Child abuse in India

One of the biggest social stigmas attached to a society is that of child abuse. A child can be abused physically, sexually or mentally. It can be in the form of injury, neglect or negligent treatment, blaming, forced sexual stimulation and activity, incest exploitation and sexual abuse. Child abuse can take place in homes, schools, orphanages, residential care facilities, on the streets, in the workplace, in prisons and in places of detention. Violence in any form has a very deep impact on the overall development of the child.  Child abuse results in actual or potential harm to the child's health, survival, development and dignity.

53% of children in India face some form of child sexual abuse. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the cases of rape and murder of children increase every year. The growing complexities of life and the changed social economic conditions have exposed the children to new and different forms of abuse. But the sad state of the affairs is that such heinous acts are reported less. It has such a psychological impact on the mind of the child that he seldom gathers the courage to speak about the act being committed against him. If even if he confides the fact with someone, the social factors let the fact being dumped under the fear of family reputation and other related issues. In fact child abuse is a violation of the basic human rights of a child.


As per the definition given by UNICEF, violence 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.

Physical Abuse:
Physical abuse is the inflicting of physical injury upon a child. This may include burning, hitting, punching, shaking, kicking, beating or otherwise harming a child. The parent or caretaker may not have intended to hurt the child. It may, however, be the result of over-discipline or physical punishment that is inappropriate to the child's age.

Sexual Abuse:
Sexual abuse is inappropriate sexual behaviour with a child. It includes fondling a child's genitals, making the child fondle the adult's genitals, intercourse, incest, rape, sodomy, exhibitionism and sexual exploitation. To be considered ‘child abuse’, these acts have to be committed by a person responsible for the care of a child (for example a baby-sitter, a parent, or a daycare provider), or related to the child. If a stranger commits these acts, it would be considered sexual assault and handled solely by the police and criminal courts.

Emotional Abuse:
Emotional abuse is also known as verbal abuse, mental abuse, and psychological maltreatment. It includes acts or the failures to act by parents or caretakers that have caused or could cause, serious behavioral, cognitive, emotional, or mental trauma. This can include parents/caretakers using extreme and/or bizarre forms of punishment, such as confinement in a closet or dark room or being tied to a chair for long periods of time or threatening or terrorizing a child. Less severe acts, but no less damaging, are belittling or rejecting treatment, using derogatory terms to describe the child, habitual tendency to blame the child or make him/her a scapegoat.

It is the failure to provide for the child's basic needs. Neglect can be physical, educational, or emotional. Physical neglect can include not providing adequate food or clothing, appropriate medical care, supervision, or proper weather protection (heat or cold). It may include abandonment. Educational neglect includes failure to provide appropriate schooling or special educational needs, allowing excessive ancestries. Psychological neglect includes the lack of any emotional support and love, never attending to the child, substance abuse including allowing the child to participate in drug and alcohol use.


The World Health Organization defines 'physical abuse' of a child as an incident resulting in actual or potential physical harm from an interaction or lack of interaction, which is reasonably within the control of a parent or person in a position of responsibility, power, or trust. There may be single or repeated incidents. The Indian society demands the children to be obedient to their parents. Any form of disobedience leads to anguish amongst the parents as to the misbehavior of the child which often leads to the reprimanding the child. Parents often resort to physical beating of the child to discipline the child. Not only does the parents resort to physical abuse of the child but it more common in schools and workplaces where the children are physically maltreated for their wrongs. Corporal punishment to a child whether it is at school, home or at workplace amounts to violation of the human rights of the child. It violates the right of the child to live with dignity and freedom from violence, their right to be loved and cared for and their right to be nurtured with respect. Physical abuse creates a feeling of resentment and harshness in the child. 


As defined by the World Health Organization, child sexual abuse is the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society. Child sexual abuse is evidenced by this activity between a child and an adult or another child who by age or development is in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power, the activity being intended to gratify or satisfy the needs of the other person. This may include but is not limited to:
  • The inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful activity
  • The exploitative use of a child in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices
  • The exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials.
53% of children in India face some form of child sexual abuse. Children who report having been sexually assaulted is 6% and the cases where the abuser was in a relationship of trust with the child is 50%. Home is the place where the child is the safest but now days the scenario has changed. In most of the cases of sexual abuse some close relative is the perpetrator o the crime. Due to fear the child does not complain about the incident. Such matters as secretly dumped inside the walls of the house to protect the reputation of the family. Children working as domestic labour or help in hotels and restaurants or any other place of work are susceptible to sexual abuse. Moreover the abandoned children are also easy victims of the crime. A number of children ago missing ever year and are forced to enter prostitution and exposed to other forms of sexual abuse. Children nowhere are safe from the heinous act of sexual abuse. Poverty, age, gender, caste, lack of safe spaces, lack of schools, lack of proper institutional care for children without functional families, etc make the child prone to sexual abuse. As compared to girls, the boys are also at an equal risk of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse affects the social, mental and physical growth and outlook of the child.


The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined emotional abuse to include the failure to provide a developmentally appropriate, supportive environment, including the availability of a primary attachment figure, so that the child can develop a stable and full range of emotional and social competencies commensurate with her or his personal potentials and in the context of the society in which the child dwells. There may also be acts towards the child that cause or have a high probability of causing harm to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.

These acts must be reasonably within the control of the parent or person in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power. Acts include restriction of movement, patterns of belittling, and denigrating, scapegoating, threatening, scaring, discriminating, ridiculing or other non-physical forms of hostile or rejecting treatment.

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. The children who had undergone emotional are more prone to depression, estrangement, anxiety, low self-esteem, inappropriate or troubled relationships, or a lack of empathy.


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. Not providing adequate food or clothing to the child, not providing adequate medical care, rejection and abandonment, failure to provide appropriate schooling, lack of emotional support and love are some forms of neglect. Our Indian society has a special affection for sons and this scenario the daughters are often neglected by the families while the sons are given preference in everything. Children who face neglect from their family and friends become quite suffer from psychological complications. It again affects their physical and mental growth and often such children turn very aggressive also.


India has signed a number of international documents and declarations that pertain to the rights of the children. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) was assented to by India in 1992. In 2005, the Government of India accepted the two Optional Protocols to the UN CRC, addressing the involvement of children in armed conflict and the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. India also signed the International Conventions on Civil and Political Rights, and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. India is also a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989 prescribing standards to be adhered to by all State parties in securing the best interest of the child and outlines the fundamental rights of children, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) also applicable to girls under 18 years of age and the SAARC Convention on Prevention and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution.

The Constitution of India contains a number of provisions for the protection and welfare of the children. It has empowered the legislature to make special laws and policies to safeguard the rights of the children. Articles 14, 15, 15(3), 19(1) (a), 21, 21(A), 23, 24, 39(e) 39(f) of the Constitution of India contain provisions for the protection, safety, security and well-being of all it's people, including children.

National Policies
The major policies that have been formulated to ensure child rights and improvement in their status are:
  • National Policy for Children, 1974
  • National Policy on Education, 1986
  • National Policy on Child Labour, 1987
  • National Nutrition Policy, 1993
  • Report of the Committee on Prostitution, Child Prostitutes and Children of Prostitutes and Plan of Action to Combat
  • Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children, 1998
  • National Health Policy, 2002
  • National Charter for Children, 2004
  • National Plan of Action for Children, 2005

Statutes dealing with the protection of Children

Following Acts were enacted for the welfare and protection of the rights of the children:

1. The Indian Penal Code, 1860
  • Foeticide (Sections 315 and 316)
  • Infanticide (Section 315)
  • Abatement of Suicide: Abatement to commit suicide of minor (Section 305)
  • Exposure and Abandonment: Crime against children by parents or others to expose or to leave them with the intention of abandonment (Section 317)
  • Kidnapping and Abduction (Section 360 to Section 369)
  • Procurement of minor girls by inducement or by force to seduce or have illicit intercourse (Section 366-A)
  • Selling of girls for prostitution (Section 372)
  • Buying of girls for prostitution (Section 373)
  • Rape (Section 376)
  • Unnatural Sex (Section 377)
2. The Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994

This is an Act for the regulation of the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques and for the prevention of misuse of such techniques for the purpose of prenatal sex determination leading to female foeticide and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

3. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 provides for proper care, protection and treatment of children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection by catering to their development needs, and by adopting a child friendly approach in the adjudication and disposition of matters in the best interest of children and for their ultimate rehabilitation through various institutions established under the Act. Sections 23, 24, 26 of the Act deal with the provisions of child abuse.

4. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA) deals with the offences related to sexual exploitation of children for commercial purposes and to provide enhanced penalties for offences involving children and minor.

5. Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986Act provides for elimination of child labour and provides for punishments and penalties for employing children below the age of 14 years in various hazardous occupations and processes.

6. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 was enacted to put a stop to the practice of child marriages in India. For marriages already contracted, it says that every child marriage shall be voidable at the option of the contracting party who was a child at the time of the marriage.

7. The Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005

The Act provides for the Constitution of a National and State Commissions for protection of Child Rights in every State and Union Territory.

8. Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act, 2012

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 was passed by the Parliament in May, 2012. The Act has been drafted to strengthen the legal provisions for the protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation. Act defines a child as any person below the age of 18 years and provides protection to all children under the age of 18 years from the offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography. These offences have been clearly defined for the first time in law. The Act provides for stringent punishments, which have been graded as per the gravity of the offence. The punishments range from simple to rigorous imprisonment of varying periods. There is also provision for fine, which is to be decided by the Court.  
An offence is treated as “aggravated” when committed by a person in a position of trust or authority of child such as a member of security forces, police officer, public servant, etc. 
Punishments for Offences covered in the Act are:
  1. Penetrative Sexual Assault (Section 3) –  Not less than seven years which may extend to imprisonment for life, and fine (Section 4)
  2. Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault (Section 5) –­ Not less than ten years which may extend to imprisonment for life, and fine (Section 6)
  3. Sexual Assault (Section 7) – Not less than three years which may extend to five years, and fine (Section 8)
  4. Aggravated Sexual Assault (Section 9) – Not less than five years which may extend to seven years, and fine (Section 10)
  5. Sexual Harassment of the Child (Section 11) – Three years and fine (Section 12)
  6. Use of Child for Pornographic Purposes (Section 13) –  Five years and fine and in the event of subsequent conviction, seven years and fine (Section 14 (1))
The Act also provides for the establishment of Special Courts for trial of offences under the Act, keeping the best interest of the child as of paramount importance at every stage of the judicial process. The Act incorporates child friendly procedures for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and trial of offences. The Act recognizes that the intent to commit an offence, even when unsuccessful for whatever reason, needs to be penalized. The attempt to commit an offence under the Act has been made liable for punishment for upto half the punishment prescribed for the commission of the offence.
The Act also provides for punishment for abetment of the offence, which is the same as for the commission of the offence. This would cover trafficking of children for sexual purposes. For the more heinous offences of Penetrative Sexual Assault, Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault, Sexual Assault and Aggravated Sexual Assault, the burden of proof is shifted on the accused. This provision has been made keeping in view the greater vulnerability and innocence of children. At the same time, to prevent misuse of the law, punishment has been provided for making false complaint or proving false information with malicious intent. Such punishment has been kept relatively light (six months) to encourage reporting. If false complaint is made against a child, punishment is higher (one year).
The media has been barred from disclosing the identity of the child without the permission of the Special Court. The punishment for breaching this provision by media may be from six months to one year. For speedy trial, the Act provides for the evidence of the child to be recorded within a period of 30 days. Also, the Special Court is to complete the trial within a period of one year, as far as possible. To provide for relief and rehabilitation of the child, as soon as the complaint is made to the Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU) or local police, these will make immediate arrangements to give the child, care and protection such as admitting the child into shelter home or to the nearest hospital within twenty-four hours of the report. The SJPU or the local police are also required to report the matter to the Child Welfare Committee within 24 hours of recording the complaint, for long term rehabilitation of the child.
The Act casts a duty on the Central and State Governments to spread awareness through media including the television, radio and the print media at regular intervals to make the general public, children as well as their parents and guardians aware of the provisions of this Act. The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and State Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights (SCPCRs) have been made the designated authority to monitor the implementation of the Act.


  1. A complaint alleging the commission of any act amounting to abuse of a child can be made to the police. The Police helpline number is 100.
  2. In case the police fails to register a FIR or does not investigate the case, then the aggrieved party can write an application to the Superintendent of Police under Section 154(3) of CrPC.
  3. Even if there is failure on the part of the Superintendent of police to take action, or that even after registering it no proper investigation is held, the aggrieved party can file an application under Section 156(3) of CrPC before the learned Magistrate concerned. In such cases the Magistrate can direct the FIR to be registered and also can direct a proper investigation to be made, in a case where, according to the aggrieved person, no proper investigation was made. The Magistrate can also under the same provision monitor the investigation to ensure a proper investigation.
  4. An online complaint can be made at the website of the National Commission for Protection of Children’s Rights by clicking on the following link:
  5. A complaint can also be addressed to:
 National Commission for Protection of Child Rights,
 5th Floor, Chanderlok Building, 36, Janpath,
 New Delhi - 110 001

Online complaint can also be made at the website of the National Commission of Human Rights by clicking on following link :

Child line provides emergency assistance and outreach services to a child in distress and subsequently, based upon the child’s need, rescues the child and refers him/her to an appropriate organization for long-term rehabilitation, follow up and care.

A call can be made to Child line a 24 hours free telephone helpline service at the number 1098.

Addresses of State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights

1. Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights
Jayanagar, Sixmile, Guwahati (Assam),
P.O. Khanapara, Guwahati-32.    
Fax: 2733892

2. Bihar State Commission for Protection of Child Rights
22/B, Harding Road, Patna-800001 (Bihar )  
Email: socwel_bihar@hotmail. Com
Tel: 0612-2211718
Fax: 0612-2535900

3. Chhattisgarh Commission for Protection of Child Rights
A-34, Shankar Nagar, Sector- I,
Nagarpalika Nigam, Zone No. 3, Shankar Nagar, Raipur, Chhattisgarh   
Phone: 0771-4245601
Fax: 0771-4245600

4. Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR)
5th Floor, ISBT Building, Kashmiri Gate, New Delhi   Ph.011-23862685/ 92 / 93

5.Goa Commission for Protection of Child Rights (GCPCR)
3rd Floor, Sakhardande Apartment,
Dr. Dada Vaidya Road, Panaji, GOA   
Ph.: 0832-2421870
Fax: 0832-2221353

6. Karnataka Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KCPCR)
4th Floor, Krishi Bhawan,
Rani Channamma Circle (Hudson Circle)
Nrupthunga Road, Bangalore-560002
Post Box No. 5555, Bangalore G.P.O. 560001   
Ph: 22115291/92, 944008333

7. Madhya Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MPSCPCR)
59, Narmada Bhavan, Jail Road, Arera Hills, Bhopal-462002,
Madhya Pradesh   
Fax: 0755-2559900

8. Maharashtra Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MCPCR)
3rd Floor, Govt. Transport Service Building,
Sir Pochkhanwali Road,
Worli, Mumbai-400032
 Ph.: 022-24920879
Fax: 022-22014880

9. Orissa State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (OSCPCR)
Qrs No.-A-1, Unit-V, Bhubaneswar   
Tel: 23223080
Fax: 0674-2396142

10. Punjab
(Not yet constituted)   
Ph: 0172-2622910

11. Rajasthan State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (RSCPCR)
2, Jal Path, Gnadhi Nagar,
Jaipur-302015, Rajasthan    
Ph: 0141-2713602,
Fax: 0141-2709319

12. Sikkim Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR),
Lower Secretariat, 31-A National Highway,
Gangtok- 737101, Sikkim  
Ph. 03592-203217
Fax: 03592-201325

13. Uttrakhand Commission for Protection of Child Rights (UCPCR),
At: Directorate of ICDS(DWCD), Suddhowala,
Vikash Nagar Road (near Nanda ki Chowki), Dehradun, Uttarakhand   
Ph: 0135-2775813-16

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