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Violence against Children in India

Crimes against children

National Crime Reports Bureau (NCRB) released statistics from 2018 report both a rise in sexual crimes against children and a rise in cases reported under the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. 

In 2017, the maximum number of cases involved kidnapping and abduction (42.0%), followed by the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (25.3%). This trend continued in 2018; with kidnapping and abduction (44.2%), and cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, (28%). Reports of POCSO cases have increased steadily since 2014 (except for a slight dip in 2017) – reaching 39,827 cases in 2018. Of the total reported child victims under POCSO, 85.8% were girls in the age group of 12-18 years, up slightly from 83 per cent in 2017.

It is likely that there is significant under-reporting given the social stigma against boys and their families speaking up on child sexual abuse. In 94.6 per cent of cases of child sexual abuse, the perpetrators were known to child victims in one way or the other; in 53.7 per cent of cases they were close family members or
relatives/friends. The conviction rate for POCSO cases have increased, but the number of cases pending is still very high.

Sexual violence is a problem for a significant number of girls and boys, and that more research and data collection could help clarify the extent of the incidence.

Though prevalence data on violence against boys and girls remains a challenge in India, there is significant evidence of intimate partner violence commonly experienced by women. One in three (34 per cent) women (aged 15-49) married or in union have experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence by their husband or partners. Among ever-married women (age 15-49) who have experienced sexual violence, 92 per cent report their husbands as perpetrators. Also 52 per cent of women and 42 per cent of men believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife in at least one of seven specified circumstances. This data helps to illustrate the how gender-based violence can constrain the movements of women and girls.

Violence online

A relatively new threat to the safety of children has emerged with the rapid expansion of internet communication technologies (ICTs) where 60 per cent of online users in India are children and young people. 

In a 2019 UNICEF U-Report poll, one in three children in India reported that they experienced cyberbullying. Of these, more than half the respondents were not aware of services to report online violence as per this global poll report.

According to a recent report by U.S. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) at least 25,000 images of child sexual abuse were uploaded
every day from India. This amounts to 12 per cent of the child sexual abuse images circulation globally being generated in India.

There is a higher vulnerability of girls to online violence. In a survey conducted in 2016, 58 percent of respondents, largely women, reported having faced online aggression via trolling, bullying, abuse or harassment. In addition, girls are at risk of being prevented more often from using devices, among others to tackle the risk of them engaging with strangers. 

Corporal punishment and physical violence in the home and schools

There is no recent national prevalence data available on corporal punishment, but studies have found it to be commonplace in India in the home and in schools, despite that fact that it is has been banned in schools for children aged 6 -14 years since 2009. A study by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in 2012 found that 99 per cent of school children are subjected to physical and mental abuse by teachers.

The Young Lives longitudinal study following two cohorts of children in India, found that 93 per cent of 8-yearolds and 68 per cent of 15-year-olds said they had seen other children being physically punished. Among 8-year-olds, corporal punishment was more common for boys (83 per cent) than girls (73 per cent), in rural areas (79 per cent) than urban areas (75 per cent), and in public schools (80 per cent) than private schools (77 per cent). Almost 16 per cent of 8-year-olds cited “teachers beating” as the most important reason for disliking school.

In 2018, a formative parenting study was carried out by UNICEF and partners which identified 33 different forms of violence and abuse against children reported by parents of children aged 0-6 years. Additionally, the parents did not find the use of physical violence/corporal punishment problematic at all.36 In 2012, a study of men’s childhood experiences of violence in a number of countries, including India, found a high prevalence of corporal punishment. Of the 1,547 men who participated, 45 per cent reported having been spanked or slapped by a parent in the home during childhood. Additionally, 64 per cent reported having been beaten or physically punished at school by a teacher. The same study found that men who had experienced violence, including corporal punishment, during childhood, were more likely to perpetrate intimate partner violence, hold inequitable gender attitudes, be involved in fights outside the home or robberies, pay for sex and experience low self-esteem and depression, and were less likely to communicate openly with their partners or attend prenatal visits when their partner is pregnant and/or take paternity leave.

Bullying (including online bullying)

Although there is no national prevalence data available on bullying for India, a study in 2019 by The Teacher Foundation, in association with Wipro Applying Thought In Schools (WATIS) in 15 cities found that 42 per cent of students of Class 4 to 8 and 36 per cent of Class 9 to 12 said they are subjected to bullying
and harassment in school campuses. The consequences of violence and bullying at school including cyberbullying are far-reaching. This includes children and youth finding being unable to concentrate in class, missing classes, avoiding school activities, playing truant or dropping out of school altogether. This has an
adverse impact on academic achievement and future education and employment prospects.

Violence against children (VAC) in alternative care settings

A particularly vulnerable group requiring special protection are children living in institutions including residential schools for tribal children. Though data is considered to be incomplete, a national mapping done by MWCD/Childline in 2016, identified 3,70,227 children in need of care and protection and at least 9,589 in child care institutions.

Children’s vulnerability to violence increases when they are without parental care and a study in 2018 identified as many as 1,575 victims of sexual abuse (1286 girls and 286 boys) of children in institutions. In the past few years, there have been many reports of child deaths, violence and neglect in tribal ahsramshalas which are residential facilities for tribal children. It is important to ensure a safe violence free inclusive environment for tribal children who belong to the most
vulnerable section. 

Violence against children in the context of civil strife

Although statistics on violence against children in civil strife areas or emergencies are not available, serious concerns have been raised by the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC) and others about the impact of armed conflict and emergencies in India, especially in the context of Jammu and Kashmir and the Naxalite insurgency areas especially in states like Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha. This has been reported through the Security Council Resolution 1612 Security Council Mechanism for Monitoring and Reporting Grave violations against Children.

Violence and COVID-19

COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated four other existing pandemics: malnutrition, poverty, violence, and mental health issues. Given the high levels of poverty in the country, the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 are likely to put many vulnerable families on the brink. 

Extended periods of lockdown have also added to the heightened vulnerabilities to Gender based Violence (GBV) and VAC for those already at risk, many being
trapped with their abusers and not able to access help or services. Mental health and violent discipline are emerging as concerns due to children’s routines being disrupted and other economic and stress factors for families.

On account of extreme economic distress, families will likely resort to negative coping mechanisms leading to an increase of child labour, trafficking,
pushed on to the streets or railway stations. More children may undertake unsafe migration; and also, current situation may lead to an increase in numbers of children entering institutions or in contact with the law. 

Structural violence

Structural violence refers to any scenario in which large scale structures – differences of power, wealth, privilege, education and health – perpetuate inequity, thus causing harm and suffering. This form of violence also occurs in a society if institutions and policies are designed in a way that create barriers or inequitable
access to a range of goods and services for some people.

In addition to gender, caste system requires a specific mention due to its impact in India. The caste system is deeply entrenched system of discrimination, subordination and exclusion that has been used for centuries to place groups of people in a hierarchy. Constructions of caste are based on notions of purity and pollution, underpinned by religious believes. Since caste is understood as an ideological framework to segregate people into groups, caste related discrimination is paralleled in discrimination against ethnic or tribal groups, indigenous populations and religious groups across the country.

The tribal population which constitutes 8.6 per cent of the total population of India (Census 2011) constitute the most vulnerable groups in terms of access to education, health, social protection. The large scale industrialisation, exploitation of mineral resources and the construction of irrigation dams and power projects in the tribal areas has historically uprooted many tribal families and made them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse over the generation. Not surprisingly, children from these communities have highest dropout rates, infant mortality rates and are at greater risk of facing discrimination and neglect. It is important to note that a good proportion of tribal population reside in areas affected by insurgent movements, including states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Assam. It is important to analyse their cultural and political context which make them more vulnerable to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. 

Source : UNICEF (June 2020) - Strategy for Ending Violence Against Children (EVAC)



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