“The safety of the people shall be the highest law”
-Marcus Tullius Cicero
The author in this post has discussed child sexual abuse which has become a common nuisance during this difficult time of CoVID-19 pandemic. The author provides an elaborate image of the reasons for the crime and the laws which can protect the children.
With the pandemic of the COVID-19 in the view, it is necessary to note that, this has led to an increased amount of assault cases against the children. Not only that, but the pandemic has also caused fear and distress leading to the submission of the children to the will of the parents and guardians who happen to be the sole reasons to disrupt their childhood.
Sexual assault against children leads to extreme violations of their basic fundamental rights. The flamboyance of the abuse of children differs from those of adults.
These guidelines adopt the definition of child sexual abuse formulated by 1999 WHO Consultation on Child Abuse Prevention which stated that:
“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 violates the laws or social taboos of society. Child sexual abuse is evidenced by this 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 include but is not 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 performance and materials”. 
Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) incorporates a wide range of sexual exploitation of youngsters – penetrative or non-penetrative sex, sex entertainment, lewd behavior, business sexual misuse, sex in the travel industry, and online abuse.
Who Are the Vulnerable Targets?
A few children are the particularly targeted children who fall under this category; be it due to race, gender, ethnic diversity, or even socioeconomic statuses. Children with certain forms of disabilities, children who are orphaned, those who belong from an ethnic minority, or socially-backward classes are the ones who face these atrocious forms of sexual harassment. 
How are they protected?
The Indian Legislature has enacted the following laws to protect the children from being harassed and sexually abused. In India, sexual abuse of children is considered to be a heinous crime that can lead to life imprisonment and hefty compensation that has to be paid to the victims.
a. The Protection of Child from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012:
To protect and care about the welfare of the children, the legislature has brought about laws for the protection of such children who are vulnerable to sexual predators. One of those laws brought by the legislature is the Protection of Child from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The POCSO Act, 2012 is a comprehensive law to provide for the protection of children from the offenses of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography while safeguarding the interests of the child at every stage of the judicial process by incorporating child-friendly mechanisms for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and speedy trial of offenses through designated Special Courts.
b. The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986:
To prevent the children from being exploited in the field of labor, the legislation has passed the act called “The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986”, which safeguards the children from their exploitation in the factories, establishments, or other places o employment, where they are totally prohibited and protection to the adolescents where they are partially prohibited to restricted to work at.
There has been notable corroboration that violence, exploitation, and abuse can affect the child both mentally and physically and impede their ability to understand and socialize and impact their changes into adulthood.
Who are the children most victimized by?
The children who face sexual assault, are mostly at risk of the people they’re close to or the ones they know, including family members, schools, workplaces, and other places. During the pandemic, the children feel the most unsafe or are the victims of abuse by their parents or their guardians.
What kind of violence do the children face at the time of the pandemic?
The children are mostly at the risk of facing physical violence, but the mental pressure upon them is no less. The risk of being sexually exploited, poisoned, and mentally harassed, stands firm, regardless of the situation. The distress that would be caused to the contactual of the illness of the thought of being separated or getting separated from the parents or the guardians or the peers, would also prevail. There has been an increased level of child-labor, despite the existence of the Acts which protect them and safeguard them. This has led to the children and adolescents being employed at hazardous institutions, such as the manufacturing of the sanitizers, whose air, if inhaled much, can cause poisoning to the lungs. and has put them at risk of them, contacting the virus much more. Vulnerable children are at the risk of being socially excluded, leading them to fall prey to mental distress.
What are the causes of violence against children?
The first and foremost, while being the most important reason for the children being treated poorly or being exploited, is poverty. The most marginalized groups of society are the worst hit during this pandemic. They have no means of protection, leaving them at a vulnerable risk of getting infected. The pandemic has put a halt, on the working conditions of the wage laborers, thus, any means of help would be welcome for the people who tend to work, to make their ends meet. The groups that fall below the poverty line in India, and in most of the countries, tend to not receive the desired level of protection as much as the groups that fall above the average working class of the society.
Another factor causing mental duress would be the increased amount of being isolated or quarantined in the isolation-wards or even home-quarantine. The children or parents may not be able to access the usual supports or treatments if they have pre-existing mental or physical distress. The quarantine or the isolation can create a panic of distress among the younger age of the children if they’re unaware of the happenings around the world.
Sexual violence increases at the time of the pandemic against young girls, mostly causing them to fall prey to early marriages, forced pregnancies, or other gender-based violence.
Unable to provide access to the internet or education, also leads to their infringement of fundamental rights. As these children have no means of securing an education.
What can be done to protect the children during the crucial time of the COVID-19 pandemic?
The following are the actions that can be undertaken to protect the children from being abused:
Children should be given a homely environment, where they do not feel isolated and lonely.
Contacting for the supply of safe water and sanitization for the children who are unable to access it due to being in remote areas of the society as children have a higher risk of contracting the virus.
Providing free access to education, thereby providing free access to the internet to the children who are otherwise, unable to access it.
Supporting the families financially, so as to protect the children from the risk of being employed at institutions where they are banned at or are restricted to be employed at for the sake of earning bread and butter.
Social accounting of protection of the interests of the children who are at risk of being sexually exploited whether online or offline, due to the isolation.
Protection of the children who are mostly refugees and also the people who fall prey to the conflict of interest between two nations, so as to provide shelter to them, so that they do not get victimized to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The children, at the time of the pandemic, are the worst sufferers of any nation in the world. The children are meant to be protected and thus, it is the duty of everyone to play a minor or a major role in their protection. The children, being the future of the nation, if left unprotected, hampers their minds in the later stages of life. Leaving children at their own risk is gruesome and highly irrational. Therefore, their safeguarding is a matter of protection of the nation.
 World Health Organisation. Report of the consultation on child abuse prevention (WHO/HSC/PVI/99.1). Geneva (Switzerland): World Health Organisation, 1999  Protecting Children from Violence, Exploitation and Abuse, available on: https://www.unicef.org/protection/57929_57972.html last seen on 07/04/2020  Model Guidelines under Section 39 of The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 https://wcd.nic.in/sites/default/files/POCSO-ModelGuidelines.pdf last seen at 07/04/2020 https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/the_alliance_covid_19_brief_protection_of_children.pdf last seen at (07/04/2020)  https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/agenda-for-action last seen at (07/04/2020)
School of Law, Manipal University, Jaipur
(Images used for representative purpose only)