abuse should contain the following information if it is known:
- The names and home addresses of the child and the child’s parents or other persons believed to be responsible for the child’s care.
- The child’s present whereabouts.
- The child’s age.
- The nature and extent of the child’s injuries, including any evidence of previous injuries.
- The name, age, and condition of other children in the same household.
- Any other information that you believe may help establish the cause of the abuse of the child.
- The identity of the person or persons responsible for the abuse or neglect of the child, if known
- Your name and address
Legal Rules in dealing with child sexual abuse prevention
- Obligation of media, studio, and photographic facilities:-report cases to SJPU/ local police.
- Failure to report or record an offence – punishable with imprisonment of six months or with fine or both.
- Failure to report is not punishable in case of child themselves
- False complaint – against any person with malicious intent punishable with imprisonment of 6 months or with fine
- False complaint against child – punishable with imprisonment of one year or with fine or with both.
- No civil or criminal liability for giving information in good faith.
- Media not to disclose the identity of the child, except when permitted by the Special Court.
- Identity includes: name, address, photograph, family details, school, neighbourhood or any other particulars which may lead to the disclosure of the identity of the child.
The JJ Act, 2015
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (JJ) was enforced on 15th January 2016 by the Ministry of Women and Children. It is an Act to consolidate and amend the law relating to children alleged and found to be in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection by catering to their basic needs through proper care, protection, development, treatment, social reintegration, by adopting a child-friendly approach in the adjudication and disposal of matters in the best interest of children and for their rehabilitation through processes provided, and institutions and bodies established, herein under and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
6 out of 16 principles of JJ act that are sensitive to child sexual abuse include –
- Principle of participation: Every child shall have a right to be heard and to participate in all processes and decisions affecting his interest and the child’s views shall be taken into consideration with due regard to the age and maturity of the child.
- Principle of best interest: All decisions regarding the child shall be based on the primary consideration that they are in the best interest of the child and to help the child to develop full potential.
- Principle of safety: All measures shall be taken to ensure that the child is safe and is not subjected to any harm, abuse or maltreatment while in contact with the care and protection system, and thereafter.
- Principle of equality and non-discrimination: There shall be no discrimination against a child on any grounds including sex, caste, ethnicity, place of birth, disability and equality of access, opportunity and treatment shall be provided to every child
- Principle of right to privacy and confidentiality: Every child shall have a right to protection of his privacy and confidentiality, by all means and throughout the judicial process.
- Principles of natural justice: Basic procedural standards of fairness shall be adhered to, including the right to a fair hearing, rule against bias and the right to review, by all persons or bodies, acting in a judicial capacity under this Act.
6 strategies for child sexual abuse prevention
Improvement is essential for progress in all aspects of our lives. Recognizing the need for improvement is the first step toward progress.
Sexual abuse is a tragic and heinous crime, and it becomes even more concerning when it involves children. The consequences of such incidents can be long-lasting, and the emotional and psychological impact on the child can be immense and lifelong.
Here are some strategies that can help improve the situation of child sexual abuse:
- Build Trust and Open Communication:
- Establish a trusting relationship with children by creating an environment where they feel comfortable and safe to express themselves.
- Encourage open communication and active listening without any judgement or criticism.
- Regularly check in with children about their feelings, experiences, and concerns and let them know that their voices will be heard and respected.
- Use appropriate and accurate language when discussing body parts and sexual abuse. This eliminates confusion or shame in discussing sensitive topics.
- Be patient, calm, and compassionate when discussing sensitive matters with children, making sure they feel heard and validated.
- Educate Children about Safe and Unsafe Touch:
- Teach children about body anatomy, consent and boundaries from an early age.
- Help them understand the difference between safe and unsafe touch.
- They should be aware that they have the right to say “no” to any touch that makes them uncomfortable.
- Reinforce that it is not their fault if someone violates their boundaries.
We conduct sessions on Safe and Unsafe touch to children from class 1 to 5.
- Empower Children:
- Encourage children to trust their instincts and empower them to assert their boundaries.
- Teach them to recognize inappropriate behavior, grooming tactics and red flags associated with sexual abuse.
- Help children understand that they have the right to speak up if someone is hurting or touching them inappropriately.
- Sharing Experiences
- Sharing personal experiences can be an effective way of teaching children about difficult topics like sexual abuse.
- It helps children understand that they are not alone and that many people face similar challenges.
- Parents should share their life experiences and stories in a way that is appropriate for the child’s age and understanding.
- Be Generous
- Children should be taught to be respectful and kind.
- They should know the meaning of humanity.
- In this way, we will be able to cultivate the higher ground of ethics and morality.
- So, whenever they see any unacceptable thing happening around them, they will speak up.
- Respond Supportively
- If a child discloses sexual abuse, it is crucial to respond supportively and appropriately.
- Remain calm, reassure the child that they have done the right thing by speaking up and emphasize that they are not to blame.
- Avoid probing for unnecessary details.
- Report the abuse to the appropriate authorities and seek professional help for the child.
Remember, creating a safe and trusting environment where children feel comfortable speaking up about sexual abuse requires ongoing effort and open communication. By fostering trust, providing education, and offering unwavering support, adults can empower children to share their experiences and seek help when needed.
Changing the mindset of individuals, especially children, can be challenging, but it is crucial to ensure their safety and well-being. Adults play a crucial role in children’s life. They have a profound impact on a child’s mindset and growth through their actions, interactions and the environment they create.
Bachpan Save the Innocence puts their best foot forward everyday to safeguard children. We provide workshops to children, parents, teachers, lawyers and also police officials because it is a collective effort and duty of all of us.
It’s time to put your best foot forward!
Written by: Bansi Patel and her team
Researched by: Riya Gupta and her Rnd team