The lesser Publicised Crime

We have often heard of criminal offences such as murder, rape, human trafficking, drug trafficking, extortion and many more such activities but one offence which is rarely spoken of but is prevalent on a large scale is ‘Child sexual abuse’.

Under the law, “child sexual abuse” is an umbrella term describing criminal and civil offenses in which an adult engages in sexual activity with a minor or exploits a minor for the purpose of sexual gratification.

According to a 2009 study published in Clinical Psychology Review that examined 65 studies from 22 countries, the global existence of this crime is estimated to be 19.7% for females and 7.9% for males.
This study also depicted the results in greater detail wherein it showed the highest prevalence rate in Africa (34.4%) whereas the lowest in Europe (9.2%). America and Asia had prevalence rates between 10.1% and 23.9%.

When a child is being sexually abused he/she not only goes through physical torture but also faces long term effects such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and psychological trauma (especially in the case of parental incest). There are also chances of further victimization in later stages of life.

A major problem in such cases is that the child takes a long time to share these kinds of things with anyone and thus the offender is often difficult to get hold of. However, one must remember that according to a study most offenders are acquainted with their victims; approximately 30% are relatives of the child, most often brothers, fathers, uncles or cousins; around 60% are other acquaintances such as ‘friends’ of the family, babysitters, or neighbours. Only in approximately 10% of child sexual abuse cases, strangers are the offenders. Most offenders who sexually abuse prepubescent children are Paedophiles.

Since a child is often reluctant to describe such instances, one must keep in mind some common symptoms like trouble walking or sitting, displaying knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behaviour, sincere efforts to avoid a specific person without an obvious reason, hates to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities and more. Recognizing these symptoms can help saving the victim’s future life.

Every crime is protected by the law of the country and so is this; there are very few sections under the Indian Penal Code that deal with child sexual abuse. The laws for women are extended to include children but the major weakness of these laws is that only penile penetration is considered a grave sexual offence. Also the crime is considered lesser when it is oral, or through penetration with an object. Section 377, which deals in unnatural offences, prescribes seven to ten years of imprisonment, however, such cases can be tried in a magistrates court, which can impose maximum punishment of three years. In-case the abuse is repeated several times there is no law for repeated offenses against the one child.

It is time that we make a noise not just about these lesser known crimes and reduce their existence.

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About Shreya Arora

Media Trainee at Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, final year. Aspiring to be a Journalist.

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