Child abuse is doing something or failing to do something that results in harm to the child or puts the child at the risk of doing harm. Child abuse can be physical, sexual or emotional. Neglect or not making provision for the needs of the child is also a form of abuse. In India and in other countries of the world, there has not been any type of understanding of the magnitude or trends of the problem. The increasing complexities of one’s life and the dramatic changes that have been brought about by the socio-economic transitions in India have contributed a major part in increasing the vulnerability of children to newer and various forms of abuse. Child abuse or mistreatment constitutes all forms of physical and emotional mistreatment, sexual abuse, neglect, exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the health of the child, survival, progress or self-esteem in the framework of the relationship of responsibility, trust or power.
Child abuse has severe physical and psychological consequences which unfavourably affects the health and general welfare of the child. Most abused children experience larger emotional than physical harm. An abused child may become miserable, he or she may withdraw from the society, think of committing suicide or become violent. An older child may use drugs or alcohol, try to run away or abuse others. Patterns of abusive behaviour may have an effect upon the child physically and psychologically. Abused children are more likely to practice comprehensive nervousness, apprehension, unhappiness, absence, humiliation, guilt, suicidal and homicidal thoughts or get involved in criminal activities, promiscuity, and substance abuse.
Status of Children in India
In the last six months, i.e. between January 1,2019, and june 30, 2019, 24,212 cases of child abuse have been registered in India, which means 4000 case in each month, 130 in a day and one in every five month, 130 in a day and one in every five minutes. These are just six months given to the supreme court by the high courts.
Child Protection – In the present existence too, there have been practices of female foeticide and female infanticide. On the other hand, children who are born and survive experience from a number of violations. The world’s largest number of working children are in India. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported 39,827 cases of various crimes against children in 2018. Most subtle forms of violence against children such as, child marriage, economic exploitation, practices like the Devadasi tradition of dedicating young girls to Gods and Goddesses, and so forth are still prevalent and protection needs to be ensured against these practices. Physical and psychological punishments take place in the name of disciplining children and are culturally accepted. Forced evictions, displacement due to development projects, wars and conflicts, communal riots, natural disasters, all of these take their own toll on children. Children are also affected by HIV/AIDS. Even those who have remained within the protective zone, are at the risk of dropping out of it.
Child Participation – Children in most segments of the Indian society are traditionally and conventionally not accessed about the problems and decisions affecting their lives. In the family and household, the neighbourhood and wider community, in school or at the work place, and across the settings of social and cultural life, children’s viewpoints are mainly not given much importance. If they speak, they are usually not heard. The imposition of restrictive norms especially are put into practice for girl children. This restricts the children’s access to information and to choice, and often to the possibility of seeking assistance and support from the external environment.
Need for a Study on Child Abuse
As it has been stated above that India has a large child population and a great percentage of this population is subjected to abuse, exploitation and neglect. The information that is available about child abuse within the country is inadequate. Barring a few sporadic research studies, with limited scope, the attempt to understand different forms and magnitude of child abuse across the country has not been sufficient. The only information available annually is the crime data maintained by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The data that has been maintained by the NCRB shows, there is a record of only those crimes which can be registered under the IPC or other criminal Acts. Corporal punishment, use of children for creation of pornography, exposure and so forth are not reflected in NCRB data as they are not considered as offences under IPC. The study on child abuse is one of the largest studies in India and will be helpful in a number of ways. The study will contribute towards breaking the silence of child abuse within the country. It will inform about the nature and extent of child abuse in different settings and recommend immediate and appropriate responsive actions that can be undertaken by the families, community, government and civil society organisations for care and protection of children. The study will reinforce grounds for a separate legislation on child abuse and will assist in the preparation of suitable procedures, strategies and schemes to deal with the problem of child abuse.
Various forms of Abuse of Children
The various forms of abuse of children have been stated as follows:
- Child Labour – Child labour is referred to the employment of children in any types of manual or hazardous occupations. They usually receive low wages and work for long hours that are most likely to impose detrimental effects upon their health and well-being. The children who are employed are usually deprived from the acquisition of education and any kind of training. Child labour is made to overwork, they are underpaid and exploited. The various areas, where children are employed are, restaurants, they work as vendors, lift luggage on the railway platforms, agricultural sector, factories etc. Child labour is quite high in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Gujarat.
- Physical Abuse – Physical abuse is inflicting any form of injuries on the child. The various forms of physical abuse includes, beating, pushing, shaking or hurting the child with any objects. Physical abuse is usually experienced by the children at home, at the hands of their family members. The families belonging to deprived, marginalized and socio-economically backward sections of the society, usually beat the children and physically abuse them. The factors of being isolated, illiterate and unaware are responsible for imposing this type of behavioural traits upon the children. School going children who account for 42.8 percent are facing corporeal punishment and 15.6 percent of the children experience physical abuse by the people other than family members.
- Emotional Abuse – One out of five children have been experiencing emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is the form of verbal abuse, which psychologically effects the individuals. Whenever a child experiences obscene language, screaming or are humiliated by someone, this is stated to be the forms of emotional abuse. This type of abuse is experienced by the children in schools, at home as well as at work, if the children are engaged in any type of employment opportunities or work as domestic helpers. Emotional abuse causes pain and suffering within the mind-sets of the children. Delhi, Assam and Madhya Pradesh are the states where emotional abuse is high.
- Girl Child Neglect – There are individuals, who in the present existence desire for a male child and do not provide the same attention to the girls as compared to males. In the family, if there are two children, one boy and one girl. In such cases, girls are sometimes neglected and boys are given preference. The parents give more attention to the boys and limited income families are more willing to fulfil the needs and requirements of the male children. They have formed this viewpoint that boys are assets and will generate wealth and reputation for the family. They also believe in making provision of education to the boys. On the other hand, girls are considered as liabilities, they are trained regarding the performance of the household chores and education is low amongst them as compared to boys. Due to these factors, girls form this viewpoint that they are being neglected and it is a form of abuse.
- Sexual Abuse – Sexual abuse is considered as the most unfavourable form of abuse and affects the health as well as the mind-sets of the children. This type of abuse may have long-term affects upon the children. The children who have experienced this form of abuse, usually have problems in walking or sitting, they are not able to participate in any type of physical activities.
- Child Prostitution – Child prostitution is considered as the worst forms of child labour. It means making use of the child in sexual activities for remuneration or any other forms of consideration. However, child prostitution is prohibited, it is considered as equivalent to exploitation and victimization of the child precisely, because it destabilizes the child’s development. It is disadvantageous to the child both physically and emotionally and it violates the child rights. The child prostitutes get infected with diseases like Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STD) and even the HIV infection (AIDS).
- Child Trafficking – The prevalence of the conditions of poverty are stated to be the major causes for child trafficking. The poverty stricken families mainly sell their children into sex trade by the parents either knowingly or unknowingly. When poverty stricken families cannot afford to meet the requirements of the children, they are trafficked and another cause can be when families regard their children as burdens and do not show care for them, they sell them for money. These children are kept as bondage and they are deprived of food, physically abused, beaten, burned and tortured. Child trafficking is the form of abuse, where pain and suffering are imposed upon the children to a great extent.
Causes of Child Abuse
There are numerous causes of child abuse. Characteristics and circumstances of the abuser, the child and the family may be involved or contribute towards this act. The various causes have been stated as follows:
- Poverty – Poverty and scarcity of resources are regarded to be the major problems that leads to abuse of the children. The families, who are in most cases poverty stricken and experience scarcity of resources are normally large. There are usually three to six children in a nuclear family. Poverty stricken families do not find it manageable to make provision of needs and requirements of all family members. It becomes difficult for the individuals to sustain large families, hence, they either abuse one of the children through child trafficking or send one or more children to urban areas in search for jobs.
- Unemployment – In the present existence, individuals from all backgrounds and statuses recognize the significance of education. After attaining education or developing the basic literacy skills of reading, writing and arithmetic, all individuals would like to obtain employment with the main purpose of sustaining their living conditions. Employment opportunities are difficult to acquire. When educated individuals do not have proper jobs, they usually become depressed and frustrated. Out of the feelings of depression and frustration, they impose various forms of abuse upon their family members and children. Children have a number of requirements, they usually make demands from their parents for various things, such as, clothes, playthings, eatables, books, stationary etc..
- Domestic Violence – Domestic violence is the form of violence that takes place within the households. Domestic violence is more prevalent amongst the deprived, marginalized, disadvantaged and socio-economically backward sections of the society. It can be between spouses, siblings, parents and children, helpers and employers, and other family members. In cases of domestic violence, children get subjected to various forms of abuse and mistreatment. Anger, frustration and depression are stated to be the areas that primarily lead to domestic violence. When discussions assume a heated form, then individuals may inflict anger and abuse upon the children as well, without any fault of theirs. When family members are involved in the abuse and mistreatment of the children, then domestic violence is stated as the primary cause.
Prevention of Child Abuse
Public Awareness and Creating Supportive Communities – As it has been stated that there are certain individuals who are not aware and they abuse and harm young children, who are even below five years of age. In most cases, these individuals do not have any specific reasons of harming young children, but they commit this heinous act out of the feelings of animosity and hostility. In order to prevent child abuse, these individuals and the general public should be made aware that children should not be harmed in any manner. There are imposition of severe penalties upon the individuals, who abuse and harm young children. Communities should possess a kind and an amiable attitude towards the children, as when a child causes damage to someone’s property, he is usually abused and conflict takes place. In such cases, he should be explained about the consequences in a polite manner and one should not get angry at children.
Prevention Programs – Standards for the prevention programs need to be understood by all individuals. Research conducted on the works of experts and professionals, and resources on specific types of programs need to be taken into account. Many children experience insecure birth, and many do not survive. Many more struggle through childhoods of deprivation and risk, and are unsuccessful to reach their complete potential. As the poverty stricken immensely out-number the non-poverty stricken, a large majority of these births are amongst the deprived and the underprivileged sections of the population, where the parents cannot provide proper care or adequately sustain the living of their children. The situation of the new-born and the periods of infancy and early childhood are mainly serious and the morbidity and mortality rates continue to remain high.
Child abuse is a state of emotional, physical, economic and sexual maltreatment that is imposed upon an individual, who is below 18 years of age. It is stated as a globally relevant phenomenon. In India, there has not been an understanding of the magnitude of this problem. The various problems that the individuals have been experiencing in their daily lives have led to prevalence of child abuse. Child abuse has serious physical and psychological effects upon the health and mind-sets of the individuals. For the effective development of the country, it is imperative to ensure children are nurtured in a safe environment, they are provided education, proper nourishment and activities leading to their productive growth and development. It is the duty of the Government and community to address the concerns of care and protection to the children.
Several developed countries of the world have powerful child protection systems, predominantly motivated on mandatory reporting, documentation and examinations of affected children, and often taking intimidating actions. The problems of high level statements, reports and investigations are not only within the families, but also within the systems, which are required to increase their resources.