The National Crime Records Bureau statistics relating to violence against children paint a grim and sordid picture. The bureau has reported an alarming 53.6% increase in criminal cases, including sexual violence, in 2014 as against the previous year. This should be a cause of worry for the government and its policy-makers, law enforcement agencies and the civil society since it shows institutional failure. From the NCRB data and academic studies conducted, it is clear that violence against children occurs at different places — primarily at home and school. What indeed is really sad and abominable is that the perpetrators are known to the child and therefore, amounts to breach of trust.
Violence occurring in such private or insulated settings would make it difficult to prevent and if detected, to mount prosecution. Families and educational institutions would try to brush dishonourable and disreputable acts under the carpet, ironically citing honour and reputation. Moreover, not all acts of violence against children are easy to detect, investigate and prosecute successfully. Psychological violence, which can destroy a child’s self-esteem and have long-term developmental repercussions, are perhaps the most difficult to deal with as it is so insidious, invisible and normalised. Acts of physical violence involving parents, teachers and employers are considered “legitimate” or socially permissible.
There are adequate laws to tackle violence against children, namely the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, the Juvenile Justice Act and programmes such as the Integrated Child Protection Scheme. The lacuna is reportedly in social interventions and law enforcement, especially when it comes to non-sexual violence. Civil society and media should play a key role in sensitising stakeholders, especially schools and extended family networks, about the need to report and assist in prosecution to prevent crimes against children.