Child abuse as a crime is increasing gradually across the globe. One billion children all over the world in the age group of 2-17 years have experienced sexual, physical, emotional and various types of violence. Every year almost 41,000 deaths of children under the age of 15 years due to physical abuse are reported. A research conducted by UNICEF shows that as many as one in three girls and one in seven boys are sexually abused in their childhood. Most of the reasons behind abusing a child are found as unemployment, mental health diseases such as depression and anxiety, a family crisis such as domestic violence and divorce. People having a history of child abuse during their childhood are more likely to commit this heinous crime. But the question is what exactly child abuse is? Child abuse is an act or negligence by any individual or adult be it parents, guardian, or caretaker, which leads to a severe threat to the life or physical or mental health of the child. Child abuse can happen at various places like schools, institutions, playgrounds, online through social networking sites, and even homes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1999 defines child abuse as ‘all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power’.
Types of Child Abuse:
There are many ways in which a child can be abused but across the world, child abuse is categorized into four major types which are explained below.
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
Physical abuse is the second most frequently registered form of child abuse, accounting to 25% of all child abuse cases. Physical abuse is the most easily visible form of child abuse. Any physical injury caused by hitting, punching, biting, throwing, burning or any other form of harm to a child is considered as physical abuse. Physical injury that leads to brutal fractures or death of a child comes under the slot of physical abuse irrespective of whether the caretaker or adult intended to harm or hurt a child. Consequences of such physical abuse include permanent physical injury like broken bones, abdominal injuries, trauma, skin damages etc. Physical abuse may also lead to depression or anxiety, use of drugs and alcohol or suicide attempts. Research brings out that child physical abuse is a noteworthy predictor of depressive symptoms. Bringing out a child from these traumatic conditions is a necessary task for the development of the child.
Any emotional ill-treatment of a child results in emotional abuse or psychological abuse. Emotional abuse involves threatening or blackmailing a child, bullying, manipulating or isolating. It also includes not respecting the emotional feelings of a child by his/her parents or caretaker. This form of abuse is not easily visible. Any child would not feel comfortable to share such feelings/situations until reaches the crisis point. Emotional abuse can be found when other forms of abuse are identified. Emotional abuse can have severe effects on the mental health of a child and also it may lead to suicidal thoughts. It may also affect the emotional or psychological development of a child. Emotional abuse increased at a greater rate from 1986 to 1993 compared to physical or sexual abuse. As this form of abuse is not easily visible, many times it becomes difficult to prove. The lack of evidence in the case of Child Emotional Abuse is considered as a major challenge to the existing Child Protection System.
When an adult forces or involves a child into any sexual activities of which he/she is unaware of leads to sexual abuse. Even if there is an absence of violence or force during this activity, it is still sexual abuse. Sexual abuse includes sex (vaginal, oral, and anal), masturbation or forced to masturbate, sex trafficking, producing or sharing pornographic image or video of the child etc. Sexual abuse is categorized into two main types – Contact type and Non-contact type. Contact type of abuse includes kissing or holding sexually, touching genital areas, sexual exploitation or rape. Non-contact type of abuse includes sexual comments, virtual sex or showing pornography. The consequences of this abuse may lead to pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, physical injuries in genital areas, or a child may behave in a sexually seductive manner at an inappropriate age or suicidal thoughts. It may also harm a child for the long term as these situations may lead to depressive syndromes or even make a person drug and alcohol addict.
Neglect is a form of abuse in which parents or caretaker fails to fulfil the physical and psychological needs of a child. It involves improper food, shelter, clothing, education and healthcare. Locking a child in a room or leaving him alone or abandoning from home, all these acts are considered to be neglect abuse. When a parent or caretaker fails to protect a child from harm, not paying attention to his/her care or progress are also some signs of neglect. The consequences of these acts can be loneliness, suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety, addiction of drugs and alcohol. Neglect is commonly considered of four types – physical neglect, emotional neglect, educational neglect and medical neglect. Physical neglect constitutes of child’s basic needs such as nutritious food, shelter and proper hygiene. Emotional neglect comprises isolating, ignoring the child’s mental health or progress. Educational neglect includes failure of providing proper education about everything. Medical abuse includes not paying attention to the child’s health and ignoring his/her medical problems.
Provisions and Acts For Preventing Child Abuse:
In the ongoing WHO global campaign for violence prevention with UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children, gathered child abuse prevention activities and violence directly or indirectly affecting millions of lives every year. For instance, WHO has evaluated that approximately 53,000 children are murdered every year due to forced sexual intercourse and other forms of sexual abuse, 73 million boys and 150 million girls below the age of 18 are affected. To prevent all such situations, WHO has collaborated with International Society for Prevention of Child abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN) in the development of Preventing child maltreatment: a guide for taking action and generating evidence to assist countries to design and deliver programmers for the prevention of child maltreatment by parents and caregivers.
USA is one of the most affected countries due to child abuse and respect to prevent child abuse and neglect, USA’s primary federal law is the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), was enacted in the year 1974. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) provides minimum standards for defining physical abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse that States must incorporate in their statutory definitions to receive Federal funds. CAPTA provides Federal funding to States for prevention, assessment, investigation, prosecution, and treatment activities, as well as grants to public agencies and nonprofit organizations for demonstration programs and projects.
There are 23% of children suffer from child abuse in the country of Mexico. The salient law at the national level is the General Law on the Rights of Children and Adolescents, it provides that Federal and State authorities must take necessary legal and operational measures in their respective jurisdictions to prevent, address, and punish cases in which children are affected by neglect and abuse, be it physical, psychological, or sexual. These authorities must also take pertinent measures to help children recover physically and psychologically when necessary, in an environment that fosters their well-being and dignity. The General Law on the Rights of Children and Adolescents provides that state legislative bodies are to enact statutory measures in their respective jurisdictions to bring their laws into conformity with the General Law.
India is home to almost 19% of the world’s children and is most likely to be affected by child abuse. The Constitution of India provides the state, as a directive principle of state policy, must seek to ensure “that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and moral and material abandonment.” The Rights to Equality, To Protection of Life, to Personal Liberty and against Exploitation are enshrined in Article 14 to 17, 21, 23, and 24 of the Constitution of India. Article 15, which protects against discrimination on various grounds, contains an important proviso that “nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.” In addition to the above domestic laws, the Government of India ratified the United Nations (UN), Convention on the Rights of the Child on November 12, 1992.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012 and the rules framed under the Act establishes specific offences to protect children from sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography, and provide for the establishment of special courts for the trial of such offences. The Act seeks to safeguards the interest of the child “at every stage of the judicial process, by incorporating child-friendly mechanisms for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and speedy trial of offences” through the special courts.
Cases of Child Abuse in USA, INDIA:
Penn State Scandal: – Jerry Sandusky, an assistant football coach at Penn State, used to sexually and physically abuse his students. In 2000, one of the people from the field saw Sandusky performing oral sex with a boy on campus. He was found guilty with about 45 charges of abuse. He was sentenced for 30-60 years of imprisonment in the year 2012.
State v. Lopez: – Baby Brianna, was born on February 14, 2000, in Las Cruces. New Mexico. She was horrifically abused by her father, Andrew Walters and her uncle, Steven Lopez. She was being slapped, punched, kicked, thrown and raped by her father daily. Stephanie Lopez, baby Brianna’s mother and Stephanie’s parents were aware of this horrific abuse but not even one of them took any action or reported the abuse. On July 19, 2002, at the age of mere 5 months and 5 days, Brianna died due to these abuses. Steven Lopez was convicted for intentionally abusing a child resulting in death and received 51 years of the prison sentence. Andrew Walters was convicted for intentionally abusing a child physically and sexually and was sentenced to 57 years of prison. Stephanie Lopez was found guilty of neglect and not reporting such a crime. She was sentenced to 27 years in prison.
Bachpan Bachao Andolan v. Union of India: – Bachpan Bachao Andolan, an Indian Movement for protection of children, filed a petition concerning violations and abuse of children under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. The children were trafficked and were used in circuses were, they were physically, sexually and emotionally abused. The petition requested the court to conduct raids on such circuses, actions to be taken to prevent child trafficking- cross border and intra border and to prohibit employment of children in the circuses under the age of 18. The Supreme Court prohibited the child labour system in circuses and ordered compensation to child victims rescued from the circuses. This case was one of the victories for children’s rights in India.
Manoj Tyagi @ Monu v. The State:- Manoj Tyagi was found guilty of sexually abusing a 10-year boy under Section 10 of POCSO Act, 2012. He kidnapped the boy and took him to his home where he grabbed the boy with sexual intent. The boy told this incidence to his mother and she reported a complaint against Manoj Tyagi. He was sentenced 5 years of imprisonment and fine of minimum Rs. 3000.
Ashok Jaiswal v. The State:- Ashok Jaiswal, trespassed into the house of the victim, a 4-year-old girl, in the absence of other family members. He committed penetrative sexual assault with the girl aged 4 years. The girl was later taken to the hospital as she was bleeding and the report found that she was raped. Ashok was missing for 10-12 days after this incidence but was convicted on May 22, 2018, and sentenced imprisonment for 10 years and fine of minimum Rs. 5000 under Section 6 of the POCSO Act, 2012
Concluding this research, we came to know that child abuse is a matter of serious attention and should be given more importance. Child abuse can take place anywhere and anytime. A child is not safe even at his home. Children suffering through abuses are affected for the long term. This crime may destroy a child’s whole life if not guided properly. Many of them keep tolerating such abuses as they feel shy or uncomfortable to share it. Every nation should conduct surveys regarding awareness of child abuse in children as well as parents. More strict provisions are needed to prevent these crimes and additional training should be provided to health care centres and schools on how to detect child abuse. Children who are abused are more likely to abuse others in their adulthood. Mental health guidance programmers to such children can be a solution to this problem.
Q. What is child abuse?
Child abuse is an act of harming a child physically, mentally or sexually by an adult. This also includes neglect on the part of parents or caretaker.
Q. What are the types of child abuse?
Child abuse are considered of four major types;
- 1. Physical abuse
- 2. Emotional abuse
- 3. Sexual abuse
- 4. Neglect
Q.What are the consequences of these child abuses?
Mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, suicidal thoughts, physical injuries like permanent bone damage, feeling of loneliness etc.
Q. How to prevent child abuse?
Prevention of child abuse can be done by conducting awareness about the topic, proper guidance should be provided to the child and there should be taken more strict actions against this crime.
Q. What are the common provisions and acts regarding child abuse?
- Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), 1974 in USA.
- Article 14 to 17, 21, 23, and 24 of the Constitution of India.
- The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012 in India.
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4. Child Protection Law and Policy – The Law Library of Congress, Global Legal Research Directorate http://www.law.gov
8. MANU/DE/0574/2020 – Manoj Tyagi vs. The State (Govt. of NCT, Delhi) (25.02.2020 – DELHC) : MANU/DE/0574/2020