According to UNICEF violence against children can be "physical and mental abuse and injury, neglect or negligent treatment, exploitation and sexual abuse. Violence may take place in homes, schools, orphanages, residential care facilities, on the streets, in the workplace, in prisons and in places of detention." Such violence can affect the normal development of a child impairing their mental, physical and social being. In extreme cases abuse of a child can result in death.
Child abuse has many forms: physical, emotional, sexual, neglect, and exploitation. Any of these that are potentially or actually harmful to a child's health, survival, dignity and development are abuse. This definition is derived from the W.H.O.
- Physical abuse is when a child has been physically harmed due to some interaction or lack of interaction by another person, which could have been prevented by any person in a position of responsibility, trust or power.
- Emotional abuse can be seen as a failure to provide a supportive environment and primary attachment figure for a child so that they may develop a full and healthy range of emotional abilities. Emotional abuse is also the act of causing harm to a child's development, when they could have been within reasonable control of a person responsible for the child. Examples of these acts are restricting movement, threatening, scaring, discriminating, ridiculing, belittling, etc. In India a rising concern is the pressure children feel to perform well in school and college examinations, which can be seen as a form of emotional stress and abuse.
- Sexual abuse is engaging a child in any sexual activity that he/she does not understand or cannot give informed consent for or is not physically, mentally or emotionally prepared for. Abuse can be conducted by an adult or another child who is developmentally superior to the victim. This includes using a child for pornography, sexual materials, prostitution and unlawful sexual practises. Read more on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA)
- Neglect or negligent treatment is purposeful omission of some or all developmental needs of the child by a caregiver with the intention of harming the child. This includes the failure of protecting the child from a harmful situation or environment when feasible.
- Exploitation can be commercial or otherwise, where by the child is used for some form of labour, or other activity that is beneficial for others. Example: child labour or child prostitution.
In 2007, the Ministry
of Women and Child Development (MWCD) released a study report on child
abuse. The report discusses incidence of child abuse nationwide. It is estimated
that 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 have been subjected to
forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence. In 2002 there
were 53,000 reported cases of child homicide. A Global School-Based Student
Health Survey found that 20% and 65% of school going children reported having
been verbally and physically bullied in the last 30 days. ILO estimates
show there were 218 million child labourers in 2004, out of which 126 million
were engaged in hazardous work. UNICEF estimated 3 million girls and women
in sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt and Sudan are subjected to female genital mutilation
W.H.O. estimates that 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence. In 2002 there were 53,000 reported cases of child homicide. A Global School-Based Student Health Survey found that 20% and 65% of school going children reported having been verbally and physically bullied in the last 30 days. ILO estimates show there were 218 million child labourers in 2004, out of which 126 million were engaged in hazardous work. UNICEF estimated 3 million girls and women in sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt and Sudan are subjected to female genital mutilation every year.
In 2007, the Ministry
of Women and Child Development (MWCD) released a study report on child abuse. The report discusses incidence of child abuse nationwide. The study of the MWCD found a wide spread incidence of child abuse. Children between the ages of 5-12 are at the highest risk for abuse and exploitation. The study found that 69% of children reported to have been physically abused. Out of these 54.68% were boys. 52.91% of boys and 47.09 % of girls reported having been abused in their family environment. Of the children who were abused in family situations 88.6% were abused by their parents. Every two out of three school children reported facing corporal punishment. In juvenile justice institutions 70.21 % of children in conflict with law and 52.86% of children in need of care and protection reported having been physically abused. With regard to child labour 50.2% of children work all seven days of the week. 81.16% of the girl child labourers work in domestic households, while 84% of the boy child labourers worked in tea stalls or kiosks. 65.99 % of boys and 67.92% of girls living on the street reported being physically abused by their family members and other people.
Lastly the study examined emotional abuse and girl child neglect. The study examined two forms of emotional abuse: humiliation and comparison. Half the children reported facing emotional abuse with 83% of that abuse begin conducted by parents. Girl child neglect was assessed girls comparing themselves to their brothers on factors like attention, food, recreation time, household work, taking care of siblings, etc. 70.57% of girls reported having been neglected by family members. 48.4% of girls wished they were boys. 27.33% of girls reported getting less food then their brothers. Of the young adults (ages 18-24) interviewed, almost half of them reported having been physically or sexually abused as children.
Child abuse in India is often a hidden phenomenon especially when it happens in the home or by family members. Focus with regards to abuse has generally been in the more public domain such as child labour, prostitution, marriage, etc. Intra-family abuse or abuse that takes place in institutions such as schools or government homes has received minimal attention. This may be due to the structure of family in India and the role children have in this structure. Children in India are often highly dependent on their parents and elders; they continue to have submissive and obedient roles towards their parents even after they have moved out of their parental home. This belief that parents and family are the sole caretaker of the child has proved to have negative effects on child protection laws and strategies. Numbers of cases of child abuse in the home are hard to attain because most of these crimes go unreported. Societal abuses that are a result of poverty such as malnutrition, lack of education, poor health, neglect, etc are recognised in various forms by the Indian legal system. But India does not have a law that protects children against abuse in the home. Mal-treatment of care givers has the potential to emotionally and mentally harm children to a very different degree. Studies in intra-familial child abuse in the US have shown correlation to delinquency, crime, teenage pregnancy, and other psychosocial problems.
India has launched an Integrated Child Protection Scheme which aims at shielding children from violence aengand abuse.
Read more on Child Sexual Abuse »
MWCD Report on Child Abuse