Forceful Sex by relatives – Do we Have Laws in India to Protect the Victims?

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A few days back I read that a father had impregnated his 15 year old daughter. His wife was aware of his acts. But she couldn’t do anything to protect her daughter. She was continuously threatened by her husband. When questioned by the police she confessed that she said she supported him because she was financially incapable. She was convinced that this was the best way to protect her daughter’s future and family’s reputation. On knowing the truth the society could have abandoned the daughter and the family (which would have affected the future of her other children as well).

The sexual intercourse between close relatives is referred to as incest. Certain cultures and tribes support incest. In Andra Pradesh, Menarikam marriage takes place where maternal uncle is married to his niece or marriage between cross cousins take place. Marriage between cross cousins is also allowed in Muslims, Zoroastrians and Jews. But in most cases incest is not consensual. In India crime of incest is considered a taboo and is seldom discussed.

Unfortunately it is not the offender but the victim who suffers the wrath of the society in such matters. When a child is raped or abused by her/his father, brother, uncle or any other close relative, her/he is also forced to continue the relation. The abuser usually threatens the child and convinces him/her that silence is the only resort he/she is left with. The child is continuously harassed and sexually abused by the perpetrator. It affects the child mentally, physically and psychologically. The mental agony may result in deterioration of health or diet. It is difficult for these victims to trust others in future.

A study by Tata Institute of Social Sciences points out that one out of three girls and one out of 10 boys had been sexually abused as a child. Fifty per cent of child sexual abuse occurs at home. 15 per cent were used for masturbation mostly by male relatives when they were less than 10 years old. Seventy- five per cent of the abusers were adult family members.

In India we do not have any specific legislation regarding “incest” whereas in many developed countries like U.S.A, Britain and Germany incest is treated as offense. The present Indian Law is insufficient to prevent child abuse. We have no specific law on child abuse. The Indian Penal Code recognizes rape and sodomy as an offence but it doesn’t treat child abuse specifically. Anything less than rape comes under the ambit of “outraging the modesty of a woman”, which is vague and open to interpretation. Moreover Section 354 (outraging the modesty of a woman) is a bailable offence and in many cases the accused may abscond easily. It only relates to women and therefore males cannot be protected under this section.

Although Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act deals with assault the punishment prescribed in it is only 6 months. Again Section 5 of the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956 prescribes punishment for seven years for inducement of child into prostitution but it does not address child abuse. The abuse of boys is usually overlooked. Only Section 377 talks about unnatural acts under which offences like sodomy may be charged.

Sexual abuse by relatives must not be spared. In most cases the family supports both the victim and the offender. If the perpetrator is acquitted, then the victim may be again subjected to the same violence. Regular workshops must be organized at schools to educate the children of their rights. Counselling must be provided to the victims. We generally deny the presence of incest in our society. This encourages the offender to commit such crimes. He is often convinced that the societal pressure would never let his victim reveal the truth. The weakness and inability of the society to react has always resulted in more of such crimes. We definitely need stringent laws in this regard. But we also need the help of students, teachers, parents, neighbours, police, judiciary, lawyers etc for implementing them.

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Can We Do Something About Child Abuse This Children’s Day?

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14 November, the birthday of Jawahar Lal Nehru is celebrated every year as children’s day nation wide. There are programmes and events organised in various schools of the country. This year even multinationals like GOOGLE organised a doodle competition of the young artists.

This certainly doesn’t seem enough. Organizing competitions at school or national level or declaring it a holiday would only give children some happy moments. It however ignores the happiness of those who are constantly deprived of it.

Poverty in the country has lead to many things, one of them being the exploitation of children by the foreigner. The nude pictures of poor children are often uploaded on the Internet for the pleasure of the pedophiles. Not only this there have been instances when people from abroad adopt homeless Indian kids and then sale them in the markets pedophiles.

The most disheartening thing is that we cannot blame people from outside alone. In face, they represent a very small number of culprits. Most of the children are exploited by their own father, close relative , neighbour or employer. They are often attacked by those who are there to protect them. Unfortunately, the kids are both vulnerable and terrified to disclose the reality.

Sex is a taboo in India and when it is forced, the victims often resort to silence because they know they would get no support from the traditional Indian society. In most cases they are subjected to such objectionable acts continuously. It eventually destroys their state of mind. They abhor many things that remind of their childhood past. Even after becoming adults they are haunted by their disgusting childhood nightmares.

If children are the future of the country then we have a responsibility to protect them.  And if we can’t protect, we even have no right to celebrate Children’s Day.

Distributing sweets in schools will give children pleasure but framing a law would protect them.

The only laws that remotely address to these problems are sections 376, 377 of Indian Penal Code and some sections  of the Information Technology Act, 2000.  But there is no specific law that can punish pedophiles or can compensate the victims of such events.

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