Authored by Muskan Jain
Keywords: Sexual assault, rape, violence, exploitation.
Sexual assaults and rapes are crimes of nature that leave not just the physical, but mental or even leave victims traumatized or dead. In 2002, WHO estimated that 150 million girls and 73 million boys under age 18 had been exposed to sexual harassment, one of the most common crimes but left unreported the most. Children below the age of 18 years suffer from various types of sexual activities like vaginal fingering, vagina and/or anal penetration, pornographic, looking at sexual parts with psychiatric sense. Despite all regulation, education and awareness, cases of sexual assaults against children in metropolitan cities have been reported to grow tremendously.
The occurrence is much greater than the authorities reported, and thus it is difficult to determine the number of sexual and rape cases. The victims are aged 2 months to 17 years, with very poor social and education status, mainly in the teenage years, unmarried, mainly adolescent women. Juvenile criminals are very much involved in committing rape. In most cases, the perpetrator is neighbor and/or known to the victim. The main focus of this article is on children suffering from rape.
In the background of India’s progressive efforts, violence against children was a source of great distress. Children are represented in the age of development with high vulnerability to physical and psychological threats. Child exploitation happens when a child is involved in sexual activity, which he / she is unaware of because they cannot differentiate between wrong and right. Sexual behaviour includes any kind of genital touch, anal touch, or child violence, such as exhibitionism and voyeurism. 1/3 of the abusers, mainly men, are young people, members of the relatives, neighbours or babysitters. Also, one in 9 girls and 1 in 53 young people under 18 years of age faced adult sexual harassment or assault. Every year, cases of rape in India are on the rise, and it has been observed since the last few years that cases of rape in minors are also on the rise.
While the United Nations continues to support democracy as the best mechanism to ensure the equality and rights of everyone. Still India, the largest democracy in the world, doesn't really protect the youth of the country.
Rape is a crime that has a devastating impact on the survivors, it has been characterised as a “beginning of the nightmare". Depression, fear, guilt-complex, suicidal-action, reduced sexual desire are the aftershocks.
Children are highly vulnerable to sexual offences committed by adults and juveniles. In the present study, the age group of 14–17 years is highly prone to sexual offences (51 per cent). Mutual consent is strongest in this age group because of the attraction of teens to each other, while the 11-14 age groups comprises 50% mutual consent (mainly at the age of 13 and 14 years) and 50% coercive sexual exploitation (mainly at the age of 11 and 12 years). Children are assaulted against their will under the age of 11 years. Victims under the age range 5-8 years are more prone to forced sexual abuse since the offenders known to the victim and or by the neighbours can easily bribe them.
In India, in May 2012, the Indian Parliament authorised a special law, the POCSO Act (Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses), which defines all forms of sexual harassment for both males and females aged 0-18 years. This law outlines the method of punishment for the culprit for each sexual assault and also sets out some criteria for the care of sufferers by police officers and legal authorities. Due to either the threat by the accused or the feeling that it will bring shame to the family, reporting of such criminal proceedings becomes a challenge.
Introduction of DNA technology
The effectiveness of a case was largely based on the victim's testimony against the defendant before the adoption of DNA technology. In both criminal investigation and paternity cases worldwide, the DNA has proven to be a great device ever since 1985. DNA can be extracted from a variety of organic sources including blood, semen, saliva, hair, skin, teeth, bone and tissue of the foetus.
After the occurrence of crime, victim is immediately referred to a local hospital by a gynaecologist for medical review.It results delay in medical legal review and sample collection due to hesitation or taboo associated with the crime which is the only way to create link between the accused and the offence. The victim's family member’s avoiddisclosure and preserve the victim'sprivacy, especially in cases that result in pregnancy. Lack of confidence in the judicial system and medical services is one of the main barriers to reporting and prosecuting offenders effectively.
There have been few, and still are, cases in which the police shield the offender and prevent the victim from reporting the crime, resulting in low filing charges and conviction rates as well. Negligence ofdoctors often fails to obtain vital evidence when dealing with medico-legal tests those results in the release of suspected offenders by the courts.
1. Kathua Rape Case'(2018), where the eight-year - old girl in a temple in Kathua was violently gang raped by eight separate men. She was allegedly held in the temple for days and raped, in what appears to have been an attempt to drive out the region's remaining members of the group.
2. Another example is the Jind Rape Case(2018), where in the village of Jhansa, the body of a 15-year-old girl from Jind, Haryana, who had been missing for three days, was found. Medical reports revealed that earlier in January, she had been violently gang raped and her private parts had been mutilated.
3. In the case of LaxmanNaik vs. State of Orissa, a 7 year old girl was raped and murdered by her own uncle. The Court found that the defendant appeared to have behaved in a beastly way. After fulfilling his lust, he thought that the victim would reveal him to her family members and others for the commission of offence on her, the accused put an end to the life of that innocent girl with a view to testing the evidence of the crime. In such a calculated cold blooded and barbaric murder of a very tender old girl after committing rape on her, the Court found how monstrously the defendant had created his plan and violently executed it.
4. In the case of Kamta Tiwari vs. State of M.P, the Supreme Court dealt with a rape case followed by a 7-year-old girl's murder. Evidence showed that the accused was close to the deceased's father's family and the deceased used to call him an uncle. The Court acknowledged the closeness to the accused and the accused encouraged her to go to the grocery store where he abducted the girl and subjected her to rape and later strangled her to death, throwing the dead body into a well.
A sober insight at different events makes it clear that children essentially do not have a safe place. These innocent souls can be sexually abused anytime, anywhere, whether they are in school or in their own home. Owing to the unique characteristics of society, they are unable to get criminals charged. The victim is invariably under pressure to cover the issue, and not the perpetrator to keep them from repeating the crime again. Reporting such crimes requires an empowered victim, a positive reporting environment, and a responsive legal system. Age has been shown to be an influential factor associated with criminal disclosure.
In situations where minor children are involved, further investigation is needed as those with developmental complications who are sexually abused may encounter ongoing difficulties due to lack of coping tools and increased chances of revictimization, thereby facing additional barriers to disclosure. If there is to be some change in the laws of rape, the courts and the legislature must make certain improvements.
The sentence of punishment, which usually varies from one to ten years, where the majority of convicts get away on average with a very small fine of three to four years of intense imprisonment; and in some cases, where the accused is resourceful or powerful, can even be expiated by paying large sums of money and being cleared of wrongdoing. It must be known by the courts that these vigilant criminals, who often beat and abuse their victims, and even small children, should not be discharged by such a brief period of imprisonment. Therefore, these offenders should be sentenced to life imprisonment in the best interests of justice and society.