This article delves into the profound influence of mass media on addressing the
pressing issue of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) and its implications on children's
rights. Mass media, encompassing broadcast platforms, print media, and awareness
campaigns, plays a pivotal role in shaping public perception, policy responses,
and societal discussions related to CSA. It acts as a potent intermediary,
efficiently reaching a diverse audience and spotlighting often overlooked
The media's coverage of CSA incidents has been known to drive public
awareness, influence child protection policies, and hold accountable the
relevant services. However, the article underscores the delicate balance between
media portrayal and potential negative impacts on children and their families,
emphasizing the media's dual role in raising awareness and affecting
Furthermore, the article highlights the impact of mass media on children's
rights, both as a potential influencer of their behavior and as a tool for
educating them about their rights, safety, and healthy lifestyles. It discusses
the need for constructive mass media initiatives that can provide valuable
knowledge and resources to children and adolescents. Additionally, the article
emphasizes that these initiatives should be accompanied by supportive services
to ensure comprehensive efforts in addressing child abuse and neglect.
article concludes by emphasizing India's unique situation, where a significant
proportion of children face sexual abuse, and the critical role that media can
play in raising awareness, advocating for policy changes, and fostering a safer
environment for children in the country.
The significance of mass media in conveying information, raising awareness, and
influencing societal perspectives cannot be overstated. Mass media serves as a
means of communication that connects with both a broad audience and specific
target groups. It is distinct from other forms of communication due to its
ability to efficiently reach a large and diverse audience through technological
devices, facilitating the rapid dissemination of messages.
Mass media serves as
an intermediary for information, molding public opinion, and spotlighting events
that may often go unnoticed, thereby rendering them noteworthy and impactful.Top
of Form Mass media occupies a crucial position in shaping the way society
perceives, thinks, and acts, while also heightening awareness about social
concerns. Furthermore, it exerts an impact on how the public, professionals, and
politicians respond to particular situations, particularly in the realm of
preventive and intervention approaches.
Mass media communication, primarily encompassing broadcast platforms such as
television and radio, as well as print media like newspapers and targeted
awareness campaigns, plays a substantial role in addressing specific societal
issues and crimes, such as Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). Through its influential
media coverage, mass media can significantly contribute to the prevention of CSA
incidents. Addressing the problem of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is an urgent
priority in developing nations.
Crucially, there have been instances where it appeared that the media had a
greater influence on child protection policies and actions compared to experts
in the field. Through its reporting, analysis, and involvement in news stories
related to child sexual abuse (CSA), the media brings attention to this issue,
thereby increasing public awareness and bringing it to the forefront of
political and social discussions. The media's coverage of the issue holds
considerable sway as it elucidates the purpose and significance of child
protection and safeguarding policies and services.
It is contended that media attention is vital to ensure that public attention
towards children stays in the realm of political discussions and to maintain the
accountability of child protection services. However, it should be noted that
the way in which the media depicts child abuse and child protection can
negatively impact both children and their families, despite its crucial role in
keeping these issues in focus.
They underscore the media's function in bringing
child protection concerns to the forefront of public consciousness and political
discussions. Notably, this study has revealed how the portrayal of child
protection matters in print media both mirrors the current state of affairs and
can potentially influence how these issues are perceived, as well as the
policies and actions taken in response to them.
Media Influence On Child Sexual Abuse
The WHO Consultation on Child Abuse Prevention has provided a definition for
child abuse as:
"Child abuse or maltreatment constitutes 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".
Child abuse is gaining more prominence as a theme in television dramas,
documentaries, movies, and live theater performances. Certain productions, known
for their controversial nature, have garnered attention in academic literature
and have been assessed in printed publications. Television shows frequently
include information on where victims and offenders or potential offenders can
find assistance, and they often provide contact numbers for helplines.
The media wields a significant influence in shaping and molding the attitudes
and behaviors of individuals. A publication titled "Child Abuse and the Media"
emphasized the crucial role played by the media in raising society's awareness
of child abuse and neglect and influencing how people respond to these issues.
Notably, the media's reporting of specific child abuse cases, research findings,
and intervention strategies has played a noteworthy role in this regard.
have been instances where such media coverage of child abuse has had a positive
impact on how the public, professionals, and politicians respond to the
challenges faced by children and young people. Recognizing the power of media
influence and knowing how to utilize it constructively can, therefore, be a
valuable tool for advocates working on behalf of children, young people, and
Apart from news reports, feature pieces, and investigative reporting, occasional
mass media initiatives include educational and preventive campaigns. These
campaigns typically aim to expand the public's understanding of child abuse and
neglect, shape people's perceptions of children and young individuals, and
modify behaviors that either contribute to or exacerbate the issue of child
abuse and neglect within our communities.
Mass media offer the opportunity to convey messages to large audiences, as well
as to target specific groups. It possesses the capability to simultaneously
reach numerous individuals unrelated to the sender, relying on technical devices
or machinery to swiftly disseminate messages to diverse and often unknown
audiences. While accessible to many, it can also be avoided.
is orchestrated by specialists who aim to persuade potential audiences of the
value of their attention and is overseen by gatekeepers who control message
content. Furthermore, unlike one-on-one communication, it generates minimal and
delayed feedback to senders. Consequently, a well-focused mass media campaign,
educational program, or live-theatre production has the potential to effectively
contribute to community education and the prevention of child abuse and neglect.
The Impact Of Media On Children And Their Rights
The influence of media advertising on youngsters has been extensively studied,
and there is a growing unease regarding certain aspects of media's strong impact
on the attitudes and conduct of children. In fact, television might have a more
significant role in shaping social behavior than peers and educators.
it's worth noting that mass media, when used constructively, can help educate
children and adolescents about socially acceptable methods of addressing
conflicts, their rights to safety and protection from harm, the importance of
maintaining healthy eating habits and lifestyles, and how to express themselves
and assert their rights in a positive and acceptable manner.
Mass media educational and preventative initiatives can be tailored to reach out
to children and adolescents, furnishing them with valuable knowledge and
directing them to additional resources, assistance, and support options. These
campaigns may also incorporate standard children's television programming as a
means of outreach.
The influence of media campaigns on the experiences of survivors is occasionally
highlighted in news articles about them. In a recent news story, there was a
report about another victim of sexual abuse, who had been assaulted by her
stepfather. It was mentioned that just before she drove over him with her car,
resulting in long-lasting injuries, the victim had seen 'a televised community
message about taking a stand against child abuse'.
In numerous instances
involving incestuous abuse, the perpetrator, in this case, the victim's
stepfather, had been released from prison after serving a sentence that,
according to the victim, did not match the severity of the harm she had
Mass media-based educational and preventative initiatives offer governments an
effective way to demonstrate proactive efforts in addressing the issue of child
abuse and neglect. These campaigns have the potential to contribute not only to
preventing immediate harm to children and adolescents but also to mitigating the
enduring social and economic repercussions of child maltreatment. It is
essential, however, that such campaigns are accompanied by supportive services
for children, young people, and their families.
India, Media Reporting, And Child Sexual Abuse
India is home to approximately 19% of the global child population. As per the
2001 Census, there are around 440 million individuals in the country who are
under the age of eighteen, comprising 42% of India's total population. In other
words, four out of every ten people in India are children. This represents a
vast number of children that the nation must cater to.
While outlining its
vision for progress, development, and fairness, India has acknowledged the
crucial role played by its children. When these children receive education,
maintain good health, experience happiness, and have access to opportunities,
they become India's most valuable human resource.
In India, a significant proportion of children, specifically 53.22%, have
reported experiencing various forms of sexual abuse. Among both boys and girls,
the states of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, and Delhi have recorded the highest
rates of sexual abuse. Of the child respondents, 21.90% have faced severe forms
of sexual abuse, while 50.76% have encountered other forms of sexual abuse.
Approximately 5.69% of child respondents have been victims of sexual assault,
with the states of Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and Delhi reporting the highest
incidents of such assaults.
Notably, children living on the streets, children
engaged in labor, and children under institutional care are the most vulnerable
to sexual assault. Alarmingly, in 50% of the reported cases, the perpetrators
are individuals known to the child or those in positions of trust and
responsibility. Regrettably, a majority of these children did not disclose these
incidents to anyone.
Children are generally not recognized as a primary audience in either television
news broadcasts or print media. News content intended for children is typically
limited to periodic children's supplements or special sections included in
Jarnail Singh v. State of Haryana
The individual who appealed the case faced allegations of abducting and sexually
assaulting Savitri Devi's daughter while she was in a state of slumber. In this
particular instance, the highest judicial body in India noted that the method
employed to ascertain the age of a minor involved in legal disputes, as outlined
in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules of 2007, could
also be applied in situations falling under the purview of the Protection of
Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act of 2012. Utilizing this guideline, the
Court found the appellant, Jarnail Singh, guilty.
Satish Ragde v. the State of Maharashtra
In the case of Satish Ragde v. the State of Maharashtra
(2021), the Nagpur Bench
of the Bombay High Court determined that fondling a child's breasts without
engaging in "direct skin-to-skin contact" constitutes an act of molestation
according to the provisions of the POCSO Act, 2021.
This decision, delivered by
Justice Pushpa Ganediwala, sparked significant controversy and disapproval. The
Attorney General of India, the National Commission for Women, and the State of
Maharashtra subsequently appealed against the High Court's ruling. These appeals
were heard by a panel of judges comprising Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, S Ravindra
Bhat, and Bela M Trivedi in the case of Attorney General for India versus Satish
and another (2021).
Overturning the judgment of the Bombay High Court, the Supreme Court noted that
the current matter warranted the application of the "mischief rule" in statutory
interpretation. The Court stressed the importance of continuously interpreting
the law in a manner that serves to prevent harm and promote remedies.
Libnus v. the State of Maharashtra
In this particular case, the central question addressed by the High Court
revolved around whether the act of "holding a child's hand and exposing one's
genitals in her presence" could be categorized as sexual assault according to
Section 7 of the POCSO Act. The Nagpur bench of the High Court determined that
grasping a minor's hand and unzipping one's pants would not meet the criteria
for sexual assault under the provisions of the POCSO Act of 2012; instead, it
would be classified as sexual harassment.
Consequently, the appellant was not
found guilty of aggravated sexual assault as stipulated in Sections 10 and 12 of
the POCSO Act, along with other provisions under the IPC. Consequently, this
ruling generated controversy, akin to the previously discussed "skin-to-skin"
The media, especially electronic media, has a significant role in moulding
societal perspectives and impacting individuals' thoughts and actions. It
fosters awareness, shapes behaviours, and mould's public opinion. Additionally,
it serves as a reliable source of information, notifying relevant parties and
fostering the need for specialized support services.
The media also forms
advocacy groups to hasten the implementation of laws and serves as a societal
watchdog. Through heightened awareness, it plays a pivotal role in influencing
responses at various levels to address sexual violence against children.
- Lindsey, D. (1994), The welfare of children, Oxford University Press, New York
- Brawley, E. (1995), Human services and the media, Harwood Academic Publishers, Australia
- World Health Organization. (1999). Report of the Consultation on Child Abuse Prevention (document WHO/HSC/PVI/99.1). Geneva: World Health Organization
- Goddard, C. and Saunders, B.J. (2001), 'Journalists as agents and language as an instrument of social control: A child protection case study', Children Australia, 26 (2): 26-30
- Baran, S., Chase, L. and Courtright, J. (1979), 'Television drama as a facilitator of positive social behavior: The Waltons', Journal of Broadcasting, 23 (3): 277-284
- Study on Child abuse India, 2007. Source: http://wcd.nic.in/childabuse.pdf accessed on 27-06-2015
- Jarnail Singh v. State of Haryana, (2013) 7 SCC 263
- Satish Ragde v. the State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 42
- Libnus v. the State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 66