Child sexual abuse, Awareness and the law


The POCSO Act, 2012, aims to curb child sexual abuse in India and globally. It protects children under 18 from sexual assault, harassment, and pornography, and establishes special courts for trial. The Act is in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 2 (CRC), which mandates protection from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse.


India is set to become the world’s most populous country, with over 444 million children, 31.08% of the total population. Around 50% of these children need care and protection. The constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all children, but lack of special acts like POCSO could lead to child abuse and mistreatment, potentially causing suicides or drug use.Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a form of sexual abuse where adults or older adolescents abuse a child for sexual stimulation. In India, over 53% of children are subjected to sexual abuse, with most perpetrated by someone known to the child or in a position of trust. In 2021, 1,49,404 cases relating to crime against children were registered, a 16.2% increase from 2020. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) refutes sexual intercourse by a man with his wife above 15 as rape.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 has added section 42 A to the POCSO Act, which allows for aggravated penetrative sexual assault. The Act’s provisions are in addition to existing laws and have an overriding effect in case of inconsistency. The age of consent for sexual intercourse is 18 years, and no child below 18 can give consent. The Act was enacted with reference to Article 15(3) of the Constitution, recognizing the best interest of a child and the government’s obligation to secure it.


The POCSO Act in India broadens the term ‘penetrative sexual assault’ to include child harassment, including sexting and cyberbullying. Penalties range from seven years to life imprisonment, and fines. Despite increasing cases, the conviction rate is only 4%, with acquittal rates at 6% and pendency rates at nearly 90%, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

Child abuse laws worldwide hide the identity of affected individuals to protect families from shame associated with sexual abuse. This behaviour is common in collectivist cultures in other Asian countries. The impact of child abuse is lifelong and irrevocable, affecting the abused child’s emotional, psychological, physical, and mental well-being. Soaring levels of child abuse also have negative economic consequences.


Everyone in India plays a role in protecting children, including parents, schools, communities, police, courts, medical professionals, NGOs, and media. Section 1918 of the POCSO Act mandates reporting of offenses, with Section 21 providing punishment for failure.

(I) 1098: The Childline Helpline can put you in touch with a social worker who can provide you with assistance and information. However, It is still recommended doing your own homework even as you consult with Childline. 

(II) Police FIR: You must inform the child before reporting to the police. You need to ensure that the child is comfortable with the idea and prepared for meeting with the police. 

While assuring the youngster that you will be there for them at every turn, you also need to let them know that they will need to be ready to narrate the event. Do not take the child to the police station once they are ready. Alternatively, the youngster may decide where they feel most at ease to meet the police, who will arrive in civilian attire rather than a uniform. Police are not allowed to decline filing a FIR19 (Sections 19 and 20).

a) Medical Care: A child victim of sexual offences receives free medical care and treatment at any private or government hospital {Section 19 (5), Section 27 and Rule 5}.

b) Counselling to child: Professionals and experts or persons having knowledge of psychology, social work, physical health, mental health and child development are to be associated with the pre‐trial and trial stage to assist the child (Section 39).

c) Free Legal Counsel: The family or the guardian of the child victim shall be entitled to the assistance of a legal counsel of their choice for any offence under this Act. The Legal Service Authority shall provide legal counsel to the child victim free of cost (Section 40).

d) Compensation: Various States in the country have different compensatory schemes for child victims of sexual offences. Section 33 (8) and Rule 724. The scheme should be informed by police to people. Additionally you may seek information from Child line or other local NGOs.

e) Shelter: If the child victim continues to remain unsafe or at-risk at home, especially in cases involving incest, the child may be transferred to a Shelter Home where all needs of the child will be taken care of. 

f) Education: Post the incident of abuse, it is essential that the child’s life is gradually 

returned to normal. Under the Right to Education Act, 2009, the child can receive free and compulsory education till the age of fourteen years. 

g) Support Person: The CWC can provide a Support Person to assist the child victim and family during the investigation and trial of the case {Rule 4 (7)}.


To prevent sexual abuse in children, parents should actively monitor their children’s lives, monitor grooming behaviors in adults, and ensure one-on-one time between children and adults in organizations. This includes educating children about their activities, monitoring their involvement, and ensuring staff and volunteers are screened and supervised.


                   The Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act, 2012, was passed in India in May 2012 to protect children from sexual assault, harassment, and pornography. The Act, which came into force on 14 November 2012, is part of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Other countries have also enacted laws, such as South Africa’s Criminal Law Amendment Act, the UK’s Sexual Offences Act, and the US’s Child Sexual Abuse Act. Fiji’s Crimes Decree (2009) updated its criminal code to allow life imprisonment for sexual assault.


1)Imratlal v/s State Of Madhya Pradesh on 27 January, 1986

2)Independent thought V. Union of India And Another (AIR 2017 SC 4904)

3)Alakh Alok Srivastava v. Union Of India And Others on May 1,2018

4)Social Action Forum For Manav Adhikar (Safma) Petitioner v. Union Of India on July 31, 2018


Child sexual abuse negatively impacts productivity and socialization, urging society to protect and enhance children for greater participation in innovation and evolution, contributing to the betterment of world civilization


Q: How can one recognize survivor of child sexual abuse?

A: A victim of child sexual abuse often exhibits distinct behaviors and a reserved demeanor. He or she might feel hurt or have stomach or private area pain. The youngster could be hostile and uneasy. He or she might struggle to build social connections.

Q: Is there a particular law in India that prohibits child sexual abuse?

A: The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) was passed into law in order to protect minors against sexual assault, harassment, and pornography. It also aims to protect minors’ rights throughout the entire legal system.

Q: How may a case of child sexual abuse in India be reported?

A: Report any youngster you know has been sexually abused to the closest police station or give CHILDLINE a call at 1098.

Author: Epsi Beula D,

              LL. B 2nd year,  

              Government Law College, Vellore.

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