Child Sex Abuse: Change in Laws

Posted on July 10, 2010 in Society

By Tania Goklany:

India will soon have its first law to deal exclusively with child sexual abuse cases. The provisional draft of the bill, titled ‘Sexual Offences Against Children Bill, 2010′, seeks to substitute the word ‘rape’ with technical terms and cover several forms of abuse of both boys and girls, which now remain grey areas in the absence of a specific legislation. The proposed legislation calls for setting up of special courts, special public prosecutors and child-friendly proceedings.

Calling for special courts and special prosecutors in every district to try such cases, the draft proposes that evidence from the child be recorded within a month of the court taking cognizance and the trial be completed within a year.

At present, cases of sexual offences against children are being tried under the Indian Penal Code, which does not always take into consideration the age of the victim. With such offences attracting only such sections that deal with rape, unnatural offences and outraging the modesty of a woman, many sexual offences against children, especially those against boys, were not getting a focused trial, it was felt.

The law needs to realize that children aren’t adults, and it’s not like only girls are abused, many boys have fallen prey to this offence as well. Boys are lost in the national discourse of molestation. For one, the molestation law does not cover boys. Cutting across all classes, 25 per cent boys are sexually abused at any point in time. That means one in four under-16 boys. The count is 40 per cent for girls, but don’t ignore the boys. We need a separate set of child laws. The nation is in complete denial about child abuse. Statistics of missing children are staggering. Where do they go? Instead of looking at real reform, government is seized by this molestation law, playing adult games.

The International police have started to get worried that India is becoming a paedophile hub. It is easy to pull Indian children into any porn racket because we don’t have any laws relating to child abuse. Even if the pedophilia racket hasn’t reached the upper and middle classes yet, it definitely is running down street kids’ life.

Merely increasing punishment on paper or increasing number of women in the force, as the minister has suggested, is no solution. New laws that recognise various issues around child abuse are need of the hour.

But laws apart, to encourage reporting of abuse, we need a child protection court. That only means the child doesn’t go to a ‘kacheri’. He goes to any normal room where there are toys; the judge sits casually, not behind a bench. The atmosphere is relaxed, and the child’s testimony is taken down only once on video. The perpetrator is not present in the room. All this doesn’t take any extra money. It takes political will and parental demand.

How can laws help if mindsets don’t change?
Child sexual abuse is never going to cease, until the adult in a position of power realizes that responsibility is not about abuse. We need adult awareness of boundaries especially when it comes to the child. Who puts these boundaries: families. Families protect their children. But the ignorance is such that you teach children to cross the road but you’re not teaching them to protect themselves from anything else.