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Crime against Children: A Critical Analysis

Children's are the future of a nation as they are the ones who will take the country in the track of progress and prosperity but in present scenario the crime rate against the builders of the nation i.e. "children" are increasing day by day. They are being forcefully indulged in various activities such as trafficking, begging, they are being sold just for the sake of money, and are being killed also.

Sexual offence against the children is a very serious crime which not only affects them physically but also, they are mentally affected. This article deals with the various offences against the children including the sexual offences. It also focuses on various case laws for better understanding. Though various laws are being made in order to protect the future of our country but still they are not safe, as in the year 2016-2017 there was an increase in the crime rate up to 20%. It is the need of the hour to rethink on the present law in order to prevent the crime against the children.

Since ages, children have been the victims of the one abuse or the other. Though it is highly unbelievable that, where we consider children's to be the future of our nation but it would not be wrong to say that they have been neglected a lot. The crimes which are committed against children are not restricted to any specific gender or age group, rather it happens because of their incapability to appreciate the nature of the offences which are being committed against them and their consequences thereof, which ultimately makes them a soft target of the offender. It is due to their inherent innocence and maturity which are usually related to a children's age make them an offender's favorite victim.

Various offences are being conducted against children, they are either being sold, enslaved, exploited, physically abused and are killed too. And this victimization starts before the birth of a child itself.

For example, foeticide, gender determination of foetus and causing the miscarriage and if it is found to be a girl child then she is being killed in the mother's womb itself. This practice is going since ages and with the technological development, the act has been done, though various laws have been made but still in some parts of the country they are still in existence.

Not only this, there are several other offences that a child is victim of. These offences are, child trafficking, sex tourism, incest, child rape, child pornography, devadasi system, and prostitution.

Though, India with the second largest child population in the world and there are certain provisions that are being made for the protection of children, but still the crime rate against the builder or future of our nation is increasing day by day. There is a need to prevent these acts with the help of stricter laws.

Crime Against Children
Children are the most vulnerable and innocent victims of crime. They can be easily targeted and many a times they being targeted by the known. They can be parents, relatives, caretakers, guardian or any other who are being appointed to look after them.

Following are the crimes that are being committed against children and they are as follows:
Child Abandonment: - it occurs when a parent, guardian or a person in charge of a child either deserts a child without any regard for the child's safety or welfare of the child and without considering child's physical health. It includes:
  • Unwillingness in providing the care, support or supervision for the child
  • Abandoning an infant in a trash cans or at the road side or leaving at some other doorsteps.
  • Being absent from the home for a particular time period, which creates a substantial risk of serious nature to a child left in the home.
  • Making only less efforts to support and communicate with the abandoned child

Statutory Rape or Sexual Assault: - It refers to sexual relations with someone below the "age of consent" i.e. not in a state of understanding the concept of consent. In such cases individuals are too young to give the consent and it ultimately results into child molestation.[1]

Sexual abuse and exploitation: - According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), every 15 minutes a child is sexually abused in India. And the crime rate is increasing day by day. [2]

Child sexual abuse also known as child molestation is a form of child abuse, where an adult uses the child for sexual stimulation. It includes engaging a child in sexual activities, indecent exposure, child grooming, child sexual exploitation or including a child to produce child pornography.[3] Molestations and rapes are not solely restricted to any gender at present. A child irrespective of its gender can be exposed to sexual offences such as molestation or rape. Such offences might be committed by some outsiders but it is also committed by a family member, school teacher, friend, house help etc.

Generally, a child fails to comprehend the severity of the nature of the act due to lack of knowledge. Or sometimes, even the child is going through this pain but the child stays silent due to the threats given from the perpetrators, or sometimes the family advises them to be silent for the purpose of maintaining the so-called family honour. There has been an increase in the sexual offences against a child and the majority of the cases do not get reported as the family members are concerned with their family honour or the reputation.

Basically, cruelty is any act or omission which inflicts mental or physical harm upon an individual, irrespective of the age, gender, mental capacity etc.

Yelling at a child just to scare him or her can amount to cruelty. Our society feels that 'spare the rod shall spoil a child'. Society is of view that unless parents or guardian behaves like a martinet with a child, such child shall never be capable of being disciplined in life. Even educational institutions have the impression that physical punishment for mistakes is the sole way of inducing discipline within a child. But in present scenario, cruelty towards child in educational institutions has seen a decline due to strict legislative enactments. But the domestic abuse of children goes on unaddressed as they are unaware of their rights. Therefore, cruelty has become an accepted notion.

Employment of child for begging:
Children are being forcefully employed for the purpose of begging. Employment of children as beggars exists on a global scale, irrespective of country's economic scenario. The most shocking factor is that, the child is sometimes being used by his or her parents to beg for alms. The money that they have received for begging ends up with those who find a child as a convenient source of earning.

Intoxicating a Child: - Children who fall prey to such kinds of racket, are sometimes forced to consume intoxicants such as alcohol, drugs, cigarettes etc. so that it becomes easier for the people i.e. the racket leader to control them and they can in order to fulfil their greed, they can force the children to do any kind of unlawful activities.

Child pornography: - It refers to the inducing or coercing a child or indulging a child in sexually explicit acts and recording them. Such inducing acts can be done by tempting a minor through monetary or some other means. Child pornography is banned in all nations and pornographic websites are strictly directed for removal of any kind of such content which involves a child in it.

Among crime against children, kidnapping and abduction continued to be the most prevalent in nature. Around 42 % of the total 1,29,032 cases of crime were being reported. Apart from that, the other major crime against children include violation of the protection of children from sexual offences (POCSO) Act, rape, sexual assault and procuring of minor girls.[4]

The effects of child sexual abuse include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as some physical injuries. Though physical injuries can be healed with the passage of time but it takes time to heal with the mental injuries.

Generally, in most of the cases the offender is acquainted with victim. And around 30% of the abuse on children is being done by the family members itself (relatives).

Though, various laws have been made at international level as well.
  • United States, Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), is an international treaty that legally obliges the states to protect the children's rights. CRC's Article 34 and 35 states about the protection of children from sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. As of November 2008, there are 193 countries that are being bounded by the CRC.
  • Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual abuse, Council of Europe has adopted this convention in order to prohibit child sexual abuse that occurs within the family or at the home.[5]

In the eyes of law, any sexual activity is done with the child then it constitutes a criminal offence i.e. if any of such activity is done on a child below the age of 18 years then it is considered as a crime against children. As they are too young and immature to make such kind of decisions.

Possibly, there are many reasons for crimes against children. Few of them are mentioned below:
  • Poverty:
    Poverty is the main reason which forces many people to choose the path of crime and somehow, children are the preys to these crimes. Sometimes, due to the problem of poverty parents often sell their own children just for the sake of money, in the hands of criminal minded people and then they have to face the various crimes.
  • Lack of awareness and carelessness by parents:
    In rural parts of the country there are many poverty-stricken families with number of children's, which ultimately results into inadequate care to each and every child and eventually they become the victims of various crimes.
  • Society:
    Well, society is equally responsible for the increase in crime rate against children. People who indulge children in such heinous offences, and people who overlook the crimes taking place etc. are all equally responsible for the current scenario. And another area of concern is the dramatic increase in the rape incidents, which is also a serious issue.
  • Internet:
    Internet has played a major role in increasing the crime rate against children, as a lot of inappropriate stuff is being provided over there which somehow affects the mentality of an individual. So, more care and stricter measures must be taken so that these types stuffs do not reach the non-desirable audiences.
  • Television:
    Television has somehow changed the mind set of people. As the crime shows which are being aired on television. They have their pros and cons. Where somehow, it focuses on how to be safe and what all is going in the society, whereas on the other hand, it provides people with criminal mind the new ideas as how to prey kids.

Apart from this there are various other offences that are mentioned under IPC and Special and Local laws (SLL) and they are as follows:
  • Abetment of suicide of child (sec 305)
  • Infanticide (sec 315)
  • Exposure and abandonment of child under12 years, by parent or person having care of it (sec 317 IPC),
  • Procuration of minor girls (sec 366A)
  • Importation of girls from foreign country, below the age of 18 years (sec 366-B)
  • Selling of minors for prostitution (sec 372)
  • Buying of minors for prostitution (sec 373) [6]

Laws under Special Local Laws (SLL) are as follows:
  • Transplantation of Human Organs Act1994(for persons below 18 years of age)
  • Child labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act,1986
  • Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
  • Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2000
  • Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO)
  • Prohibition of child marriage Act, 2006[7]

There are certain constitutional provisions which deal with the rights of children, they are as follows:

Article 21- it provides for right to life and personal liberty

Article 24- it states that child below the age of 14 years shall not be employed to work in factory or a mine nor shall be engaged in any kind of hazardous work'

Article 39(f)- it makes obligatory for the state to direct its policy towards securing that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy environment and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment

Article 45- states that, free and compulsory education to all children upto the age of 14 years.[8]

Though various laws are being made by the legislation and various rights are being provided to the children but still the crime against them is increasing. It has been seen that the main reason of these offences against children could be poverty and illiteracy. As they have played an important role for the exploitation of children, in order to earn their meal for the day. It ultimately results into their sexual exploitation. Though certain laws have been implemented for the protection of the children but still improvement is still required, as in the year 2016-2017 there was an increase in the crime rate of upto 20%.

Due to such offences not only a child's physical health gets affected but they are being mentally affected too. And due to this, there is an impact of offences against children on society.

Children are so innocent in nature, that their innocence can be easily misused by others, which leaves an unforgettable impression on their lives as well as on their family members. When such kind of offences is being committed against children, there is a threat in the minds of people living in the society and it also leaves an impact on the parent's psychology. Because, in a country like India where a normative structure like socialization plays quite significant role in one's life.

Here, people have to suffer a lot because of the crime which not only destroy their social conditions merely by labeling perspective. Though, govt. has implemented various laws and policies in order to protect children by assuring them some rights and that are being mentioned above.

Protection of children from sexual offences Act, 2012
Earlier there was no separate legislation for the protection of rights of children but with the increasing rate of grave sexual offences against them and low rate of conviction, there was a need for the separate legislation.

So, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offence Act,2012 (POCSO) was enacted to protect the children from various types of sexual offences and to establish Special Court for providing speedy disposal of cases.

Offences against children (Prevention) Bill, 2005 was an attempt to address the issue of child abuse. It mainly focuses on the rights and remedies available to them. It also includes instances of sexual abuse which includes touching a child directly or indirectly with sexual intent. It also includes the provisions of enhanced punishment for abuse of trust and for those individuals who were previously convicted for child sexual abuse.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015
This act was enacted to consolidate and amend the law regarding juvenile in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection by providing proper care, protection and treatment and by providing them child friendly environment in the adjudication and disposition of matters which is in the best interest and which ultimately helps them in their rehabilitation which are being established by law.

Rapid increase in the crime rate indicates that children are no longer safe neither at home nor outside. We consider them to be the future of our country but still they belong to the most vulnerable section of the society. There are laws that are being made for their protection and even the constitution also guarantees certain rights to the children but still there is a need to think about the consequences of offences against children.

Children are victimizing due to many factors which not only affects the child's mental state but also affects them physically. They may cure physically but the psychological trauma may remain which ultimately impact on child's future. The roots of all offences thus can be traced to their immaturity and weakness, physical as well as mental.

They bear all this from their procreation till their adulthood. The rigid law and criminal justice, as well as law agencies are taking over all the challenges to prevent the offences against children. Society and community play a major role in the prevention of offences against children so, it is also the duty and the responsibility of the society members to fight against this social evil while taking into consideration the morality and the human values.

The law, as of now, already enshrines stringent punishments which are to be imposed against those who commit any kind of offence or crime against children, such punishments with time requires a higher degree of severity so as to prevent and deter the perpetrators from committing such offence.

  • As mentioned above, poverty can be the main reason to choose the path of crime and also due to poverty and lack of education parents are ignorant towards their children rights. So, they must be made aware of child rights, must demand for it and also fight to obtain for the same.
  • There is a need to develop a national, child-centered, integrated, multidisciplinary and time bound strategy to address violence against children and these multidisciplinary child professionals should work together and monitor the government efforts in protecting the child rights.
  • If parents are unable to provide proper care and protection, then it shall be the responsibility and accountability of the government, elected representatives, policy makers, NGO'S to look after the same.
  • Government must invest in law enforcement and should enact an explicit legal ban on violence against children backed by effective enforcement.
  • Strict implementation and enforcement of laws are required in order to protect them.
  • There is a need to generate social awareness among people and also to enhance legislation and nurturing action towards ending violence, sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

Books Referred:
  • Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Prof. T Bhattacharya)
  • Constitution of India,1950 (bare act)
  • POCSO Act, 2012
  • Offences against children (prevention) bill,2005
  • Juvenile justice (care and protection),2015

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