Child Sexual Abuse: It's a huge problem in India. Why don't our netas care?

India has very high rates of children being sexually abused. Punishments have increased but rates of conviction are abysmally low. Why don't political parties make personal safety education a promise in their poll manifestos?

 |  4-minute read |   28-03-2019
  • ---
    Total Shares

India is home to the largest population of children in the world — unfortunately, it is also the country with the highest percentage of children who have faced one or more forms of sexual abuse at 53 per cent. Though this government of India study was done in 2007, it was the largest such study in the world where around 12,500 children across 13 states were covered. So, the findings remain relevant.

Since then, all the governments, both at the centre and the states, are aware of this heinous sexual crime which is destroying the lives of the children of our country, the future of India, but despite bringing in a new law — the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) 2012 — the menace of sexual crimes against children has not shown any signs of abating.

One of the reasons for this could be the fact that as many as 70 per cent of victims of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) don’t reveal to anyone their abuse, so perpetrators are only emboldened and without anyone stopping them, many of them abuse several children for years together.

As a survivor of long-term Child Sexual Abuse (CSA), I know this first hand.

The other big reason is that the conviction rate under POCSO is so low — below 20 per cent nationally and in some states, it’s even in single digits. Also, pendency in courts for cases under POCSO is as high as 90 per cent, which means that perpetrators of sexual crimes against children are walking free with nary a care in the world — continuing to abuse children with no one to stop them.

In such a scenario, when the country is poised for Parliamentary elections, I urge political parties to include in their manifestos strong steps to stop Child Sexual Abuse and protect the future of our country.

I, on behalf of Sabfree Foundation, an NGO which provides an eco-system for survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, would urge political parties to promise to include Personal Safety Education in the school curriculum — so that children are made aware of the dangers of sexual abuse and taught how to protect themselves from sexual predators. As the first step, children need to be taught to tell someone they trust, about anyone who is trying to abuse them. Often the reason children are not able to ward off predators is because — in over 90 per cent of cases — the abusers are people they know and are in a position of power and authority and someone the child, and often, their parents also trust. 

main_happy-children-_032819123701.jpgTowards their happy future: Political parties must include strong steps to stop Child Sexual Abuse in their manifestos. (Representational image: Reuters)

In the case of CSA, the monster is not outside the house — who can be locked out — but inside the house.

In over 50 per cent cases, children are abused by their uncles and older cousins, and parents — in most cases — have no clue that their children are being abused by their own brothers, brothers-in-law or nephews. Increasingly, we see girls also are getting abused by their own fathers and brothers.

Each year, cases registered under the POCSO Act are increasing. In three years from 2015 to 2017, there has been a 50 per cent rise in cases registered under the POCSO Act 2012.

Governments will have to stop this menace as the effects of sexual abuse last well into adulthood — and these are devastating.

Effects include depression, substance abuse, low academic performance, low leadership skills, eating disorders, unsuccessful relationships like bad marriages, suicidal tendencies and there is also a high likelihood of CSA victims getting victimised again. Studies have shown that survivors of CSA are likely to be plagued with one or more after-effects well into adulthood, which will affect their productivity in later life.

Also, there is a chance of victims turning abusers themselves — so this means the cycle of victim and abuser continues.

I appeal to political parties to please stop this destruction of our children by doing all they can to stop CSA.

They should promise to make personal safety education compulsory in schools, increase budgets to stop Child Sexual Abuse so that all stakeholders can be properly trained, including child protection unit staff, aanganwadi workers, teachers, police officers, child care institutions staff, counsellors and concerned lawyers and judges.

Also, there should be a proper budget, so that victim compensation is swiftly distributed and the most important part is to ensure that the police officers are trained well, to increase the conviction rate — it is of no use that the quantum of punishment is increased up to the death penalty if the conviction rate is so low. It is better instead to ensure that the conviction rate increases to over 90 per cent and that can happen only with proper training of investigating officers, better equipment and accountability.

So, political parties, the national parties — the Congress Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Left parties, Aam Aadmi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (U) and Janata Dal (S) — and all other regional parties should commit to ensuring that our children are brought up in safety and they are able to live a life of dignity — which is also their right.

I strongly appeal and request political parties to make this commitment — even though children are not your vote banks — because their future is our future, the future of India, and we all want a prosperous and healthy India.

Also read: Will the lack of interpretation of 'ganda kaam' let the alleged Muzaffarpur child rapists go scot-free?

Writer

Sonal Kellogg Sonal Kellogg @journolady

Independent journalist, writer, Child Sexual Abuse survivor & activist and a strong voice against sexual abuse.

Like DailyO Facebook page to know what's trending.