CHILD ABUSE DEFINITIONS
What is child abuse? There are many definitions of child abuse.
The initially used definition is as follows:
“Acts or omissions by a care-giver leading to actual or potential damage to health and development, and exposure to unnecessary suffering to the child”.
A wider definition is :
“Anything which individuals, institutions, or processes do (acts) or fail (omissions) to do which directly or indirectly harms children or damages the prospects of safe and healthy development into adulthood”The World Health Organization Report of the consultation on Child Abuse and Prevention (1999) proposed modified definitions for child abuse, which cover wider areas.
General definition :
‘Child abuse or maltreatment constitutes all forms of physical and/or emotional ill treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power’
Physical abuse of a child is that which results in actual or potential physical harm from an interaction or lack of interaction, which is reasonably within the control of a parent or person in a position of responsibility, power, or trust. There may be single or repeated incidents (WHO, 1999).
Neglect & Negligent Treatment
Neglect is the inattention or omission on the part of the caregiver to provide for the development of the child in all spheres: health, education, emotional development, nutrition, shelter and safe living conditions, in the context of resources reasonably available to the family or caretakers and causes, or has a high probability of causing harm to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. This includes the failure to properly supervise and protect children from harm as much as is feasible. (WHO, 1999)
Emotional abuse includes the failure to provide a developmentally appropriate, supportive environment, including the availability of a primary attachment figure, so that the child can develop a stable and full range of emotional and social competencies commensurate with her or his personal potential, and in the context of the society in which the child dwells. There may also be acts toward the child that cause or have a high probability of causing harm to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. These acts must be reasonably within the control of the parent or person in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power. Acts include restriction of movement, patterns of belittling, denigrating, scapegoating, threatening, scaring, discriminating, ridiculing, or other non-physical forms of hostile or rejecting treatment (WHO, 1999).
Commercial or other exploitation of child refers to use of the child in work or other activities for the benefit of others. This includes, but is not limited to, child labour and child prostitution. These activities are to the detriment of the child’s physical or mental health, education, moral or social-emotional development. (WHO, 1999)
Conscription of Children in Armed Conflict
For proposed definitions of abuse under conscription, refer appendix III.
History of Child Abuse.
The history of child abuse is mainly from the following publications: Hobbs, Hanks, & Wynne 1999, De Mause L 1980, Lynch MA, 1985, Radbill SX 1987, Kempe J, et al 1962.
- Child sexual abuse is the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent, or that violate the laws or social taboos of society. Child sexual abuse is evidenced by an activity between a child and an adult or another child who by age or development is in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power, the activity being intended to gratify or satisfy the needs of the other person. This may included but not is limited to:
- The inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity.
- The exploitative use of a child in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices.
- The exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials.
The history from the West reveals; in an era when a large number of babies were born that they could possibly care for or use for employment, widespread direct or indirect infanticide and neglect, was seen especially of girls who were considered the cause of this evil. The notion that children were the ‘property’ of adults, especially the father, and children being ‘non-entities’ before christening, left room for justification for infanticide, usually by throwing into water or gross neglect of depriving milk/food, and exposure to hazardous weather.
Although child abuse is presently often denied in South Asia, probably one of the oldest recorded histories of child abuse more than 2500 years ago from India was from the Buddhist story of a boy called Sopaka. He was tied to a corpse and left in a cemetery by the jealous stepfather to be eaten by wolves. Buddha came to his rescue and preached to the child, probably one of the earliest instances of counselling. The Buddhist scriptures also record the story of Mattakundali, who was severely neglected by a miserly father, who also deprived him of medical care.
In the 1940’s and 50’s reports of fractures in children that could not be attributable to previously described disease but to trauma was hardly recognized till Henry Kempe et al (1962), described the ‘Battered Baby Syndrome’.
Ancient Egyptian, Jewish, Greek and Roman history reveals sexual abuse of boys and girls including commercial sexual exploitation in the form of boy brothels and ‘rent a boy’ services. Aristotle is quoted to have commented that homosexuality could become habitual in those who have had sexual experiences from childhood. Descriptions of sexual abuse of children by servants both male and female have been documented. Research on the subject of sexual abuse and exploitation is scarce in Asia. Documentation in the North West Frontier Province (NWPF) of Pakistan has revealed a practice of older and rich men having “attractive beardless” youth for their sexual pleasures often referred to as ‘Balkey’ and in some areas referred to as ‘Ashnas’ (Khan, 2000). A similar situation has been described amongst Afghans who are tribally similar. The ‘Devadasi’ system in India although now legally banned is still in existence, and the ‘Deuki’ system in Western Nepal offer children and women to the temple system to function as sex slaves to pilgrims and priests (Frederick & Kelley, 2000). Historically, for centuries Devadasi’s earnings from prostitution contributed significantly to the temple’s earnings. The use of so-called lower castes and downtrodden women and children for prostitution in South Asia has been ‘legitimised’ by society through religious justifications. The mean age of entry into prostitution in the Daulotdia brothel in Bangladesh has been estimated to be around 13 ½ years, indicating the extent of exploitation and abuse of children (Frederick & Kelley, 2000).