According to UNICEF violence against children can be “physical and mental abuse and injury, neglect or negligent treatment, exploitation and sexual abuse. Violence may take place at home, 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 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. This definition is derived from the W.H.O.
Child abuse in India is often a hidden phenomenon especially when it happens in the home or by family members. Focus with regards to abuse has generally been in the more public domain such as child labour, prostitution, marriage, etc. Intra-family abuse or abuse that takes place in the institutions such as schools or government homes has received minimal attention. This may be due to the structure of family in India and the role children have in this structure. Children in India are often highly dependent on their parents and elders; they continue to have submissive and obedient roles towards their parents even after they have moved out of their parental home. This belief that parents and family are the sole caretaker of the child has proved to have negative effects on child protection laws and strategies. Numbers of cases of child abuse in the home are hard to attain because most of these crimes go unreported. Societal abuses that are a result of poverty such as malnutrition, lack of education, poor health, neglect, etc. are recognized in various forms by the Indian legal system. But India does not have a law that protects children against abuse in the home. Mal-treatment of care givers has the potential to emotionally and mentally harm children to a very different degree. Studies in intra-familial child abuse in the US have shown correlation to delinquency, crime, teenage, pregnancy and other psychosocial problems.
La Martiniere College Lucknow