Abuse, a five-letter word that’s worth 7 points in the game of Scrabble. A word we hear too often, let it be in terms of power, drug, physical, mental or sexual. According to the Child Welfare Department’s survey, in 2019, 15 child abuse cases occur a day on average. That’s 5,475 cases a year, but in the last five years, only 1,600 cases were reported. This is no less than an epidemic in our country and requires urgent attention.
India has the largest child population in the world, with almost 41 percent of the total population under 18 years of age. The health and security of the children is vital for the progress and development of any country.
But to draw adequate attention to this growing evil, we must understand what is child abuse ?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines child abuse and neglect 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
When we hear the term CHILD ABUSE, an image of a child with bruises or other physical injury comes to our mind. Although, this is not the usual case. There are a few types of child abuse as WebMD suggests , such as:
• Physical Abuse – When a child is hurt by someone or is put in physical danger.
• Sexual Abuse – This doesn’t necessarily includes physical contact. It is any kind of sexual activity with a child, including:
Forcing a child to take part (participate or witness) in pornographic activity or,
Sending messages or gestures that are sexual in any way.
• Emotional Abuse – Behaviours that harm a child’s emotional well-being. This can include:
Shaming, bulling, or embarrassing the child or abusing others in child’s presence or depriving a child of love, care, affection and guidance.
• Neglect – When the child is not given or deprived of basic care, needs and protection by the caregiver.
Child abuse can be a one-time occurrence but often it is a pattern of behavior: physical attacks or deprivation or molestation. Child abuse and neglect are serious problems that can leave harmful lasting effects on the victim.
THE BIG PICTURE
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “child abuse takes place in all settings: at home, school, child care institutions and in the community. Often violence is perpetrated by someone known to the child.”
Every year, there are estimated 41,000 homicide deaths under 15 years of age. Still this number underestimates the epidemic, since a large proportion of deaths due to child abuse and neglect are (incorrectly) attributed to cases of falls, burns and drowning. International studies reveal that a huge number of adults have been physically abused as children (1 in 5 women and 1 in 13 men).
Additionally, many children are subject to emotional abuse (psychological abuse) and to neglect. The statistics are overwhelming. USA alone reported that 676,569 children were victims of child abuse or neglect (U.S. Department of Health and Human Service report). Approximately 695,000 children in the United States were victims of child abuse and neglect in 2019, and 1500 died.
Although these rates are high and bone-chilling, child abuse and neglect can be prevented.
PREVENTING CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT According to the Indian Constitution, Article 15(3), states that “Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children” i.e. the state must make special provisions for children wherever needed. Further, India is a signatory member of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Current Provisions that Safeguard Children In India from Child Abuse : • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POSCO), protects the children against sexual abuse. • JUVENILE JUSTICE (Care and Protection of Children) ACT, 2015, provides provisions for both children in need of care and protection, and children in conflict with the law. • The Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act 2005, provides for the National & State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights and Children’s Courts for offences against children. • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009, provides compulsory elementary education, ensuring overall development of children. • Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016, broadens the scope against child labour and provides for stricter punishments for violations. • Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, prohibits child marriage. • National Policy for Children 2013, mentions following work fields – health and nutrition; education and development; child protection and child participation. • National Action Plan for Children (NPAC) 2016, provides actionable strategies for the 2013 policy. • CHILDLINE telephone number 1098, to report the cases of child abuse, connecting the victims to appropriate medical and socio-legal services. CONCLUSION Child abuse and neglect are very complex problems deep-rooted in the society under the disguise of discipline. Punishing and belittling children are very common practices, but it doesn’t take much for a little flame to burn the entire house down. Preventing child abuse and neglect requires addressing all the factors at every level of the social system, starting right from family. While child abuse and neglect is a massive social problem, an epidemic in itself, it is also a preventable. In order to save the children, the future of the human kind from this situation, it is necessary to imply the existing policies properly and develop new and better preventive programs if needed, to raise awareness for the same. The prime goal in preventing child abuse and neglect is to end violence and create safe, stable, nurturing environments for all children and help them reach their full potential.