Picture Courtesy: https://daily.social/male-child-sexual-abuse-is-real-and-its-high-time-the-society-talks-about-it/
This article was written by Saksham Sharma, a student of Himachal Pradesh National Law University, Shimla.
In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything that is within his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence the victim absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.
– Judith Lewis Herman
Child abuse is physical or psychological maltreatment of a child, that can be differentiated into four major categories, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and worst of all the sexual abuse. Child Sexual Abuse is a kind of physical or mental violation of a child with sexual intent, usually by a person who is in a position of trust or power vis – a – vis the child. India is the second largest child population in the world, 42% of India’s total population is below eighteen years. In a shocking revelation, a Government commissioned survey has found that more than 53% of Indian children are subjected to sexual abuse / assault. Majority of these cases are committed by someone known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility, Not surprisingly, most children did not report such abuse to anyone. Today there is a dearth of laws aimed at safeguarding children and protecting them against sexual abuse & assault till 2012, and the law that exists today are not so effective, which is a serious lacuna against this background and is required to be attended urgently.
Only a very few crimes are as disturbing as the sexual misconduct, and most people find such case even more disturbing when it is a child that has been molested and abused. Therefore it is with considerable caution and discomfort that the author wrote this article. In this work the author would like to draw attention towards certain aspects of sexual misconduct that the authorbelieve till time have not received much attention which they actually deserve: case of adult-on-child sexual misconduct within a family and outside the family, which involves improper touching and fondling, also include solicitation of sex. Child sexual abuse is a serious and ubiquitous social malady in India as it is in many areas of the world today. It contribute to abnormal and arrested development, and a wide array of psychological and emotional disorders, that some children and adolescents have to experience for the lifetime. In India as in other countries, intra-familial sexual abuse often goes unreported. Homes are built for children’s safety but there also, they are subjected to indignity and abuse. When this occurs, children are not given the protective and restorative assistance they need, instead they are left to suffer and struggle on their own. This article discusses the nature and incidence of child abuse and neglect in India from an anthropological perspective, with an emphasis on the sexual abuse of children and youth.
Child abuse is the physical, sexual or emotional mistreatment or neglect of a child. It can occur at home or in an organisation, school, or community, or any institution, the child interacts with. Child sexual abuse, a universal problem, have grave and life-long outcomes on the sufferer. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines it as the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she is unable to comprehend and is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared, or else that violate the laws or social taboos of society. The term Child Sexual Abuse includes a range of activities like intercourse, attempted intercourse, oral-genital contact, fondling of genitals directly or through clothing, exhibitionism or exposing children to adult sexual activity or pornography, and the use of the child for prostitution or pornography. The Protection of Children from sexual Offences Act, 2012 was formulated in order to effectively address sexual abuse of children cases. The Act defines a child and the forms of sexual abuse a child suffers. The Act also provides mandatory reporting of sexual abuse of a child, this casts a legal duty upon the person who has the knowledge about the abuse and if he fails, he may be punished. Until 2012, the only sexual offences against children recognized by the law were covered by three sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) not specific to children. The only crimes registered were rape (sexual intercourse without consent-section 376), outraging modesty of a woman (unspecified acts—section 354) and unnatural acts defined as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” (anal sex, homosexuality or bestiality—section 377). As a result, other forms of non-penetrative sexual assaults, harassment and exploitation were not explicitly recognized as crimes and therefore not recorded (assuming they were reported). Increased activism around child protection issues in the media and public discourse might partly account for the Government of India passing a special law called, ‘The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) 2012’. This Act criminalizes sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography involving a child (under 18 years of age) and mandates the setting up of Special Courts to expedite trials of these offences.
This issue is complicated and challenging to study. The estimates vary widely depending on the various aspects. However, sexual violence is seen to occur in all ages, in all socioeconomic classes, and nearly in all countries with differences in the magnitude. Hence, this article intended to provide a sneak to child right abuse in India to enhance the awareness of primary care that the physicians, policy makers, counsellors, police personnel, teachers, and the community should keep in mind while dealing with such a case. Issue of Child sexual abuse is still a taboo in India. In India, majority of the people remain senseless to this issue and this silence is due to the fear of indignity, denial from the community, social stigma, not being able to trust government bodies, and gap in communication between parents and children about this issue. Majority of the healthcare professionals do not have the abilities and are not properly trained to examine and manage the related cases. The main concern in India today, is the dearth of good monitoring of various juvenile residential institutes and there is no punishment for institutes that do not follow the subsequent laws. Therefore this problem goes unchecked and many children suffers even in there own family, hencesuch cases are not even reported and are mostly settled within the inner sphere only. In many instances of child sexual abuse, do not include penetrant sex, victims usually clean themselves following attack, and hence the medical investigation does not provide any evidence of rape. Child sexual abuse victims and their families experiences the panorama of legal proceedings that can continue for several years. Adding to the problem, the execution of laws and initiatives in India is a challenge and there is lack of funding for programs for child safety in India of today.
The potential negative effects of this is on child who continues to suffer throughout the lifespan.Child sexual abuse interferes with the growth and development of the child and place child at the risk of a wide array of mental and emotional disorders. These disorders may include anxiety ,depression, anger, cognitive distortions, post traumatic stress, dissociation, identity disturbance, interpersonal problems, substance abuse, self-mutilation, bulimia, unsafe or dysfunctional sexual behaviour, somatisation, aggression, suicidality, and personality disorders. Some common consequences for adult survivors of such cases include mental health problems (e.g. , depression, anxiety, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress), relational challenges (e.g., sexual health, intimacy, and increased risk for sexual assault and domestic violence), and spiritual concerns (e.g., shattered assumptions about life, people, and self, and changing belief systems following the trauma). However, some adult survivors of are able to overcome the effects of their abuse and demonstrate resiliency and post-traumatic growth.
A child is said to be sexually abused when the child is forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities. This does not have to be physical contact only and it can happen online also. Sometimes the child won’t understand that what is happening to them is abuse. There are 2 different types of child sexual abuse. These are contact abuses and non-contact abuses. Contact abuse involves touching activities where an abuser makes physical contact with a child, including penetration. It includes sexual touching of any part of the body whether the child is wearing clothes or not, rape or penetration by putting an object or any body part inside child’s mouth, vagina or anus, forcing or encouraging a child to take part in sexual activity, making a child take their clothes off, touch someone else’s genitals or masturbate. Non-contact abuse involves non-touching activities, such as grooming, exploitation, persuading children to perform sexual acts over the internet and flashing. It also includes encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts, not taking proper measures to prevent a child being exposed to sexual activities by others meeting a child following sexual grooming with the intent of abusing them, online abuse-including making, viewing or distributing child abuse images allowing someone else to make, view or distribute child abuse images showing pornography to a child, sexually exploiting a child for money, power or status. When the sexual abuse happens online, young people may be persuaded or forced to send or post sexually explicit images of themselves take part in sexual activities via a webcam or smartphone have sexual conversations by text or online. Abusers then threaten to send images, video or copies of conversations to the victim’s friends and family unless they take part in other sexual activity. And images or videos continue to be shared long after the sexual abuse has stopped.
Child sexual abuse is one of several major types of non-volitional sexual behaviour. Children are typically manipulated and taken advantage of, apart from their own choice and volition – often by people they know and trust. Moreover what constitutes child sexual abuse from accepted cultural practices in the vast majority of cultures around the world is the issue of secrecy and shame, as well as the potentially damaging effects of such sexual practices on children and youth. In this regard, children in countries like India that are characterised by underlying currents of shaming and blaming the victim, as well as family secrecy and protection of the family’s good name, may be particularly vulnerable to various forms of intra-familial sexual abuse and exploitation.
In India, Child Sexual Abuse is snowed under many different suppositions and oppositions. Some assumptions that cannot be even believed are still prevalent in our society. Some believe that Boys or male child cannot be abused, only poor are abused, Women being the caregivers can never be offenders etc., but the reality contradicts these assumptions. Even after trying to make people constantly aware of these facts, the myths still prevails in our society. Adults of our society are interpellate with many unacceptable stereotypical messages and the ideas. Child sexual abuse in India thrives on this very mentality. Parents have no idea about how adversely this crime can affect children in their adulthood.
However, it is a challenging task to find out the actual number of sexually victimised children due to the fact that the prevalence reported varies across studies and data sources. WHO in the year 2002 estimated that 73 million boys and 150 million girls under the age of 18 years had experienced various forms of sexual violence. India is home to 19% of the world’s children population. As per the census of 2011, about 440 million individuals in India are below the age of 18 years and constitute 42% (more than one third) of the total population. A total of 33,098 cases of sexual abuse in children were reported in the nation during the year 2011 when compared to 26,694 reported in 2010 which increased by 24%. India has the world’s largest number of child sexual abuse cases and for every 155th minute a child, less than 16 years is raped, for every 13th hour child under 10, and one in every 10 children sexually abused at any point of time.In India still, over 7,200 children, including infants, are raped every year and the tragedy is that several of these cases go unreported. It is estimated by the government that 40% of India’s children are susceptible to threats like being homeless, trafficking, drug abuse, forced labor, and crime.Every second child is being exposed to sexual abuse in one form or the other and every fifth child of this faces critical forms of it.
A survey by United Nations International Children Education Fund (UNICEF) on demographic and health was conducted in India from 2005 to 2013 also reported that ten per cent of Indian girls might have experienced sexual violence when they were 10–14 years of age and 30% during 15-19 years of age. Overall, nearly 42% of Indian girls have gone through the trauma of sexual violence before their teenage. A study was conducted in 2007 by Ministry of women and child development in India covering 13 states. The study reports that about 21% of the participants were exposed to extreme forms of sexual abuse. Among the participants who reported being abused, 57.3% were boys and 42.7% were girls, about 40% were 5–12 years of age. About half of the participants were exposed to one or the other forms of sexual abuse.
There are numerous, large-scale obstacles to addressing child abuse and neglect in India. Poverty is one of the major factor which impedes families’ ability to provide adequate shelter, medical care, and nutrition for their children, which results in child abandonment. Poverty also influences access to education negatively which results in low literacy rates. Incidents of child sexual abuse are often under reported, which is in part due to the fact that most child maltreatment is committed by family members. Another factor related to low number of cases reported rate is due to cultural beliefs related to parental rights. The beliefs that children do not have rights and are their parents’ personal property are prevalent. If children discloses about their abuse, their reports are changed as the testimonies of adults often override those of children.
Another cultural norm that prevails in India and which prevents disclosure is the practice of family secrecy. Sharing private family matters is taboo, and the family’s business is expected to be dealt with privately by the family. To avoid shame, families must protect their reputation and standing within the community. Children’s identities are rooted in the family’s identity thus anything that would jeopardise their family’s name is kept hidden even from other family members. Secrecy about child sexual abuse protects perpetrators instead of children and allows the abuse to continue. Failure of parents or caretakers to believe and act to protect children is devastating for child victims. It increases their level of distress and prevents children from receiving the mental health treatment which they desperately need.
In the patriarchal system, children have very few rights, and although the Constitution of India includes children’s rights, it emphasises mainly the need based rights of children. Laws that prohibit child abuse need to be enforced properly and perpetrators are held responsible should be punished. With an increasing incidence of child abuse in India, we need both legislation and large scale interventions to address this rising problem. Such interventions must include information about child sexual abuse and other forms of abuse and neglect that can be propagated in schools and throughout communities.
The aforementioned studies have identified the prevalence of child sexual abuse in India as well as the immediate need for effective interventions for youth. With 18% to 50% of the children experiencing interfamilial or stranger-initiated sexual abuse, a large number of India’s children are at-risk for sexual trauma or already suffering from the negative ramifications of abuse.
Sexual abuse does not necessarily occur in isolation and may include other forms of child maltreatment. Although girls have higher prevalence rates and may be unprotected by their family members, boys are also victims of sexual abuse and may experience significant difficulty disclosing their experiences due to feelings of shame. It should also be noted that the correlation between sexual abuse and poverty, yet such abuses occurs in families of all socio-economic levels, and social isolation may be an even greater risk factor. It is important to consider the cultural context and unique challenges (poverty, crowding, poor living conditions, children residing in the street, and some lack of enforcement of child labor laws) related to child sexual abuse and the protection of children in India. Further research is needed to investigate the reported variations , prevalence rates across states and regions in India. Understanding risk factors such as poverty, living environment (city or rural), and family dynamics is an important part of strategically delivering education and reducing the occurrence of child victimisation.
Being victimised as a child has become a common excuse for perpetrating child molestation. The offender who claims he himself was victimised is seen as less of a “monster” than one who wasn’t a victim, and he gains much more empathy and support. It is hard to trust self-reports of sex offenders about abuse in their past when such reports are in their best interest, but it is generally seen that the victims of today becomes the criminal of tomorrow. The rates of sexual abuse tends to rise after commencement of menarche, though children in the younger age-group. In most of the cases, the perpetrator is already known to the child (relatives, neighbours, step parents, highly trusted people). Physical disabilities like deafness, blindness, and mental retardation have found to be associated with increased risk of being sexually abused. Children from the lower socio-economic status are generally at higher risk.The absence of one or both biological parents, marital conflicts, and/or parental substance abuse increases the vulnerability of the sexual abuse of the Child. Children under the influence of alcohol/drugs are even more susceptible. Customs such as child marriages, devadasi system, etc., makes children more prone. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) are also more prone to such sexual abuse.
It is really very difficult for a survivor of sexual abuse to come out in a society where blaming the victim is the Norm and this is because of this reason child sexual abuse is an issue which is usually not paid much attention to. This is an evident from the fact that there was no law in India against Child Sexual Abuse until 2012 and the law in itself remains quite ineffective in addressing this sensitive issue. Globally speaking, today India ranks second in terms of the highest rate of child sexual abuse but what is more worrying is the fact that most child sexual abuse are incestuous in nature which means that it is committed by a person who is a family member and has an easy access to the child.
This issue came to light when KalkiKoechlin, one of the first celebrities to break the silence on this issue talked about how she was sexually abused as a child and her biggest fear was that her mother would find out about it and it will be a cause of utter embarrassment and disgrace for her. This is where the problem is. Most of sexually violated children always fear from coming out in the open about it because we are the people who associate “embarrassment” and “humiliation” with such acts. These children try to hide their dreadful ‘secret’ and choose to suffer in silence but usually experience very strong feelings inside of fear, depression, guilt, shame, betrayal, anger, confusion, helplessness and despair. As a result of such sexual abuse, children also inherently feel dirty, damaged and different. They are often unable to verbalise these feelings. This is mainly because they do not know the appropriate language to tell their close ones about it. Therefore, it is necessary to understand that there should be mechanisms in order for the healing of the survivor since it is something that shapes their sexuality, behavior and emotions for life. Despite the presence of some laws in our country, the main reason that this issue goes unaddressed is because of the social taboo attached to it. In India, the laws against child sexual abuse are only very recent and although they contains provisions that prevent the tormenting of children during questioning and so on, the long-term effects and issues still remain to be evaluated. The Indian law does recognize that the victim of child sexual abuse can be a boy, but because of the toxic notions of ‘masculinity‘ prevalent in the society, it is quite difficult for them to tell their stories. Even when they manage to, most people dismiss them saying all sorts of things like, “you must have enjoyed it,” among many others. Survivors of abuse shows us the strength of their personal spirit every time they smile. We can recognise survivors of abuse by their courage. When silence is so very inviting, they step forward and share their truth so others know they are not alone.
In Indore, a 15 yrs old girl from Dewas called up Childline Indore and lodged a complaint against her cousin who abused her, the cousin was a minor too, and was molesting her. The victim was hesitant to inform her family about the incident. In Mhow, a school girl was molested by a family friend, incident took place 2 yrs ago, but was reported after the telecast of SatyamevJayate, a serial hosted by Aamir Khan. In a television show SatyamevJayate, Harish Iyer narrated his experience of child sexual abuse and how it took him so many years to come around what was happening with him and finally put an end to it.This patriarchy is oppressing male children and acts as a barrier to seek psychiatric help and the following cases reports illustrate the same. Case Studies are are follows :
Case Study One :
A 9-year-old boy was with the complaints of school refusal, academic decline, sleep disturbances, marked social anxiety, and withdrawal. According to the father, owner of a groceries shop, he was being bullied by older boys in the neighbourhood for money as he used to work in the shop. One day, victim’selder brother aged 14 years alleged that he was doing “dirty activities.” On questioning the brother, he informed that he had seen a mobile video where patient was performing fellatio on a guy who was above 18 years and known for petty crimes in that area. The video was shot by another boy of age 12 and the brother said that it was deleted by him. The incident had occurred 3 months ago. The video was used to blackmail the child and make him steal money from the shop to supply the abusers. The father of the boy had assaulted the offender as he was told that it was by force and to extort money. Family was willing to press charges as per the Prevention of Sexual Offences against Children Act 2012. Since the incident had occurred 3 months ago, no forensic evidence could be obtained and the mobile video recording was also deleted. The family was not interested in follow-up of psychiatric care.
“He is a boy, he neither lost a hymen nor will get pregnant. He should behave like a man, not a sissy” (father of the victim).This is one of the very few cases of male child sexual abuse that was reported. Resistance to avail treatment was because of a gender bias. The boy still had Axis 1 diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, disabling symptoms of insomnia, school refusal, and academic decline.
Case Study two :
A 4-year-old boy was with complaints of fever, excoriation in the anal region. Informant was the father. He told that his son was sexually abused in the school toilet by two older boys, one of them beat him, holding him down and the other sodomised him. The child was clinging to the parents and was able to reply to any question and was not even in the condition that he can response with yes/no questions about abuse and unable to report the events. The child even refused to play with an anatomically correct doll of the male gender and preferred to play with a polar bear that was sexless in appearance. Child’s family noticed that he refused school, had sleeplessness, would watch cartoons on TV till 3 am, and suffered constipation for the past 8 days since the occurrence of abuse. On examination it was found that there was no evidence of injury or sexual contact. Mother had applied ointment mixed with coconut oil from the day of assault, and child was treated for fever with antipyretics. Later after the proper care and when the child started feeling comfortable, the child showed interest in the lessons learnt at school, was able to reproduce rhymes, sums, and spellings. Due to lack of evidence, the abusers could not be brought to justice, the parents decided to relocate to their native place as the father lost his job due to litigation and stigma. Father was clinically so depressed that he decided to leave the city.
“If he was a 4-year-old girl, raped by two older boys, school would be afraid of a scandal, because he is a boy no one cares or accepts the crime in society” (father of the victim). Here, the system consisting of school was also indifferent because the victim was a male.
Clearly we can see that in the first case, the parents were keen on using the victim to sue the abuser and his family but were not sensitive to the psychological distress of the child who showed all the symptoms of his stress disorder. They were under the false presumption that being a male made the victim resilient. In the second case parents were disempowered due to lack of evidence. They felt a pathological sense of responsibility for not being able to bring the abusers to justice.Moreover, school authorities were not fearful of public opinion as the gender of the victim was male and did not arouse as much public sympathy as in a girl child. In the third case, the child was vulnerable because of exceptional abilities, death of mother, cultural disparity, and institutionalisation, suffer serious physical and sexual abuse, reporting is unusual because the father continued to be involved in the child care, and the case was reported to the police. In all the three cases, a social barrier to psychiatric treatment existed. The word patriarchy literally means the rule of father or the patriarch, and originally, it was used to describe specific type of male-dominant family.
Apart from females who often get abused in a heterosexual context, males tend to be abused by men leading to confusion in the sexual orientation of the victims, many of them doubts if they are homosexuals. Patriarchy further condemns homosexuals as less of men, delaying disclosure further. Homophobia leads to over sexualised behavior in the male survivors and boys tend to blame themselves more than girls for not being able to stop the abuse. Often, boys are also subjected to physical abuse along with sexual abuse, are abused forcefully, and often have been abused by a gang. abuse is more common as there is no forensic evidence as salivary specimen of semen is not available by the time reporting is done. Non contact abuse is rare among boys this makes the abuse to be more severe in boys. Our society is more dismissive of male child sexual abuse than that of girls as patriarchy has chivalry as a value attached to protecting girls and not boys. A society that restricts the expression of female sexuality by males but allows males to explore their sexuality through pornography or commercial sexual contacts and sells adult toys to aid male sexuality and capsules to enhance male virility places enormous pressure on males to perform sexually and does not protect them, equating sexual potency with male identity.
Reformative strategies for a better future for children
There is need to give a precise and clear definition of ‘child abuse’,and have to make our present laws stricter, and then punishment and deterrence of the abuser, and then only we can secure the future safety of the children worldwide. In India, we believe in doing our duty – kartavyakapalan, If we do our duties sincerely, the rights will automatically come for all. If this policy will followed and duties are performed sincerely our children will be safe. There is a saying that ,“In this world, there is only one pretty child and every mother has it.” Thus, a mother must report a human right violation, assault or any other crime happening to her child to the authorities immediately without going for the say that the victim is her son or daughter.
There is a socio-legal and moral perspective and approach also to stop child abuse. Children must be taught to respect humanity in their tender age only. Imparting education about sex at right time through scientific education will save a lot of children from becoming victims of sex related crimes. It is said that the people today don’t talk much with each other, and there is a fall in human and moral values. We must strengthen the bonds of love in the family. Princess Diana from Princess of Wales said: “Hugs can do a great amount of good, especially for children.”
Conclusion – the way ahead?
As it well said that “Just give a little of your love to a child and you get a great deal back.” Children make this world a happy place, but somehow all across the globe the children are abused. Children are the greatest gift to humanity and their sexual abuse is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable. The future of our society rests on our children, as only they bring new energy, new vision, new ideas, and rejuvenate the environment. The society which ignores, neglects and fails to look after the interests of the child, will suffer. The destiny of a nation will be determined by what kind of education is imparted to the young ones. Education should be wholesome, meaning it must include – moral, ethical, cultural, religious, technical, and research; then and then only our progress will be meaningful. They need protection, love and care, and the society must invest in the welfare of the children for future security.
So to make this world safer for our children, we need to protect our sons and daughters equally. Patriarchy is not protecting our boys more than our girls in childhood. The low rates of reports of this issue and help seeking among victims of sexually abused boys in India could be due to the dominance of patriarchy. Reliable estimates of such issues are hard to come up since this is a secretive form of abuse, often causing victims to suffer in dark and claustrophobic silence. This social construct is usually being applied to understand the subordination of girls and women, the fact that it is oppressing all children who are perfect victims irrespective of their gender is being ignored in male children who are expected to be superior due to their biology and also because of this myth of superiority, there are unethical expectations for them to overcome the harmful effects of sexual abuse of childhood without treatment.Merely enacting laws will not be enough unless they are followed by strict enforcement of law.It is our prime duty that Child Sexual Abuse should be combated as early as possible. This will really help India shine bright and develop in afree way, as the children are the leaders of tomorrow.
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Manifestation of psychological distress by the presentation of bodily symptoms.
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