Updated: Feb 20, 2022
Written by: Jhanvi Sharma
India is one of the largest countries in terms of population, specifically population in the younger age groups. A census conducted in 2001 revealed that the age group 0-14 years was made up of nearly 35.3% of the total population of the nation and around 41% of the population was below 18 years of age.As the famous saying goes, “Children are one-third of our population and all of our future.”, and yet millions of children in India encounter instances of violence, cruelty, and abuse every day. Abuse against children is not specific to a place but occurs everywhere, including schools, playgrounds, common public places, and even at their own homes. Children require a safe and stable environment to grow into functioning adults but such encounters with violence and abuse not only stuns this process of growth but also results in long-lasting psychological trauma which stays with them throughout their lives.
A report released by C.R.Y. revealed that crimes against children in India have increased substantially over the last 10 years. Crimes against children have increased by over 500% and more than 50% of these instances have been reported from just 5 states. This alarming situation has caught the attention of many major organizations like UNICEF and many national and international child-focused organizations are working together to find a better approach towards this situation.
NATURE OF CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN
Crimes against children are not just limited to abuse, cruelty, and violence but come in various other threatening forms. The nature of such crimes can appear to be non-threatening at first but can also take the form of major crimes against society as a whole. An official data revealed that in 2014, the total number of 89,423 cases were registered under crimes against children in India but in 2015, this number increased by around 5% making the total number of cases to be over 94,000. Children in India face various forms of violence like neglect, abuse, assault, child trafficking, child pornography, etc. there are various provisions laid down in the Indian laws to curb such offenses and if the offenses do take place, prescribe punishment for them.
MAJOR OFFENCES AGAINST CHILDREN AND LEGAL PERSPECTIVE
· Cruelty: The act of violence and cruelty against a child often goes unnoticed because it is so deeply embedded in the Indian culture. Corporal punishment was a glorified thing of the past and was used to discipline children but now its meaning has completely changed. The National Policy for Children, 2013 banned corporal punishment in schools and other institutions. It stated that no child should be subjected to any kind of physical punished and mental harassment and encouraged institutions to adopt a more positive approach for the administration of discipline. Legal liability of a person who performs cruelty against a child: The use of violence against a child amounts to the violation of Article 21, right to live with dignity, under the Indian Constitution. Further, this act also violates sections 323, 325, 352, etc of IPC.
· Sexual harassment: In India, a lot of young children fall victim to sexual harassment and various case studies reveal that a perpetrator is often a person well known to the child. Sexual abuse not only harms the child physically but also traumatizes them. A national report stated that almost 40,000 cases were reported under The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act in 2018. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO)was enacted in 2012 for the purpose of protecting children from such heinous offenses. Various punishments are prescribed under the POCSO act for such perpetrators, along with other provisions including medical examination and speedy trial.
· Kidnapping: One of the most widespread crimes against children is kidnapping. A sharp increase in the number of cases of kidnapping and abduction has been seen over the last 5 years. The women and child development ministry revealed that a child is found missing every 10 minutes in India. Innocent children, irrespective of their community or diverse group, are targeted on a daily basis and the motive behind the abduction ranges from procurement of ransom to child trafficking. The Indian Penal Code’s section 363 lays down the punishment for kidnapping, that is, imprisonment extending up to 7 years and a fine.
· Child labor: Child labor is yet another threat that young children of Indian society face these days. Children belonging to marginalized communities with poor economic backgrounds are often sucked into this vicious circle of child labor. Poor children are seen working in dangerous construction sites or hazardous factories for minimum wages and child labor does not just stop at this exploitation, these children often fall victim to child trafficking and even pornography. Article 24 of the Indian Constitution prohibits the employment of children in hazardous factories and in case of violation, the person who employs a child in such dangerous settings can be imprisoned for a period extended up to 2 years and/or fine of a maximum of Rs. 50,000.
Children are considered to be the greatest resource of a nation but prevalent crimes against children not only harm the future of the children but also harm the future of the society. Violence against children is not just limited to India but is a threat that exists globally. Such incidents of trauma impact the overall development of a child and this can further result in adverse mental and physical health complications. Despite numerous legislation and guidelines available for the purpose of child protection, crimes against innocent children are at an all-time high. Preparators often take advantage of the innocence of children and it is our duty as contributing members of society to ensure that children are shielded from any kind of heinous activity and have a safe and stable environment. Crimes against children can be reduced by the means of spreading social and legal awareness among the masses. India, as a nation, should adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards such crimes.
1Age structure and Marital status, available at: https://censusindia.gov.in (Last visited on June 23, 2021). 2CrimeagainstChildren, Available at: https://ncrb.gov.in (Last visited on June 23, 2021). 3The Constitution of India 4The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Act 45 of 1860), s. 323, 325, 352. 5The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012