We read about child rape and child sexual exploitation in the papers daily. India leads the world as a country with maximum cases of child sexual exploitation. Statistics show that in India, every 155 minutes, a child under 16 years of age is raped. Parents of sexually abused children are scared to tell anyone due to fear of being shamed in society. It is not true that only strangers commit this crime. It can also be committed by members of the family, relatives and even neighbours. According to a survey, 90% of people sexually exploiting children are known to the children or are people whom the children trust. There have been many instances where the father himself, cousin brothers, uncle or neighbours have sexually exploited children. This shows that children need protection even while at home. They are afraid to mention this to anyone when it happens, probably out of fear of not knowing what has occurred. Sexual exploitation is not rape alone. There can be many forms of sexual exploitation like clicking indecent photographs of children, making children watch pornographic content, physically teasing them, etc.
The trauma of sexual exploitation in children sometimes impacts the children through life; they become guilty, fearful, lonely and worried.
The Indian Penal Code defines sexual exploitation of children as: forced or unwanted sexual behaviour towards children. The following are included in this: outraging the modesty of a child, rape, sodomy etc.
Panchayat members can play an important role in prevention of sexual exploitation in children. They need to make the community members understand that both girls and boys are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and it is important to support the victims of this offence. The panchayat members can generate awareness about this at the village level. The members can, with the support of local educators, Aanganwadi workers and ANMs, encourage victims of child sexual exploitation to come out with their issues. They should ensure that confidentiality of the victims is maintained all along. If any child in the village is a victim of sexual exploitation, the panchayat members need to contact the nearest police station, file an FIR and seek legal support.