Indian Child Protection Laws Deemed Ineffective


The Human Rights Watch released a report yesterday regarding the Indian government’s failure to protect children against sexual abuse. Although India is a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and has laws protecting against such atrocities on the books, the organization asserted that the procedures are not properly enforced, leading to continued abuses.

An alarming amount of cases go unreported in India. A study endorsed by the government revealed that in a sample-size of 12,500 children, 53 percent claimed abuse and only 3 percent of those abused children reported the crimes. The director of the Human Rights Watch in South Asia stated that this is due to the fact that children who come forward with these atrocities are often ignored by the police and medical services.

Although the government has started to come forward in admitting the faults within their legal system, it is clear that a significant change must occur in order for the abuses to stop. Not only are unscientific tests being run to test the children for rape whose stories are actually listened to, but there is no compensation system in place to rehabilitate these children after such traumatic events.

The report additionally focuses on those children that are at severe risk of rape and incest. According to the organization, children that reside at care facilities and orphans are especially at risk. “Abuse occurs even in supposedly well-run and respected institutions because of poor monitoring.” Furthermore, some private institutions are not even registered. Many argue that the laws in place in India right now are completely ineffective at solving the problem and call for change.

Do you think the report released by the Human Rights Watch will encourage larger international bodies to pressure India to reform? What repercussions should India face as it is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child? What sanctions should India face for not enforcing these laws? What should the punishment be for government officials who attempt to cover up the abuses?

Sources: NYTimes; Picture: USA Today


  1. This is a very tough situation that is going on in India. My immediate impression is that India has a way to go before it can offer “first-world” protection to victims of child sex abuse. Given that the country has a societal structure (the caste system) that places value on a person based on their class, it may prove most difficult for the Indian authorities to prevent future abuse in the near-term.

    I think that the most recent gang rape trial that has attracted universal attention is an important building block for the Indians. With this type of exposure to the problem, the authorities will naturally be more inclined to act on behalf of its youngest women.

    With respect to the international legal ramifications of India’s failure to prosecute, I think that it will be hard for liability to be imposed on India. Given that they have enacted laws in an effort to combat child sex abuse in accordance with their international obligations, it seems unlikely that legal liability will ripen, unless proof of a systematic and affirmative denial of rights is proven. This is especially the case if India has signed, but not ratified the Convention.

    In all, I think that the increased pressure on India by the international community will eventually produce the appropriate result. As India continues its path to a post-industrial society, I believe that this type of apathy for human rights will be less and less tolerable domestically.

  2. Sexual abuse in India is a widespread problem, and not only with children. The rape of women and young girls also often goes unnoticed and unpunished. I think the police in India do not take sexual abuse in general as serious as they should. They often do not believe the victim and therefore victims do not even bother to report sexual abuse. 53% is a large number. I would like to see the results of a study done on the child population in India as a whole as opposed to a study that is focused on those children that are at severe risk of rape and incest. Because of this study’s focus, we only get the statistics of the at risk population. It is obvious that the statistics will be higher in a population of this type. But, I am sure that the statistics are still high enough to call for reform. Therefore, there should be repercussions for India as a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  3. India is notorious for their lack of protection for children’s rights. It is terrible that these children are being physically, mentally and sexually abused and there is not a system in place that will protect these children and punish their abusers. Also, since nothing is done to help these children while they’re young, the cycle continues and these children grow up with a greater chance of being abusers. In response to Kristen’s first question, I believe this report will leave these larger international bodies no choice but to intervene and pressure India to fix and/or actually enforce the laws they have in place. I do not believe that punishing India would be as effective as having these international bodies go in and work with the Indian government on all levels to enforce these laws. Ultimately, it seems like India is suffering from a lack of resources they need in order to change its government and legal system that feeds off of corruption and abuse.

  4. I would certainly hope that this report from Human Rights Watch will lead to international bodies pressuring India to reform its enforcement of procedures and its monitoring in facilities, as well as implement a rehabilitation program for children who have been abused. Additionally, I believe that the UN should impose harsh sanctions on India for violating the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Not only has India breached its duty as a signatory to this convention, but the fact that the convention India has ignored deals with ensuring that children are not abused should lead to severe punishment for India. Sanctions that the UN has imposed in the past include freezing assets and banning travel, sanctions that are serious and will force India to change its ways. Furthermore, the government officials who attempt to cover up such horrendous and traumatic abuses should be stripped of their titles and banned from working in any governmental capacity. In addition, I would hope that they be prosecuted for their actions and potentially serve time in jail.

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