BY MUZAMIL BASHIR
Child Sexual Abuse (CSA), a term that was alien to society in Jammu & Kashmir, is now an issue of discourse in the state as the child abuse has penetrated the social fabric at a fast and alarming rate. There is a steep rise in the graph of child abuse cases and the state has witnessed some of the disturbing child abuse and crimes against the children in the recent past.
According to the report on the “Study of Child Abuse” conducted in 2007, by the Ministry of Women and Child development, 52.3 % of India’s children have been sexually assaulted, which means one in every two children is subjected to sexual abuse before he or she reach the age of 18. Although, child abuse was not a familiar phenomenon in J&K but many cases have erupted and reported in the state in recent times.
The state recently witnessed an atrocious case of child abuse and murder, that of the rape and murder of a minor girl. The incident that shattered the life of a blossoming girl shook the conscience of entire state. The other instance was recently reported from Baramulla where a minor boy was allegedly sexually assaulted by a teacher at a seminary. A number of child abuse(s) have not been reported due to the fear of social stigma in our society. It leaves a devastating effect and physical pain besides severe mental trauma on the victim. These instances of such cases have created a strong need for strict laws to curb this dangerous trend of crime against children in Jammu and Kashmir.
The ICPS (Integrated Child Protection Scheme) has been launched in 2009 with the objective to provide a safe and secure environment to children who are in need of care and protection as well as children in conflict. There is, however, a need for stringent laws specially to deal with child abuse in the state.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012 was formed to protect children from offenses of sexual abuse, sexual harassment and pornography and to provide a child-friendly system for the trial of these offences. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 received the President’s assent on June 19, 2012 and was notified in the Gazette of India on June 20, in the year 2012. Except the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the Act extends to the whole of India.
The increase in the child abuse cases in Jammu & Kashmir calls for immediate implementation of POSCO Act in the state. The implementation of this law will deter the spread of the child abuse and will help to provide the justice to the victims and punishment to the perpetrators of the crime. The Act provides the establishment of special courts and special public prosecutors for the trials of such offences and for related matters. The Act also makes reporting of sexual offences legal responsibility of people and the one with the knowledge of the child being sexually exploited if fails to report about the incident may face the punishment of imprisonment or fine.
It also identifies the victim as the child in need of care and protection and makes the establishment of child welfare boards mandatory under the Juvenile Justice Act. The J&K State Social Welfare Department recently initiated the process to establish Child Welfare Committees under Integration Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) in all districts. However, the implementation of POSCO Act can give a strong boost to the elimination of child abuse in J&K state. This Act is a strong weapon to deal with the offences of the scourge and the need of the hour is to initiate serious efforts to implement the POSCO Act to discourage the alarming increase of crimes against the children.
—The author works with the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), District Baramulla. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org