Intra-familial child sexual abuse is a deplorable violation of a child’s trust and an “unpardonable betrayal” of the family bond, Supreme Court judge Justice Hima Kohli said on Saturday while emphasising that such victims deserve complete support and understanding.
Justice Kohli said this form of abuse has a long-lasting effect on the victim and the unfortunate part is that many a time, in the name of family honour, such incidents are brushed under the carpet and go unreported.
She was speaking as the chief guest on the occasion of the release of the third issue of journal ‘Children First’ at a function organised by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
Justice Kohli also spoke about the plight of children owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and how the apex court and different high courts had issued a slew of directions to safeguard the interest of minors.
She said it is imperative for all stake holders to join hands for creating conducive circumstances for the betterment of children.
Justice Kohli said ‘intra-familial child sexual abuse’ is a sensitive topic that is often shrouded in taboo and silence.
“It is imperative to acknowledge that victims of intra-familial child sexual abuse deserve our complete support and understanding. This form of abuse is a deplorable violation of a child’s trust and an unpardonable betrayal of the family bond,” the judge said.
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She said it is necessary to adopt a coordinated and comprehensive approach to effectively address intra-familial child sexual abuse.
“This requires raising awareness, improving sex education, encouraging reporting, providing support services, reinforcing laws and policies, engaging with communities, and holding the perpetrators accountable,” Justice Kohli said.
She said during the first and second waves of the pandemic, the Supreme Court and several high courts had issued a slew of directions to safeguard the interest of children.
The judge said the need to sustainably continue supporting and monitoring the needs of children affected by COVID-19 and to put in place measures which can withstand and mitigate such an impact in the future must be emphasised.
“The COVID pandemic is hopefully behind us, but many of us are still struggling to deal with its aftermath. We cannot afford to keep the lives of the affected children on hold. They need a continuous support system till they are old enough to take charge of their lives,” she said.
Justice Kohli said child abuse manifests in a multitude of ways such as child marriage, child labour, sexual violence, domestic abuse, trafficking, denial of education and denial of health and nutrition.
“The real challenge lies in the enforcement of child specific legislations. In the case of juvenile delinquents, the focus needs to be on exploring the reasons as to why the juvenile has committed the crime. In such cases, reform needs to be prioritised over retribution,” she said.