Violence Against Children

This article will describe in detail the persisting problem of violence against children. These UPSC Notes on violence against children and related laws in India are aligned with the UPSC Syllabus and aspirants should prepare this topic for General Studies Paper I and II. 

Violence against children in any form is a blot on society. The issue of child rights and child abuse are frequently seen in the news; hence the topic is important for the IAS Mains. This article covers the context and incidents behind the violence against children, child abuse in India, salient features of the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2018, demerits of capital punishment, and the way forward.

Aspirants would find this article helpful for the IAS Exam.

Violence Against Children

Context

  1. The Parliament recently passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2018, which awards the death penalty to convicts of child rapes in India. 
  2. The Bill provides for the death penalty as the maximum punishment in cases of rape of a child under 12.

Aspirants can also read about Sexual harassment at the workplace on the given link.

What are the Issues with Child Abuse in India?

  1. According to a report by child rights NGO CRY, sexual offence is committed against a child in India every 15 minutes and there has been an increase of more than 500 per cent over the past 10 years in crime against minors. The rising cases is a disturbing scenario. 
  2. As per NCRB statistics on rape of women and children, 94% of the rapists are known to the victim, and almost half are a close relative, and neighbours.
  3. The conviction rate of these crimes is very low, only close to 3% of the total number of cases, according to the 2016 NCRB Report. One of the chief causes of low conviction rate is the lack of manpower and infrastructure in the criminal justice system.
  4. Previous Acts’ failure: Despite the POCSO Act being enacted in 2012, there has been no reduction in the number of crimes committed against children. The new law enacted did not act as a deterrent.
  5. Justice Delay: Court cases typically last for years or even stretch to decades in many cases. One reason for this is the shortage of judges. Over six million cases are pending for more than ten years. Because of the pendency of cases and the lack of required facilities, investigations are hardly completed on time, and recording of evidence, etc. do not happen on time.
  6. Attitude of the politicians – Senior political leader and Supremo of the Samajwadi Party commented on record in 2014 that rapes should not be punished with death since “boys are boys and they make mistakes”.
  7. A 2017 report titled “Everyone Blames Me” cited that survivors, especially from marginalised communities, find it hard to register police complaints.
  8. The survivors are often humiliated by the police personnel and at the hospital where they are subjected to degrading medical tests in the name of medical examination. They feel scared and intimidated when the case does reach the court. There are major obstacles to obtaining vital support services such as counselling, health care and legal aid.

Also read about Child Labour in India on the provided link.

Some Incidents

  1. The brutal gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl Asifa Bano, who belonged to a Muslim nomadic tribe on 17 January near Kathua, a town in Kashmir shook the collective conscience of the nation and sparked outrage and anger across India. 
  2. In the Nagaon district of Assam, an 11-year-old girl was raped and then burnt alive, and then an entire village came together to help the police catch the accused.
  3. It gets more disgusting. A four-month-old baby was raped and murdered in the historic Rajwada area of Indore. Hardened policemen were nearly moved to tears as they conducted a preliminary examination of the ravaged body.
  4. Seventeen men have been charged in India with the gang-rape of an 11-year-old deaf girl in the city of Chennai in July 2018.

Constitutional Provisions:

The constitutional provisions that deal with the rights of children are:

  • Article 21: provides for the right to life and personal liberty
  • Article 21 (a): State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years
  • Article 24:  No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.
  • Article 39(f): children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment

Legal Protection:

  1. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2018: It is the fundamental law in India in dealing with children in need of care and protection. It caters to their needs through care, protection, development, treatment, social reintegration, through its child-friendly approach by addressing matters in the best interest of children. Further details on Juvaline Justice ACT 2018 is available on the linked page.
  2. Crimes punishable under IPC:
    • Foeticides (Crime against a foetus) Section 315 & 316 IPC.
    • Infanticides (Crime against new-born child) (0 to 1 year) Section 315 IPC.
    • Abetment to Suicide (abetment by other persons for the commitment of suicide by children) Section 305 IPC.
    • Exposure & Abandonment (Crime against children by parents or others to expose or to leave them with the intention of abandonment): Section 317 IPC.
    • Procuration of minor girls (for inducement to force or seduce to illicit intercourse): Section 366-A IPC.
    • Selling of girls for prostitution (Section 372 IPC).
    • Buying of girls for prostitution (Section 373 IPC).
    • Rape (Sec. 376 IPC)
    • Kidnapping and Abduction (Sections 360, 361, 363, 366, 367, 369 of IPC). Further details on the Indian Penal Code – IPC is available on the linked page.
  3. Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act), 2012  – The Act was established to protect children against offences like sexual abuse, sexual harassment and pornography. It was formed to provide a child-friendly system for trial and punishment perpetrators. Read in detail about the POSCO Act on the given link.

Salient Features of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2018

  1. The Bill seeks to replace the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance promulgated on April 21, 2018, following an outcry over the rape and murder of a minor girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and the rape of another woman at Unnao in Uttar Pradesh.
  2. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2018 will amend relevant Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and also the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012. 
  3. The Bill provides for a time-bound investigation in cases of rape of girl children. The investigation into the rape of a child must be completed within two months. 
  4. The cases are to be tried in a fast track court. The Bill states that any appeal against a sentence by the trial court must be disposed of within six months. 
  5. Under the new law, if the victim is under 12 years of age, the culprit faces a minimum sentence of 20 years. The maximum punishment is death. In the cases of gang rape of a child under 12, the minimum punishment is a life sentence while the maximum is the death penalty. 
  6. In cases of children aged between 12 and 16, the offence of rape is punishable with a minimum sentence of 20 years. The maximum punishment in such cases is life imprisonment. If a girl aged between 12 and 16 is gang-raped, the convicts face a minimum punishment of life sentence.
  7. If the victim is aged between 16 and 18, the offence of rape is punishable with a minimum punishment of 10-year jail term and the maximum is life imprisonment. Repeat offenders will be punished with life imprisonment or death. 
  8. However, the punishment for rape of boys has remained unchanged. This has resulted in a greater difference in the quantum of punishment for rape of minor boys and girls.

Aspirants can read in detail on the following topics that will help them prepare comprehensively for the upcoming UPSC Examination-

Demerits of the Capital Punishment/ Arguments against the Provisions

Capital punishment is a debatable subject and criminologists, sociologists and the legal fraternity are always divided on this issue.

  1. Justice P Bhagwati while delivering a dissenting opinion in the case of Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab (1982) case held capital punishment to be unconstitutional. 
  2. The Law Commission of India in its report on the death penalty said that after many years of research and debate a view has emerged that there is no evidence to suggest that the death penalty has a deterrent effect over and above its alternative – life imprisonment. 
  3. The Justice JS Verma committee, which was formed after the December 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder case, in its report concluded that the death penalty would be a regressive step in the field of sentencing and reformation. 
  4. Human Rights Watch opposes the use of the death penalty in all cases. Capital punishment for rape is the easiest and most convenient demand to raise, yet the most harmful one for rape survivors. It is all about retribution, disregards the reformative aspect of the criminal justice system, and, most importantly, is said to have a little deterrent effect. 
  5. Some rapists kill the victims, and some rapists don’t. Now, if the maximum punishment, in either case, is the same, the rapist would reason that by killing the victim he/she may never be exposed. There are numerous instances of the perpetrators killing their victims, so stringent anti-rape laws are perceived not to be deterrents but measures that further instigate rapists to kill the victims. 
  6. Rape is already underreported in India largely because of social stigma, victim-blaming, the poor response by the criminal justice system, and lack of any national victim and witness protection law making them highly vulnerable to pressure from the accused as well as the police. Children are even more vulnerable due to pressure from family and society. Increase in punishment, including the death penalty, may lead to a decrease in reporting of such crimes.

Candidates might be interested to read in detail about the Nirbhaya Fund on the linked page.

Way Forward

  1. The Indian government has, of late, adopted major legal reforms for sexual violence cases but there are major lacunae in their execution.
  2. What acts as a deterrent for an offender from committing a crime is the certainty and uniformity of punishment rather than the nature of the punishment.
  3. Deterrence of the crime and the victim’s access to justice needs both better implementation of existing laws and systemic changes. 
  4. India’s increasing rape culture can be best stunted by increasing conviction rates by reforms in the judicial and police systems, and by bettering measures to rehabilitate and empower survivors of sexual crimes. 
  5. The criminal justice system remains vulnerable to political pressures and allows many of the accused to go scot-free. 
  6. The re-training of police officers dealing with various aspects of sexual crimes. 
  7. Strict action should be taken against any police officer found guilty of obstructing the probe or colluding with perpetrators of such cases. 
  8. The court infrastructure needs to be strengthened, and the police must be sensitized to handle and support victims of the crime. This will ensure better investigations which in turn will translate into a better conviction rate of the offenders. 
  9. Greater allocation of state resources towards the setting up of fast-track courts; more one-stop crisis centres; proper witness protection; more expansive compensation for rape survivors, and an overhaul of existing child protection services is the need of the hour.

Violence Against Children (UPSC Notes – GS 2) Download PDF Here

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