Yesterday’s and Today’s headlines:
India has no national law on Child Sex Abuse (CSA) where the abuse does not include penetration, while in recent years there has been a spurt in reporting of such cases.
Some STATS to mull over:
• 53.22% of children in India reported being sexually abused; 50% of those abuses were by persons known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility;
• Over 70% of children in India surveyed for the report did not report sexual abuse, and in a study on Women's Experiences of Incest and Childhood Sexual many stated that they did not realize that they had been abused as children
• Over 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence involving physical contact around the world
• About 19% of the world’s children live in India and constitute over 42% of India’s population.
THE PROTECTION NET
• India’s National Policy for Children, 1974, declared children to be “a supreme national asset” and pledged to secure and safeguard their needs.
• The Integrated Child Protection Scheme of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, launched in 2009, after being provided for in the XIth Plan, also talks about ‘Child Protection’.
is one of the earliest signatories to The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. India
And still as of date India has no specific law covering CSA.
Then how does the system operate?
Sec 377 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) which covers “Unnatural sex” is widely used in prosecuting such cases. This section, adopted in 1860, is also used for Gay/lesbian relationships. Currently, Child Sex Abuse may also be prosecuted, in India, as Rape (sec. 375), Outraging the modesty of a woman (sec. 354), Unnatural offences (sec. 377) and Attempt (sec. 511)
Please note that none of these sections protect boy victims, and none protect from sexual acts besides traditional peno-vaginal penetration.
The CSA Bill, on roads to becoming an Act, chronological update
Goa Children’s Act, 2003
Given the scenario, child rights activists and NGOs have long been demanding a separate act to address CSA. The Goa Children’s Act 2003 was first off the ground. However, the Act has not been successfully in obtaining convictions in cases of CSA and is riddled with gaps.
Offences against Children’s Bill
A few years ago the Ministry for Women and Child Development(MWCD) developed a new draft bill, The Offences against Children’s Bill, to cover the lacunae in several other acts relating to children. It also included a section on CSA. The draft bill was submitted by MWCD to the Ministry of Law and Justice , which returned the bill asking for changes. After a hiatus of a couple of years MWCD submitted the bill to the National Commission for Child Rights (NCPCR) asking for a recommendation. NCPCR held a national consultation in January on the bill and shared the revised bill. We looked at the bill and found that the section on CSA is full of gaps.
CHILDLINE India Foundation has been fighting court battles with child sex offenders and one of our cases is in India’s Supreme Court. We approached the Maharshtra State Government, in 2008, on the inadequacies of the law on CSA and the then Dy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Shri RR Patil committed to introducing a new law to address the menace of CSA. To that end we organized a consultation of NGOs in Mumbai and worked with Michelle Mendonca of International Justice Mission in researching, and presenting, the gaps in existing Indian laws on CSA. When Valerie Gaimon , a talented American Lawyer joined hands as a volunteer with us we took the steps to developing a draft of what a new proposed law on CSA should be. This will now be presented to the State Government of Maharashtra as well as to NCPCR.
We are clear that India needs a new law to combat Sexual violence on India’s children. The new law needs to cover all substantive aspects as well as cover procedural aspects of CSA cases.