By Saipooja, School of Legal Studies

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Image from here

What is wrong with people? Cases of child sexual abuse have phenomenally increased. Doesn’t every child deserve a safe and memorable childhood? Are paedophiles a newly evolved group of sexual perverts? Why is everyone talking about the problem, where are the solutions? Every concerned parent and socially conscious individual must have raised these questions at some point of time. The rape of a six year old child by her teacher, children who are sexually assaulted by their own parents and relatives, toddlers being raped and strangulated to death by some stranger and so goes on the nightmare like incidents.

Paedophilia is a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attractionto prepubescent children, generally aged eleven years or younger. Now maybe we cannot affirmatively say that all people who engage in child sexual abuse might be suffering from this disorder. The people in this world we live in get bored easily ,  a couple of them in the name of experimentation and in search of new pleasures may have fallen victims to child pornography and gradually started fantasising children as sexual objects. It must be shocking to learn that several people who hold highly respectable positions in the society could also be child sexual abusers. Whatever be the reason that have led people to behave like heartless beasts , the sufferers are the poor and innocent kids. Child sexual abuse ( hereinafter referred to as CSA) cannot be said to be a newly evolved phenomenon, it has been spreading its roots in this society for several centuries. The media has played a huge role in bringing CSA incidents into the broad daylight. The United Nations has defined child sexual abuse as ” contacts or interactions between a child and an older or more knowledgeable child or adult (a stranger, sibling or person in position of authority, a parent or a caretaker) when the child is being used as an object of gratification for the older child’s or adult’s sexual needs. These contacts or interactions are carried out against the child using force, trickery, bribes, threats or pressure. “ The  standing committee on sexually abused children (Bajpai, 2003) has defined Child Sexual Abuse as “Any child below the age of consent may be deemed to have been sexually abused when a sexually mature person has by design or by neglect of their usual societal or specific responsibility in relation to the child engaged or permitted engagement of that child in any activity of a sexual nature which is intended to lead to the sexual gratification of the sexually mature person.” It may be inferred  from these definitions that it is the vulnerability of the child that is being taken advantage of, indeed it tells you a lot about the animal psyche that exists somewhere inside us.

In 2012, the parliament has passed the The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences , Act ( hereinafter referred to as the POSCO Act) because of the inadequacies in the Indian Penal Code in dealing with abusers. The Act defines child as any person below the age of 18 years and provides protection to all children under the age of 18 years from the offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography. The act also lays down provision to set up special courts to deal with CSA cases.  It has in detail dealt with listed aspects of touch as well as non-touch behaviour ( eg: photographing a child in a obscene manner) in order to bring it under the ambit of sexual offences.  The act attempts to also incorporate child friendly procedures for reporting , recording of evidence , investigation and trial of offences. An attempt to commit any of the offences under the act is also made punishable for up to half the punishment prescribed for the commission of the offence. An abettor including those involved in trafficking of children for sexual purpose will be punished in the same manner as if he was the offender. The act lays down stringent provisions to prevent media from disclosing the identity of the child.

The lawmakers have definitely taken a big leap towards making India a safer place for children. However there are some shortcomings in the legislation. Why should seven years be the maximum term of imprisonment for certain offences under the act ? Every person who is found to exhibit the qualities of a paedophile deserves nothing less than life imprisonment despite the intensity or degree of the sexual offense done against a child or children. What is the guarantee that a few years in the jail will make him an angel and a lesser threat to the little ones?  The aim is to mitigate child sexual abuse , hence passing of a legislation must not be a mere gimmick to satisfy the people temporarily.  Does a person become less dangerous when compared to an offender merely because he never succeeded in perpetrating the crime despite the attempt  . Why should his term of punishment be cut short by half? It has been only two years since the act has been passed, the lawmakers and the enforcers must lay down laws, rules and guidelines to ensure that proper rehabilitation of the existing victims of CSA takes place so that they are able to overcome the physical and psychological trauma to be able to live like any other normal and happy child again. This is also an area where the society can play a huge role. We need to be sensitive and must do our best to help these kids reintegrate into the society.

The parents and teachers must never shy away from educating their children  on sex, the wrong kind of touching, fondling and so on. Do not underestimate the intelligence of a child, let us make them less vulnerable. The parents must also ensure that they spend quality time with their children. Listen to your child, make him feel that he/she can tell you about anything the under the sun. This will definitely help them understand if their child is under a risk of being abused.

In order to reduce incidents of rape, molestation, harassment and child sexual abuse we need a social revolution, a set of morals and values that can raise our minds to a different. Let us hope that we get to see an era where people place kindness and sensitivity in a higher pedestal when compared to other pleasures and material satisfaction. Remember no one has a right to steal a person’s childhood and dreams.

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