Child Sexual Abuse in India: A Dark Reality

Sanam Hayat, Student, Chanakya National Law University, Patna


Child abuse is the physical or psychological maltreatment of a child, can be differentiated into four major categories, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and worst of all; the sexual abuse. Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is a kind of physical or mental violation of a child with sexual intent, usually by a person who is in a position of trust or power vis-à-vis the child. World Health Organization (WHO) defines child sexual abuse as, ‘inappropriate sexual behavior with a child’ and ‘involving a child in sexually activity that he or she doesn’t fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or that violates the laws and social taboos of society.’ India is home to almost 19 percent of the world’s children. 42% of India’s total population is below eighteen years. In a shocking revelation, a Government commissioned survey has found that more than 53% of Indian children are subjected to sexual abuse / assault. Majority of these cases were perpetrated by someone known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility. Addressing child sexual abuse is a challenge all over the world. But in India, shortcomings in both state and community responses add to the problem. Child abuse is shrouded in secrecy and there is a conspiracy of silence around the entire subject. In fact there is a well entrenched belief that there is no child abuse in India. A very large percentage of people feel that this is a largely western problem and that child sexual abuse does not happen in India. Part of the reason of course lies in a traditional conservative family and community structure that does not talk about sex and sexuality at all. Parents do not speak to children about sexuality as well as physical and emotional changes that take place during their growing years. As a result of this, all forms of sexual abuse that a child faces do not get reported to anyone and certainly there is no sexual abuse in the country. The Constitution of India recognizes the vulnerable position of children and their right to protection. Following the doctrine of protective discrimination, it guarantees in Article 15 special attention to children through necessary and special laws and policies that safeguard their rights. The right to equality, protection of life and personal liberty and the right against exploitation are enshrined in Articles 14, 15, 15(3), 19(1) (a), 21, 21(A), 23, 24, 39(e) 39(f) and reiterate India’s commitment to the protection, safety, security and well-being of all its people, including children. Despite the best intentions and plans in place, as well as two comprehensive legislations for the protection of children, The Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2000 and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012, instances of child abuse have been known to occur in our schools, homes for children and other child care institutions as also in the child’s own residence. Child sexual abuse is a dark reality that routinely inflicts our daily lives but in a majority of cases it goes unnoticed and unreported on account of the innocence of the victim, stigma attached to the act, callousness and insensitivity of the investigating and the law enforcement agencies, etc. Merely enacting legislation will not be enough unless this is followed by strict enforcement of the law with accountability defined. The essay will focus on child sexual abuse in India, the laws, legal loopholes and The Protection of Children against Sexual Offences ACT, 2012.


“The most sophisticated people I know – inside they are all children.” 
― Jim Henson

The saying of Jim Henson, an American puppeteer is very true that’s why the One of the most important concerns of any society is the health, safety and well being of its children and young people as they don’t have a voice to protect their interests. They rely on adults for protection and sometimes it’s those same adults who violate their rights. Though every act of abuse is ghastly, there’s something particularly hideous about the sexual abuse of child.

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