Child abuse is a major problem in India which can no longer be overlooked,
since the impact is uncertain for the children, the impact can either be
immediate, or on the other hand, it can also display its effects in the later
stages of life.1
There are plenty of instances where the instances of child
sexual abuse (CSA) can actually cause irreparable damage to the child.2 Indeed,
there are several instances where the studies showed that the victims are
capable if demonstrating signs of growth even subsequent to undergoing these
traumatic events, it is a must that the cause of these events should be nipped
at the bud.
This is no longer a problem which is only whispered about and never
dealt with, the judiciary has not accepted it to be one of the most pervasive
problems in the Indian society one which has a profound and deeply
traumatic effect on the life of the person undergoing such events.3 Any form of harm or activity
which leads to the infringement of the most basic human rights of a child that
is how the World Health Organisation has defined Child Abuse to be.4
A study which was conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in
2007 recorded some astonishing statistics that about more than half of the
children which were covered in the study had fallen victim to the traps of child
abuse, and of that total, close to a quarter was subjected to severe levels of
child sexual abuse.5
However, that is not what the surprising part about this is what is astonishing yet is the fact that a remarkably low number
of cases have been registered with the police, whether be it under the Indian Penal Code, or the
Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. There is a stark contrast in
the number of cases that are brought to light, and the actual number of child
victims in the country.
The consequences are apparent:
the faith in the
criminal justice system has dwindled down to a
place where the community does not trust it enough to actually bring justice to the aggrieved
children. It won't be wrong to say, that from one perspective, the criminal
justice system may have gotten its priorities backwards.
Whilst at one hand, the
safeguards have been ensured
under the laws to ensure that an innocent accused would not be condemned wrongfully, but on
the other hand, the victim in the instance has little or no rights whilst the
criminal justice mechanism operates, lies forgotten.6 The Indian Criminal
Judicial System pays little or no concern to the victim after the proceedings
have been initiated, nor is the victim allowed to affect the prosecution.7
in a place where relief is limited, and the consistently piling up neglect would
regardless have led to the crumbling away of the trust in the Indian Criminal
Justice System. More so, if the victim happens to be a child. Where the efforts are wasted away
being criminal-centric, the rehabilitation, treatment and the punishment for the
crime, the victim stands victimized, and the treatment and rehabilitation of the
victim is overlooked.
From the perspective of victimology, children are inevitably the most victimized
segments of our population, something which is common around the
world.8 Victimization is not healthy for a developing tender brain. Coupled with
the trauma of child abuse, the effects of victimization subsequent to the cruel
acts can seriously derail the growth of a child, such as altering the
development of personality, or major health disorders, or worse,
development of delinquent tendencies.9
However much like the issue with adult
victimization, in the
field of criminal psychology, childhood victimization has not been accorded the level of concern which
it deserves, and much more studies need to be done so as to establish mechanisms
to proper dealings with the child victims and proper efforts are spared so as to ensure successful
rehabilitation of the victims, adult and children alike.
This research article has been divided into four major parts Part I deals with
the prevalent social sentiments which act as a hurdle to avoid child
victimization and Part II delves into the aspect of victimology, and how child
victimological development takes its roots. While the Part III takes a look at
the Indian scenario and the legislative and judicial steps to ensure avoiding
victimization, the Part IV conclusively suggests a path forward.
The Struggle To Come Forth
One of the major reasons why the number of child sexual abuse cases in India
linger on the lower end of the table, is because children at large are unable to
voice their concerns and
There are a variety of reasons why this happens:
majority of the children are hesitant,
and are unable to talk to the authorities, or the responsible adults, provided
they speak at all.
Helplessness is one of the contributing factors which causes this, combined along with the fact
that eventually, they bottle it up, and their pain never comes to light.10 The
also contributes greatly in this stigma which has formed around child sexual abuse.
than not, the instances, if ever are brought to light, are curbed and kept low
by the family
members, or the authorities discourage the reporting of such instances by offering negotiations
and compromises with the perpetrator of the abuse. No wonder the rate of
reporting has declined rapidly.
However, such disregard of plight of the victims
is not simply attributable to the society the judicial system deserves equal
blame. The portrayal of the plight by the Judiciary in their judgements depicts
a scenario where it is communicated to the society that
the ones who dare to bring to light the instances of abuse
or those of rape, then they must have readied their minds to face the whole
world around them.11
The suffering differs too, as when you view this crime from the perspective of a
male child, the suffering multiplies:
that is partly due to the prevalent
stigma in the patriarchal society
we reside in.12 The consciousness around the males of the society make it even harder for them
to step forth and allow their suffering to come to light, and as expected, the number of cases of
child abuses reported by male children were significantly low as compared to
those reported by the female children. However, this does not portray the true
picture statistically, the male children are sexually abused more than the
Stigma can take several forms, and the worse case scenario comes
about when the abuse of the child is done at the hands of someone from within
the family the conflicting emotions of the victim make it difficult for the
perpetrators to be punished properly. In the name of the secrecy of the family,
the perpetrators of the offence are kept safe from being put behind bars.14
Lack of knowledge in the victims also plays a role. As there is little or no initiative by the adults
in educating the children as to what counts as sexual abuse, and what does not,
the children do not no whether they are being wrongly treated by an adult.
Often, simply due to the lack of
cognition of the act being that of sexual abuse, the children are unable to properly express their
sufferings, and eventually fail to report such abuse. However, the troubles
simply don't end there. The worse and the ultimate issue with reporting such
instances comes with the eventual consequence of victim-blaming
The most troublesome stigma Indian society faces right now is the tendency to shove the blame
on to the victim for having played role in the eventuality where such abuse
befell them.15 The fact that they may be innocent, and were actually subject to
unjust cruelty and sexual abuse, is discarded at a very early stage,16 and the
disbelief at the hands of the responsible people often leads to further trauma
for the children, probably worsening the situation before even the procedure of
Justice has been enabled. Not only that, the requisite mental help which
the child would need at this stage is also denied.17
In light of such societal
constraints limiting the alleviation of the plight of the children, a lot needs
to be done so as to initiate a change in the direction where the future of the
children is not burdened with such abuses, and if they are
subject to such treatment, there are not unwarranted hurdles to act in the way of them receiving
The fact stands that in the year 2016, no more than 19,765 cases
under the Section 376 were registered under the Indian Penal Code, and under POCSO, only 36,022 cases
were brought to light. Against the staggering number of children in the country
under the age of 18 who are subject to unjust sexual abuse, these are meagre
numbers, and the
majority of the cases are wrapped under the covers, and the pain of these children fails to even see the faint
glimmer of justice.
The Victimological Development And Children
When it comes to children, it is needless to say the fact that the victimization
in children is obviously different from the victimization that adults undergo.
On one hand, in general forms
of other violent acts, the children obviously suffer through the same type of victimization.
in acts of acts of sexual abuse, the nature of victimization essentially remains
the same, save for one addition. That is to say, the status of the child adds
one aspect to their victimization which is not commonly found in the event of
adults that is the aspect of dependency.18
In the case of a child, the lack of emotional and physical maturity brings about
the condition of dependency on their surroundings, which is a common trait of
childhood, and in the event when such dependency is violated, the child is
subject to another form of victimization, which
is not commonly undergone by most adults. Dependency can be an attribute which is essentially
specific to the conditions of the children and their surroundings.
say, the variance in the dependency of the child creates different other forms
of victimizations, and their
vulnerability is also greatly dependent on this dependency on their surroundings. However, not
all forms of child victimization can be categorized solely on the bases of
related or in not being so. There are some forms of victimization which actually fall at the very
midst of this categorization sexual abuse and physical abuse of children.
While at one hand, consensual sexual acts with children are considered
victimization because of the fact that the child concerned lacks maturity
and of course dependent. However, on the other hand, acts of sexual abuse with a
child would be considered child victimization, even when the case is with that
of an adult on which the child is not dependent.
Of the types of victimizations that a child can be subject to, the acts of child
sexual abuse fall under the category of being 'acute' victimizations, which are
less frequent as opposed to the majority of other forms, but tend to be severe
as compared to the weaker forms of victimizations.19
Victimology is still
pondering over the different manners in which the children find themselves
victimized as a result of their circumstances. Immense developments have been
witnessed in the study of child victimology in concern to sexual against
children, and the changing ways and processes are being incorporated the
recent being the
incorporation of internet victimization.
This type of victimization, as of now, majorly revolves
around sex crimes which are done over the internet, exposure of children to
pornographic material by force, as well as cyber-bullying.20 Different
perspectives are evolving as research continues, such as the fact that child
sexual abuse, child sexual assault and child molestation,
which were terms used interchangeably, have developed different meanings over the period of
time where new data continues to be incorporated.
Child Sexual Abuse, when defined in the sense accorded to its words,
incorporates into it the acts of sexual abuse done by the ones taking
care of the children, while the definition does not include such acts when
committed by strangers. Likewise, when child molestation is talked about, the
meaning immediately is connected with acts of sexual abuse done by adults,
however, the acts which done by other underage children are excluded from the
meaning accorded to this phrase.
Child sexual assault also is usually taken to
mean violent sexual acts done against children, but the nonviolent acts still
remain from the scope of this phrase.21 However, the understanding int his field is still shaky, and the room of restructuring is rampant,
even more so than the need for development.
The Indian Legal Structure For Victims
Undeniably, the way the Indian Criminal Justice System works, is not exactly oriented towards
the victim. Rather, the entire focus of the system is centralised around the
establishment of the guilt of the offender, and punishment or acquittal of the
same, depending on the circumstances.22 But in the midst of this rush, the cries
of the people who have suffered the most in these instances remain forgotten
i.e. the victims.
It is only natural that the ones who
have had to undergo unspeakable misery would want to have some representation in the process
which is meant for the incarceration of the person responsible for their
suffering. Such empowerment of the child victims is necessary to initiate the
restoration process of their psyches.
By being heard by the system meant to
provide justice to them, the same should let
them regain control over their minds and body, that which they had lost when they were cruelly
violated against their will and consent.23 However, such a concern is not
properly represented in the Indian Criminal Justice System.
Undeniably, India has undertaken steps to ensure that a measure of control can
be exercised over the acts of sexual abuse against children, which was the POCSO,
2012. But despite such legislation, the number of children facing sexual abuse
keep on the rise, and are mounting
number which were hitherto unseen.=
It was implausible for the Indian Judiciary for simply take
the back seat and let the tragedy unfold, and thus, several changes were later
introduced to the
Indian Penal Code with the Criminal Amendment Act, 2019. The purpose of POCSO Act is to
treat the minors as a class by itself and treat them separately so that no
offence is committed against them as regards sexual assault, sexual harassment
and sexual abuse.
The sanguine purpose is to safeguard the interest and
wellbeing of the children at every stage of judicial proceeding. It provides for
a child friendly procedure. It categorically makes a distinction between a child
and an adult.
These concerns which the Indian legal system faces currently were also voiced by the
which was formed in 2003 under the leadership of Justice V.S. Malimath.
The committee put forth the idea that the century-old legal justice system which
operated in India
was a drag instead of being an asset. Quite foresighted, the committee appropriately suggested
that the system which was too centric on the accused while ignoring the pleas of
would be detrimental to the future of the legal system. Several recommendations were made at
the time, all of which intended to allow the victim to be more pro-active
in the criminal justice system.
More so than in the case of adults, in the instance of child victims of sexual
consideration of the stance of the victim is indispensable. The victims of child sexual abuse are
faced with a fundamental need to remain under the assurance that the suffering
they have undergone once shall not be repeated to them ever again. This
assurance is more important in their rehabilitation than most other things.24
The present Indian System has incorporated means to provide compensation to the
victim, which in the opinion of the system, is a sufficient assurance in itself.
The Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Act, 2008 has in it provisions which
provide for compensation to the people who are victims of crime.25
the case of K.A. Abbas H.S.A. v. Sabu Joseph
the court came to the conclusion as to the essence of this provision going so far as to say that
the provision was to accommodate the interests of the victims into the criminal justice system.26 However,
the Indian Judiciary has to realise, that mere monetary compensation is a means
to rehabilitate the victim, but that is not the end in itself. Incorporating the
stance of the victim into the system does not end here. Rather, such measures
are merely the starting line for such
In line with the suggestions made by Malimath Committee, the decision of the Supreme
Court in Nilahati Behera v. State of Orissa
27, and the Chandrima Das Case
depict the trend
which is now being adopted by the judiciary to provide proper justice to the victim to the crime,
rather than keeping them oblivious to the proceedings completely. However, there is still some
time before the same can be said for the juvenile victims.
Juvenile victims get neglected, and although the situation is not peculiar to
India, the situation
is still admittedly much worse. The major reason can be attributed to the social stigma prevalent
here. Before the crime can be addressed, it is necessary that it be brought to
light. However, the social conditions are such worse in the Indian society, that
due to a variety of reasons, the same is curbed into hiding and never reaches
Child sex abuse has become rampant,
and the criminal justice system is not being effective enough in dealing
with the situation such that the plight of the victims can be alleviated. The
needs of the child victims are futile as the are falling on unperturbed
ears of the legal framework. The role of the victims has been diminished far
beyond what it should be, and the measures need to be taken at the earliest
possible in order to ensure that the escalating crimes are addressed.
The minimal measures taken by the Indian Judicial System are incomplete:
they do not address
the needs of the victim. What the victim needs is punishment to the perpetrator,
and further, assurance that they shall not come in harm's way again, once the
judicial system has run its course, and in the process of achieving so, they
also want to be a part of the process which leads to their satisfaction.
However, none of these needs have been incorporated into the process. If the
legal framework in India were to be reviewed in hindsight, aside from the
provision assisting compensation to the victims, there has been no statutory development which
could be said to assist the victims of the crimes. Due to the absence of any legislation on this
aspect the sufferer of crime i.e. the victim is seemed to be ignored. Many
victims do not go to
the police out of fear of adverse publicity and unnecessary harassment. But in case of child, he
is unknown to the justice system of the country which results into the increase
in the unregistered cases which leads to the failure of restoration of the child
into the society. Apart from the delay or even absence of justice, the victims
face similar incidence every now and
then and they do not find any safe place in society and do not see any future prospects for living
their life with dignity.
With the system being as it is, the victims feel discouraged more so than
anything else to participate, since with the proceedings moving forward, the
victims are not encouraged to add new information to the proceedings. The reason
being, that the credibility
is lost gradually as new information is presented. However, this conception is flawed. Children
are volatile brains, and the processing of their brains, which leads to the
disclosure of truth in a chronological gap is important to note.
However, the current system does not agree to open their minds to this. A child victim demands
a much greater level of care, otherwise, the conditions and circumstances around them, and the
factor of dependency ultimately bring them to a position where the trauma
refuses to subside.
Victims in the Indian Criminal Justice System have never been treated well, however, the times
demand a change. The approach towards the victimization is already taking a new
leaf, with the judiciary realizing that being a silent spectator to the
predicament is not viable anymore.
Child victims, and all other victims in general, deserve their role in the criminal justice system,
such that they are able to influence the outcome and have their plight
Accountability and restitution:
on the basis of these two pillars, the approach towards the child
victims needs to be formulated afresh. Where at one hand, the people responsible
for making the children suffer need to be held accountable for their
wrongdoings, on the other hand, the restitution and rehabilitation of the child
victim should be tended to with utmost care.
There is also a need for uprooting
the social stigma regarding sexual abuse which demands a social movement
involving acquainting the youth to sexual education, and also removing from
hearts the fear of social condemnation. Only with the balance of these two, and a socially aware
society, can the menace known as child molestation be curbed.
- S. DEB, CHILDREN IN AGONY. (2006, New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company)
- Cicchetti, D., & Toth, S. L. (2006). Building bridges and crossing them: translational research in developmental
psychopathology. Developmental Psychopathology, 18, 619-622.
- Ankush Kumar v State (para 8) Crl. M.C. 4046/2015 & Crl. M.A. Nos.
14412-14413/2015 (Delhi High Court, Sept 30, 2015).
- World Health Organization. Child Maltreatment (Available at
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- Raina S.C., Evolution of victimological Jurisprudence in India
Law, JUDICIARY AND JUSTICE IN INDIA, (New Delhi: Deep and Deep
Publications), (1992), 82
- V.N. RAJAN, VICTIMOLOGY IN INDIA -AN INTRODUCTORY STUDY, (1995, New
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- Hashima, I'., & Finkelhor, D. (1999). Violent Victimization of Youth
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- Margolin, G., & Gordis, E. B., (2000), The Effects of Family and
Community Violence on Children, Annual Review of Psychology, 51, 445-479
- Roland C. Summit, The Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome, 7
CHILD ABUSE & NEGLECT 177-93 (1983).
- Bharwada Bhoginbhai Hirjibhai v. State of Gujarat, 3 SCC 217 (1983), 10.
- Tewksbury, R., (2007), Effects of Sexual Assaults on Men: Physical,
Mental and Sexual Consequences, 6 INT.OF MEN'S HEALTH, 31.
- Supra nt. 5.
- Carson, D., Foster, J., & Chowdhury, A. (2014), Sexual Abuse of Youth
and Youth in India: An Anthropological Perspective, 14 The Oriental
- Ahrens C. (2006), Being Silenced: The Impact of Negative Social
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- roni berger, stress, trauma, and posttraumatic growth (2015).
- Priyabadini, S., Child abuse in Indian families, in Carson D.K. et.al.
(Eds.), Indian Families At The Crossroads: Preparing Families For The New
Millennium, (2007, New Delhi: Gyan Pub. House), 107-121.
- Finkelhor, D. (2007), Developmental Victimology: A Comprehensive Study
of Childhood Victimizations, in DAVIS R.C., LUIRIGIO, A.J. (Eds.),
VICTIMS OF CRIME, (2007, 3rd edn., Thousand Oaks CA).
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programs: A national survey of children's exposure and reactions, in
CHILD ABUSE & NEGLECT, 19(2), 125-1 35.
- Wolak, J., Mitchell, K. J., & Finkelhor, D. (2006), Online
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- Supra nt. 18, 13-14.
- Howard zehr, changing lenses: a new focus for crime and justice, 69
- oudshoorn, j., amstutz, l.s. & jackett, m. (2015), the little book of
restorative justice for sexual abuse, 27.
- tali gal, child victims and restorative justice (2011), 44.
- Section 357A, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
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- (2000) 2 SCC 465.