Topic: Death penalty for Child Abuse
Topic in Syllabus: Indian Governance
Cabinet approves Amendment in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012
It will make punishment more stringent for committing sexual crimes against children including death penalty.
The amendments also provide for levy of fines and imprisonment to curb child pornography.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 was formulated in order to effectively address sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children through legal provisions. The objectives of the POCSO Act are to protect children from the offences of Sexual assault, Sexual harassment, Pornography and to establish Special Courts for speedy trial of such offences.
The Salient features of the Act are that it:
- Defines the child as anyone below the age of 18.
- Is gender neutral law, wherein the law takes cognisance of sexual crimes committed against both girls and boys under the age of 18 years.
- Addresses a wide range of sexual offences which include anything from complete and partial penetration, non-penetrative sexual assault, stalking of a child, showing children pornography, using the child for pornography and exhibitionism.
- The law protects children from both contact and non-contact sexual abuse.
- Places the burden of proof on the accused and ensures punishment for all perpetrators irrespective of age and gender.
- Does not recognize consensual sexual acts among children or between a child and an adult.
- Prosecutes any person (including a child) for engaging in a sexual act with a child irrespective of whether the latter consented to it.
- Provides for more severe punishment, when the sexual offence is committed by a person in a position of trust or authority.
- Introduces child friendly measures and defines the role of the Police as a child protector.
- Pronounces the importance of Mandatory Reporting of sexual offences.
- Stipulates that a case of CSA must be disposed of within one year from the date the offence is reported.
Critical analysis of POSCO Act:
- Under POSCO act, any person (including a child) can be prosecuted for engaging in a sexual act with a child irrespective of whether the latter consented. A husband/wife can be prosecuted for engaging in a sexual act with his/her spouse under the age of eighteen years. The Act does not recognise consensual sexual acts among children or between a child and an adult.
- Another issue that has received less attention is whether couples under 18 years of age should be treated as juveniles in conflict with the law. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had stressed on the need for the law to recognise consensual sexual exploration among adolescents by decriminalising it when it is between:
- Children above 12 years when the age-gap was less than two years and
- Children above 14 years when the age-gap was less than three years.
But POSCO has failed to consider the nuances of age, age difference, and child development.
The amendment is expected to discourage the trend of child sexual abuse by acting as a deterrent due to strong penal provisions incorporated in the Act.
It intends to protect the interest of vulnerable children in times of distress and ensures their safety and dignity.
The amendment is aimed to establish clarity regarding the aspects of child abuse and punishment thereof.
Insofar as child sexual abuse is concerned, though POCSO is a wholesome law, there is a strong urgency to ensure its implementation and create awareness amongst officers and all stakeholders on what it contains. Successful implementation of any law demands a coherent understanding and structural application, which is absent in case of laws ascertaining the identity and social dignity of children in India
The POCSO Act makes the following bodies responsiblefor the implementation of the provisions of the Act:
A) Local authorities and civic bodies
B) State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights
C) Police and the judiciary
D) State legislatures