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BHUWAN RIBHU , LAWYER AND ACTIVIST

Child sex abuse from A legal standpoint

 

The problem can be addressed by enforcing law, reframing policy and raising awareness
May 9, 2010 17:41
Tags : Child sex abuse | Immoral Traffic Prevention Act | Policy Analysis and Gaps |Law enforcement |
 

 Child sex abuse from A legal standpointArising number of instances of sexual abuse of minors raises pertinent issues regarding child rights in the country at several levels:

1. Law enforcement: The trafficker/ exploiters of young children are liable for prosecution and punishment under several provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including and not limited to 

(a) The enticement of boys under 16 years of age, subjecting them to unnatural lust of another person are subject to penal action under Section 363 and Sec. 367 of the IPC.
(b) Whoever sells, lets to hire, or otherwise disposes of any person under the age of eighteen years with intent that such person shall at any age be employed or used for the purpose of prostitution or illicit intercourse with any person is punishable under Section 372 of IPC.
(c) Similarly, whoever buys, hires or otherwise obtains possession of any person under the age of eighteen years with intent that such person shall at any age be employed or used for the purpose of prostitution or illicit intercourse with any person is punishable under Section 373 of IPC.
(d) Unnatural carnal intercourse with any person against the order of nature is covered under Section 377 of the IPC.
(e) Such incidents are often conspired to be done by two or more persons and also involve threat, etc., and are thus liable for punishment under Section 120 B, as well as Sec. 506 of IPC. 
2. Policy Analysis and Gaps:

Despite the fact that the Constitution expressly prohibits traffic in human beings, and India is a signatory to the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, and has also signed and ratified the UN Convention on Rights of the Child, there is neither a clear definition of trafficking in India nor a comprehensive law enforcement mechanism to deal with the crime. 

It is possible to prosecute the exploiters of children, for both commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour, through the IPC, but it requires thorough probe and knowledge for effective interpretation and implementation of the law.

India has also been on Tier 2 Watchlist of the Trafficking in Persons Report for several years but a comprehensive mechanism to deal with trafficking and related child rights abuses is missing. There is a dearth of a proper database and analysis of crimes against children, the government and law enforcement responses thereof creating the legal deterrent against these crimes. Bachpan Bachao Andolan is in the process of creating a National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children as a knowledge management and advocacy institution to solve some of these issues. It is imperative that the government wakes up to these crimes that are ever increasing in the absence of effective law enforcement. The government should immediately – 

(a) Bring forward an amendment in the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act that-

(i) lays down a clear definition of trafficking;
(ii) define processes and standard operating procedures for investigation of these crimes;
(iii) have procedure for confiscation and/or attachment of property to be able to hit the crime proceeds;
(iv) incorporate stringent guidelines to be followed where the victim of the crime is a child (minor);
(v) provide for rehabilitation of victims of abuse.

(b) Accept the amendments proposed in through Criminal Law Amendment Bill that replace the definition of Rape with Sexual assault in IPC.
(c) Create a National and Central agency (or a separate department within a Central agency) for investigation of crimes against children, especially trafficking.
(d) Create fast track Courts for dealing with any crimes against children so that children are subject to minimum harassment during and after the trial and also to create the immediate fear of legal response. Judicial and legal response must be swift and hard hitting.
(e) Appoint and train specialised Juvenile Police officers in every Police Station as per the Juvenile Justice (care and protection) Act, 2006.
(f) Create a policy at the National Level (to be followed throughout the country) for counselling, care and rehabilitation of victims of sexual abuse. 

3. Societal awareness, norms and values 

While on one hand, this incident exposes the bitter truth that such despicable crime is very much a part of our society, on the other, it also exposes the vulnerabilities of the growing Indian masses where we are still not open to a discussion on sexual abuse, especially of young boys, in our homes. 

We can not turn a blind eye now and think that our children are safe as many of the children found in this investigation belong to very normal middle class families. It proves that children ought to be taught about abuse and exploitation so that they can come forward for help.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017