One of the biggest social stigmas attached to society is that of child abuse. Child abuse can take place in homes, schools, orphanages, residential care facilities, on the streets, in the workplace, in prisons, and in places of detention. Violence in any form has a very deep impact on the overall development of the child.
A child can be abused physically, sexually, or mentally. It can be in the form of injury, neglect or negligent treatment, blaming, forced sexual stimulation and activity, incest exploitation, and sexual abuse which results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development, and dignity.
According to the National Crime Record Bureau, 110 children in India face some type of child sexual abuse every day. The same records show a huge rise in crimes against children on a year-on-year basis. Unlike most other crimes, cognizable offenses against children are often underreported. This was major because even if the child confides in someone, the facts are often covered under the fear of family reputation and social stigma.
Child abuse is a violation of the basic human rights of a child.
The World Health Organization states Child Sexual Abuse as the involvement of a child in sexual activity that they do not fully comprehend, are unable to give informed consent to, or for which the children are not prepared developmentally, or that violates the law of the land. The definition of Child Sexual Abuse includes sexual activities like fondling, asking a child to touch or be touched sexually, intercourse, involving a child in prostitution or pornography, or child luring on cyberspace.
But the most devastating types of violence are often hidden from public view. Perpetrators go to great lengths to conceal their acts, leaving children – especially those who lack the capacity to report or even understand their experience – vulnerable to further exposure.
Violence affects all children. But children living with disabilities or HIV and AIDS, those suffering extreme poverty, girls and boys in institutional care, and children separated from their families or on the move – as migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers – face the greatest risk. Sexual orientation, gender identity, and belonging to a marginalized social or ethnic group also heighten a child’s chance of suffering violence.
TYPES OF VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN
Most violence against children involves at least one of six main types of interpersonal violence that tend to occur at different stages in a child’s development.
● Maltreatment (including violent punishment) involves physical, sexual, and psychological/emotional violence; and neglect of infants, children, and adolescents by parents, caregivers, and other authority figures, most often in the home but also in settings such as schools and orphanages.
● Bullying (including cyberbullying) is unwanted aggressive behavior by another child or group of children who are neither siblings nor in a romantic relationship with the victim. ● Intimate partner violence (or domestic violence) involves physical, sexual, and emotional violence by an intimate partner or ex-partner. Although males can also be victims, intimate partner violence disproportionately affects females. It commonly occurs against girls in child marriages and early/forced marriages. Among romantically involved but unmarried adolescents it is sometimes called “dating violence”.
● Sexual violence includes non-consensual completed or attempted sexual contact and acts of a sexual nature not involving contact (such as voyeurism or sexual harassment); acts of sexual trafficking committed against someone who is unable to consent or refuse; and online exploitation.
● When directed against girls or boys because of their biological sex or gender identity, any of these types of violence can also constitute gender-based violence.
● Some 15 million adolescent girls aged 15–19 have experienced forced sex in their lifetime.
● About 10% of the world’s children are not legally protected from corporal punishment.
● Over 1 in 3 students aged 13–15 experience bullying worldwide.
● Approximately 1 in 4 children under the age of 5 – some 176 million – live with a mother who is a victim of intimate partner violence.
● Roughly 3 in 4 children between the ages of 2 and 4 – around 300 million – are regularly subjected to violent discipline by their caregivers.
Violence against children is a multifaceted problem with causes at the individual, close relationship, community, and societal levels. Important risk factors are:
● biological and personal aspects such as sex and age
● lower levels of education
● low income
● having a disability or mental health problems
● identifying as or being identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender
● harmful use of alcohol and drugs
● a history of exposure to violence.
● lack of emotional bonding between children and parents or caregivers
● poor parenting practices
● family dysfunction and separation
● being associated with delinquent peers
● witnessing violence between parents or caregivers
● early or forced marriage.
● high population density
● low social cohesion and transient populations
● easy access to alcohol and firearms
● high concentrations of gangs and illicit drug dealing.
● social and gender norms that create a climate in which violence is normalized
● health, economic, educational, and social policies that maintain economic, gender, and social inequalities
● absent or inadequate social protection
● post-conflict situations or natural disaster
● settings with weak governance and poor law enforcement.
HOW DOES VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN AFFECT SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT?
Violence against children significantly undermines the social and economic development of communities and nations. The global economic costs resulting from physical, psychological, and sexual violence against children are estimated to be as high as $7 trillion – roughly 8 percent of global GDP annually.
Increased public expenditure on child welfare, special education, and medical and psychological services for victims account for some of these costs. Victims coping with the psychosocial and physical effects of violence also face barriers to participating in public life and fulfilling their potential. Violence, particularly in schools, undermines children’s ability to learn, with consequences for their education and employment prospects that can pass through generations.
In both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), countries committed to ending violence against children. The SDGs call for the end of abuse, exploitation, and all forms of violence and torture against children by 2030.
Definitions of Child Abuse & Neglect
Child abuse and neglect are defined in Federal law and State laws and find resources that distinguish between discipline and abuse.
Federal law definitions of – child abuse and neglect
Federal legislation provides guidance to States by identifying a minimum set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), defines child abuse and neglect as at a minimum:
- “Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation”; or
- “An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
A “child” under this definition generally means a person who is younger than age 18 or who is not an emancipated minor.
This definition of child abuse and neglect refers specifically to parents and other caregivers.
State law definitions of child abuse and neglect
While Federal legislation sets minimum standards for States that accept Federal funding, each State is responsible for defining child maltreatment in State law. Definitions of child abuse and neglect are typically located in two places within each State’s statutory code:
- Civil statutes provide definitions of child maltreatment to guide individuals who are mandated to identify and report suspected child abuse and determine the grounds for intervention by State child protection agencies and civil courts. Locate definitions for your State by conducting a State Statues Search on the Information Gateway website.
- Criminal statutes define those forms of child maltreatment that can subject an offender to arrest and prosecution in criminal courts.
Many states recognize four major types of maltreatment in their definitions: neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse or neglect.
PROTECTING INDIA’S CHILDREN FROM VIOLENCE, ABUSE, AND EXPLOITATION
India has a wide range of laws to protect children and child protection is increasingly accepted as a core component of social development. As a result, millions of children are prone to violence, abuse, and exploitation.
Violence takes place in all settings: at home, school, childcare institutions, work, and in the community. Often violence is perpetrated by someone known to the child.
- India has a fairly comprehensive policy and legal framework addressing rights and protection for children, providing opportunities to ensure that all children have equal access to quality protection services. The core child protection legislation for children is enshrined in four main laws:
- The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act (2000, amended in 2015);
- The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006);
- The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (2012), and
- The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (1986, amended in 2016).
Over the past five years, notable efforts have been made to set up fast-track courts and deal with cybercrime against children and women. In 2019, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill was amended, stipulating stricter punishment for sexual crimes against children.
Violence against children is widespread and remains a harsh reality for millions of children from all socio-economic groups in India. Both girls and boys in India face early marriage, domestic abuse, sexual violence, violence at home and in school, trafficking, online violence, child labor, and bullying. All forms of violence, abuse, and exploitation have lifelong consequences on children’s lives.
Exact data on violence, abuse, and exploitation is not sufficient, but overall the nation is becoming increasingly aware of violence against children, especially sexual abuse. Several cases that may have earlier gone unnoticed, are now being reported.
SOLUTIONS TO END VIOLENCE, ABUSE, AND EXPLOITATION
Progress has been made in generating social awareness, enhancing legislation, and nurturing action towards ending violence, abuse, and exploitation of children, but more needs to be done to ensure survivors and their families benefit from sensitive, timely, and efficient protection and services.
UNICEF in India works towards strengthening child protection systems; ending child marriage; protecting children on the move; promoting family-based alternative care, adolescent participation and engagement, and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS); and preventing child labor, violence against children, and gender-based violence.
UNICEF also focuses on the implementation of key child protection legislation and promotion of practices that protect children from violence, abuse, and exploitation.
Building on increasing awareness of child abuse in India, UNICEF can play a major role in enhancing two missing elements of government action: prevention and rehabilitation of survivors of child abuse and exploitation. Prevention is central to UNICEF programming as it is the most effective way to deal with child sexual abuse and exploitation. Ensuring India’s children are sufficiently protected requires more than the existing investment, which is focused on post-incident responses.
UNICEF India also works with the government to provide well-established family-based alternative care options for children without parental care. UNICEF focuses on services to prevent the separation of children from families and on rehabilitative services for deinstitutionalized children and cares for leaving youth.
UNICEF takes a broad view of the range of support services that provide healing to victims/survivors and their families including a focus on counseling, restorative justice programs, support for school continuation, employment, and social protection. Priority is given to promoting social protection programs that incentivize the reduction of child labor and child marriage.
A key area of work for UNICEF is to strengthen and advocate for the effective delivery of preventive and responsive child protection services in selected states. Working in coordination with the Government of India, 17 state governments, and civil society organizations, UNICEF is creating the building blocks of a child protection system, including financial and human resources, financial institutions, delivery of programs, and monitoring and evaluation.
UNICEF and its India partners are working together to ensure that children are protected from work and exploitation, which is harmful to their development. They are working to ensure that children remain in economically stable family homes and get the opportunity to go to school and be educated. UNICEF joins hands with the government, civil society organizations, and other partners in building communities and families where children are safe and free of abuse and exploitation.
CHILDLINE INDIA 1098
CHILDLINE 1098 is a service of the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Childline India Foundation is a non-government organization (NGO) in India that operates a telephone helpline called Childline, for children in distress.
CHILDLINE 1098 is India’s first 24-hour, toll-free, phone outreach service for children. Childline 1098 service is available all over India. It is available in 602+ districts, 144+ railway stations, and 11 bus terminals that have Child Help Desks.
ABOUT CHILDLINE 1098
CHILDLINE works for the protection of the rights of all children aged from 0 to 18. It is an initiative for rescuing and assisting children in distress. Their particular focus is on all children in need of care and protection, especially the more vulnerable sections, including:
- Victims of child sexual abuse.
- Street children and youth living alone on the streets.
- Child laborers are working in unorganized and organized sectors.
- Domestic help, especially girl domestics.
- Children affected by physical/sexual/emotional abuse in family, schools, or institutions.
- Children who need emotional support and guidance.
- Children of commercial sex workers.
- Child victims of the flesh trade.
- Victims of child trafficking.
- Children are abandoned by parents or guardians.
- Missing children.
- Run away, children.
- Children who are victims of substance abuse.
- Differently-abled children.
- Children in conflict with the law.
- Children in institutions.
- Mentally challenged children.
- HIV/AIDS-infected children.
- Children are affected by conflict and disaster.
- Child political refugees.
- Children whose families are in crisis.
It also helps children who are in need of care and protection. The childline number is toll-free – 1098 is accessible all over India, and the caller can remain anonymous. Childline receives an average of a million calls a month, and CHILDLINE rescues about 400,00 children annually. As per the 2011 census India has over 4.35 million working children between of ages of five to 14 years.
Childline’s role is limited to addressing calls, ensuring action including rescue, and presenting the child before the Child Welfare Committee, a quasi-judicial body, as per the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, as rehabilitation is a complex and often unresolved issue in case of children who need further care and protection.
After a distressed child is rescued
– either from the streets or from any form of employment or confinement
– the rescue team of social workers checks, if he or she needs medical attention like food or cleanup and provides these and later presented before the Child Welfare Committee,
composed of a chairperson and four members who are usually experts working in the area of child rights and the committee decides the future course for the rescued child like if the child has to be sent to a shelter home.
For how long and if the child’s parents or guardians are located, he would be sent back to his hometown in addition the CWC can also order counseling and rehabilitation of the child.
OPERATION OF CHILDLINE 1098
Its head office is on the 11th floor of the Ratan Central Building in Dr. Ambedkar Road, Parel, Mumbai. In addition to Mumbai, it also has regional offices in New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, and Bengaluru where all calls to 1098 are received 24 x 7, and later relevant calls are transferred to the collaborative/support NGO of the respective city and in case of need, local police of city are informed. The support NGO’s are local organizations working in the field of child rights and capable of immediate reach out for rescuing, rehabilitating, and counseling children once they get a call from any of the five Child contact centers and also initiate a necessary action plan for fact-finding and intervention and for rescue operation if needed and they also tie-up with various government departments including women and child welfare, labor, and the police for requisite support.
BOSCO (Bengaluru Oniyavara Seva Coota), APSA (Association for Promoting Social Action), and Sathi are the three organizations that work as support NGOs in Bengaluru and CRT is the nodal agency for Childline in the city which serves as the point of contact for the support NGOs and government departments.
APSA once getting a distressed call which is currently mostly pertaining to begging, RTE violations (such as children not getting admission in private schools), and child labor does an in-depth fact-finding study on the field and also collaborates with government departments in case rescue is needed and also provides other support services like medical and psychological counseling to the rescued children in relevant cases.
Calling the Childline helps in calls getting recorded and officially documented and secondly, the national network of 1098 can be activated immediately if required especially in cases of trafficking for providing immediate support.
Child Sexual Abuse is a bane of Indian society and hence the Act was introduced in 2012. However, no law can be implemented effectively and efficiently, without the dedicated and coordinated efforts of the investigating and implementing agencies.
A multi-lateral approach is required in this regard, and the onus lies with the state governments, police departments, the judicial system, and the medical fraternity to implement the act with urgency and to approach these cases with urgency, empathy, and compassion. Speedy trials are possible only if the judges, their staff, prosecution, police, and defense coordinate with each other, failing which concept of special courts will be defeated.
Further, doctors need to be trained to understand the intricacies and help in the proper scientific collection of various evidence while examining a child victim of sexual abuse. In recent years, there is an increase in the number of cases being reported and the same is due to the awareness which was able to be created through various awareness programs and efforts of NGOs. To improve the rate of conviction, it is important to boost up both investigation and trial for speedy and efficient delivery of justice.
However, to fully understand the extent of the effects of domestic violence on children, there are several areas that need to be considered for future research. First, more needs to be known about the incidence and prevalence of child witnesses, and about the interrelationship between witnessing violence and experiencing other forms of child abuse and neglect. Secondly, child witnesses to domestic violence tend to be a heterogeneous population. It is, therefore, necessary to further identify factors that mediate children’s reactions rather than assuming that all children will be equally affected by witnessing violence. For instance, these variables could be child-related, such as gender, temperament, or intelligence; adult related, such as identification of individual characteristics; or family-related, such as the quality of the parent-child relationship or parenting practices, as well as determining the intensity and length of the violence
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