In a tragic way of life, violence against children remains a glaring issue in today’s world. According to the global data released by WHO, approximately 1 billion children under the age of 18 have faced physical, emotional, sexual violence, and neglect worldwide in the past year. But historical evidence shows that violence against minors that includes sex crimes against children has declined over the years. This hints at the possibility of curbing violation of child rights with the help of prompt legal response and public awareness.
Different forms of violence that children may face:
Aside from violence perpetrated by strangers, the horror lies in instances when a minor is harmed by their immediate social circle, including parents, caregivers, friends, acquaintances, and romantic partners. In fact, these incidents are greater in number and inflict major trauma on the child’s developing psyche. Some common forms of violence committed against children are listed below.
Corporal Punishment and Maltreatment
Children are often vulnerable to physical, sexual, and psychological violence inflicted upon them as punishment by their parents, family members, caregivers, and other authoritative figures. These acts are justified as necessary to correct the child’s behavior and make them more obedient, not only in domestic settings but also at schools and orphanages. Neglecting infants, children, and adolescents also fall under the maltreatment of a minor.
Acts of physically, emotionally, and virtually aggressive behavior by a child or a group of children over an extended period against another child is termed bullying. Discrimination, verbal threats, and intimidation constitute peer pressure and peer-shaming, which take a terrifying shape in settings like schools and online platforms. In communities where gang violence is a common threat, bullying and physical assault may also involve weapons.
Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence
This is a common occurrence among young females within child marriages and forced marriages, inflicted by their intimate partner or ex-partner. Innocent and unsuspecting kids are often coerced into performing sexual acts by adults. These kinds of sexual violence on children are often destigmatized citing the voluntary involvement of the minor. However, this is a heinous form of sexual violence because the child does not understand how he or she is forced into participating in such acts. Non-consensual sexual contact or attempts at the same, acts of a sexual nature without contact, and child trafficking count as sex crimes against children.
Legal Response to the violation of Child Rights:
Violating a minor’s rights is a punishable offense by US legislation. The degree of these penalties varies with the nature of the abuse inflicted. Criminal and civil penalties are dealt out to the offenders. These include:
- Restrictions on probation and parole,
- Loss of custody, and
- Registration as a sex offender leads them incapacitated to have jobs, properties, and lead a normal life.
In the case of sex crimes against children, many state legal systems have increased the degree of these penalties. This has been done to deter serial offenders. The proposal of including the death penalty was rejected in fear of it being used against the victims to subdue them.
More often than not, minor victims lack the ability or means to report violence committed against them. Hence, the data gathered may only be viewed as the tip of the iceberg, and legal actions cannot completely eradicate such social evil. However, it is advisable to seek the help of a lawyer if such a case is witnessed or experienced. Social education and public awareness are essential to treat this social evil at the grassroots level by addressing inherent problems in society.