|Demand of the question|
Introduction. Contextual introduction.
Body. Discuss the salient features of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Rules, 2020.
Conclusion. Way forward.
The POCSO Act was enacted in 2012 to provide a robust legal framework for the protection of children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography while safeguarding the interests of children at every stage of the judicial process. To make the punishment for child abuse has been made more stringent, the government has notified the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Rules, 2020 which enables the implementation of recent amendments to the Act.
Salient features of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Rules, 2020:
- Mandatory police verification: The new rules include the provision of mandatory police verification of staff in schools and care homes, procedures to report sexual abuse material (pornography), imparting age-appropriate child rights education among others.
- Reporting to Special Juvenile Police Unit: For a crackdown on child pornography, any person who has received any pornographic material involving a child or any information regarding such pornographic material shall report the contents to the Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU) or police, or the cybercrime portal.
- Child protection policy: Under the rules, the State Governments have been asked to formulate a child protection policy based on the principle of zero-tolerance to violence against children, which shall be adopted by all institutions, organizations, or any other agency working with or coming in contact with children.
- Periodic training: The Central Government and every State Government shall provide periodic training including orientation programmes, sensitization workshops and refresher courses to all persons coming in contact with the children, to sensitize them about child safety and protection.
- Age-appropriate curriculum: The Centre and State Governments have been asked to prepare age-appropriate educational material and curriculum for children, informing them about various aspects of personal safety, including measures to protect their physical and virtual identity and to safeguard their emotional and mental wellbeing, prevention and protection from sexual offences and reporting mechanisms.
- Orientation programme: According to rules, orientation programme and intensive courses may also be organized for police personnel and forensic experts for building their capacities in their respective roles on a regular basis.
- Background check: Any institution housing children or coming in regular contact with children, including schools, crèches, sports academies or any other facility for children must ensure a police verification and background check on a periodic basis of every staff.
Need of the Rules:
- Increasing child pornography: Child pornography is rising with sharing of nude contents of a child who is not considered mature until 18 years of age.
- Less conviction rate: Only a fraction of the incidences of sexual abuse against children enters the criminal justice system, amongst which only a minuscule fraction end in a conviction. The 2016 data of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) said that only 11% of the total of POCSO cases have been decided by the trial courts in that year, which meant that 89% of the cases were still pending across the country.
- Sexual abuse: Statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau also reveals that there has been a steady increase in sexual crimes against children. According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2007, over half of the children surveyed reported having faced some form of sexual abuse.
- Deterrent: The rules are expected to discourage the trend of child sexual abuse by acting as a deterrent due to strong penal provisions incorporated.
- Protection of child: It would help to protect the interest of vulnerable children in times of distress and ensures their safety and dignity.
- Implementation of POCSO Act: Problems related to implementation of POCSO Act such as lack of adequate special courts, lack of sensitisation for investigators and prosecutors in dealing with child victims, poor rate of convictions etc. need to be resolved urgently.
- Special courts: The Supreme Court direction to set up special courts within 60 days of the order in each district having more than 100 pending cases under the act must be complied with urgently.
- Sensitisation: Awareness and sensitisation of people is equally important to prevent the crime itself.
- Encouraging children to speak: Children should be given a platform and proper environment to speak against such abuse.
- Education: Providing sex education to children, which is neglected in India. This makes them more aware of various protective laws, good touch-bad touch etc.
Children are being subjected to neglect, abuse, violence and exploitation. Government cannot ignore child abuse as it is biggest crime and malaise in the society. Rather it must proactively work to prevent it. Thus it is important in changing times to provide enabling rules and legislation.