Under-reporting of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is rampant in India, despite which India has the highest number of CSA cases in the world, the ramifications of which are enormous. Other than the obvious reasons of stigma and fear of the perpetrator, multiple other factors come into play, such as attitudes and responses of guardians, which themselves prevent children from reporting and may even lead to retraction of the disclosure. The Indian cultural etiquette strongly advocates obedience towards older individuals, which may result in the child acquiescing to the perpetrator’s demands. The fear of legal entanglements discourages guardians from seeking legal assistance. In spite of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012 emphasizing the role of medical professionals in mandatory reporting of CSA, there is no further social support made available by the Government for use by victims post-reporting. The stigmatization, powerlessness, traumatic sexualization and betrayal experienced by the child lead to significant negative consequences which are often long lasting and alarming. This article touches upon the obvious as well as inconspicuous causes of under-reporting, challenges faced and long term implications for the victims. Also, suggestions to minimize the incidence of CSA and its attendant consequences are discussed, like conceptualization of a multi-agency, multi-tier team approach consisting of medical, legal and supportive aspects, addressing the root causes of childhood maltreatment like poverty and environmental safety, besides raising public awareness by sensitizing general public and training children to identify CSA through creative and culturally popular methods.
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Keyword : Child sexual abuse, Underreporting, POCSO Act, Childhood maltreatment.