This article has been written by Heena Jalan, a student of School of Law, KIIT University.
Child Abuse is a multidimensional term colloquially used to describe an act of physical, mental, neglect and sexual exploitation inflicted primarily on a child further characterized by injuries such as bruises, fractures that result from hitting, punching, kicking beating, etc. interfering with a child’s mental health or social development, rape, molestation, neglect treatment, over discipline, sexual exploitation, sodomy, extreme forms of punishment, verbal insult, rejection, belittling, terrorizing, etcetera. A child is a boy/girl below the age of 18. These are the four kinds of abuse that have been recognized worldwide. The violence can be induced on the child in homes, schools, residential care institutions, prisons, workplaces, care centers, factories, on streets. Such abuse is not recognized in one episode but is an outcome of a series of episodes. In India, child abuse is one of the most understudied occurrences but yet it is most prevalent due to the established society and family norms. Other factors that facilitate child abuse in India are poverty, overcrowding, unemployment, lack of education, lack of awareness, lack of appropriate legislation, plenty of street children, extended family living arrangements, lack of recreational facilities etcetera. Therefore, numerous ecological, situational, psychological factors, and a wide array of conditions circle ultimately leading to an upsurge in child abuse cases in India.
India has recognized the importance of criminalizing activities of sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, rape, sodomy, molestation against children below the age of 18. Originally, child sexual abuse was not publicly acknowledged as a crime in India, Later, in 2012 the parliament enacted new legislation called the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act). The act was enacted to address the criminal offenses perpetrated against children of both genders by perpetrators and to also sanction stringent punishments. Though this act has been enacted there are major impediments in the implementation of the same. The act requires dedicated and harmonized determinations for the appropriate implementation since it is a very sensitive piece of legislation. With this enactment, the report of such cases has seen an upsurge in numbers and the same is due to awareness.
But another essential question that arises under the same phenomena is the mental health of the child. It raises countless questions in the minds of an individual. As to what happens to the mental health of the child-victim? Is punishing the perpetrator the only remedial justice that the government can provide? The central government shall ensure involvement in nurturing the minds of the children who are the victims of such heinous crimes. The government shall promulgate appropriate laws concerning the mental health and mental status of the child. The government can set up proper medical and care facilities employing medical doctors for the same cause and set up recreational and vocational facilities/hospitals to ensure that the child has restored its sanity back. Here, punishing the perpetrator is not the only curative justice that the government can provide. The government has to take initiatives for the overall development of the victim-child and ensure that the child has access to a better world. The government requires an enthusiastic and committed set of individuals to implement mental health provisions for such children since it is also the right of such children to have access to a better lifestyle, education, and shelter. It is high time for the government to acknowledge that mental health is also an actual problem among these children which has to be considered.