Child Sexual Abuse Law in India

What is Child Sexual Abuse mean?

This is the easiest and the strange question. After hearing the word Child Sexual Abuse, person in society thinks; he/she knows everything about the Child Abuse. Unfortunately, the answer is NO, a big NO…a face of fearing, strange behaviour of kid, sweaty hands of kids and many more are the symptoms of the problem in kid.

Sex abuse does include both Touching and Non-Touching Behaviors of a person towards victim. 

All s*xual touching between an adult and a child is s*xual abuse. Sexual touching between children can also be s*xual abuse when there is a significant age difference (often defined as 3 or more years) between the children or if the children are very different developmentally or size-wise.

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Definition of Child Sexual Abuse In India

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, drafted to effectively address sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children, defines different forms of sexual abuse, as listed below:

Penetrative sexual assault

  • inserting any object or using any part of body to cause penetration into any part of the body of the child or making the child do so.

Sexual assault without penetration

  • touching penis, vagina, anus, breast of a child with sexual intent
  • making physical contact to child with sexual intent or making the child do so.

Sexual harassment

  • making any sound or gesture or exhibiting any object or part of body, with sexual intent, so that it will be heard or seen by the child
  • making a child exhibit his body or make a gesture son that it is seen by the child or other person with sexual intent.
  • constantly following or watching child either directly or through digital or any other means with sexual intent
  • showing any object to child in any form with sexual intent or enticing child for pornographic purposes.

The law deems a sexual assault to be “aggravated” under certain circumstances, such as when the abused child is mentally ill or when the abuse is committed by a person in a position of trust or authority vis-a-vis the child, like a family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor.

 

Law Before the 2012 legislation was passed

Goa Children’s Act, 2003, was the only specific piece of child abuse legislation before the 2012 Act. Child sexual abuse was prosecuted under the following sections of Indian Penal Code:

  • I.P.C. (1860) 375- Rape
  • I.P.C. (1860) 354- Outraging the modesty of a woman
  • I.P.C. (1860) 377- Unnatural offences
  • I.P.C. (1860) 511- Attempt

However, the IPC could not effectively protect the child due to various loopholes like:

  • IPC 375 doesn’t protect male victims or anyone from sexual acts of penetration other than “traditional” peno-vaginal intercourse.
  • IPC 354 lacks a statutory definition of “modesty”. It carries a weak penalty and is a compoundable offence. Further, it does not protect the “modesty” of a male child.
  • In IPC 377, the term “unnatural offences” is not defined. It only applies to victims penetrated by their attacker’s sex act, and is not designed to criminalize sexual abuse of children.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act

The new Act provides for a variety of offenses under which an accused can be punished. It recognizes forms of penetration other than peno-vaginal penetration and criminalizes acts of immodesty against children too. The legislators tried to draft a gender-neutral Act, but failed, using the pronoun ‘he’ in the description of various offenses. With respect to pornography, the Act criminalizes even watching or collection of pornographic content involving children. The Act makes abettment of child sexual abuse an offense. It also provides for various procedural reforms, making the tiring process of trial in India considerably easier for children. The Act has been criticized as its provisions seem to criminalize consensual sexual intercourse between two people below the age of 18. The 2001 version of the Bill did not punish consensual sexual activity if one or both partners were above 16 years.

Its the right time we all get well versed with the law as child demand equal treatment under fundamental right to equality -one of the most neglected rights .

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