|Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual introduction.
Body. Salient features of POCSO amendment. Discuss why it is needed and significance of the amendment.
Conclusion. Way forward.
Recently the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, 2019 was passed with an objective of stopping the rampant sexual abuse of children. The amendment seeks to provide more stringent punishment, including death penalty, for sexual crimes against children. With rising incidents of child sexual abuse, it is important to make stringent provisions according to changing time as done in the amendment.
Salient Features of the POCSO Amendment Act:
- It is for the first time in the history of anti-sexual crimes against children law that the death penalty has been introduced.
- The Act provides for not less than 20 years of rigorous imprisonment extending up to the rest of natural life of the convict or death and fine in the cases of aggravated sexual assault.
- Aggravated sexual assault has been defined as sexual crimes by people who are in positions of trust and authority. It could be the manager of a child shelter home, school principal, doctor or the hospital staff and even a family member.
- The act provides that if there has been a penetrative sexual assault with any child less than 16 years of age, that will be punishable with not less than 20 years of rigorous imprisonment extendable to the remainder of natural life.
- The other significant feature is the introduction of the definition of child pornography for the first time.
Need of the amendment:
- Child pornography is rising with sharing of nude contents of a child who is not considered mature until 18 years of age.
- 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.
- 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.
- One in ten children is being sexually abused under 18 years of age. 53% of children in India face some form of sexual abuse.
Significance of the amendment:
- 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.
- It is gender-neutral and thus looks into the sexual assault of both minor boys and girls.
- The amendment seeks for the death penalty for aggravated sexual assault on children to create deterrent effect.
- 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.
- 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.
- The provision of death penalty should be widely discussed and debated and should be used only for the rarest of the rare cases.
- Awareness and sensitisation of people is equally important to prevent the crime itself.
- Proper police training and a dedicated children cell at stations as that of a women cell. Strict action must be taken against the police officer found guilty of obstructing the probe or colluding with perpetrators of such cases.
- Children should be given a platform and proper environment to speak against such abuse.
Providing sex education to children, which is neglected in India. This makes them more aware of various protective laws, good touch-bad touch etc.
POCSO amendment is a welcome step but society itself also have to take the responsibility of preventing child abuse and stay vigil. Without this, we cannot achieve all the promises that we had as a nation at the time of Independence. We must collectively rise to the occasion and create a safe India for our children.