The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) enacted in 2012. The Act was formulated to effectively address sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and pornography.
In 2019, The Act has been amended. The amendment contains provisions for enhancement of punishments for various offences, provides security and dignified childhood for a child.
Salient provisions of the Act:
First, The Act defines Child as any person below eighteen. The Act remains gender-neutral.
Second, The Act also defines different forms of sexual abuse: including penetrative and non-penetrative assault, as well as sexual harassment and pornography.
Third, The Act deems a sexual assault to be “aggravated”: If the abused child is mentally ill or the abuse is committed by a person in a position of trust or authority like a family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor.
Fourth, The law provides for relief and rehabilitation as soon as the complaint is made. The Special Juvenile Police Unit or the local police will make immediate arrangements for the care and protection of a child. The arrangements such as obtaining emergency medical treatment for the child and placing the child in a shelter home etc.
Fifth, The Act has provisions for Mandatory reporting. This casts a legal duty upon a person who has knowledge that a child has been sexually abused to report the offence. If he fails to do so, he may be punished with six months’ imprisonment and/ or a fine.
Sixth, The Act provides for the establishment of Special Courts for the trial of offences under the Act.
Lastly, The Act prescribes a maximum punishment of life imprisonment or the death penalty. The Act provides a mandatory minimum punishment of three years.
What are the Safeguards available to Children?
- The Act has provisions for avoiding the re-victimisation of the child at the hands of the judicial system.
- The accused has to be away from the child at the time of testifying.
- The Act mentions special courts have to conduct the trial without revealing the identity of the child. And also in a child-friendly manner as much as possible.
- The child may have a parent or other trusted person present at the time of testifying. The Child can also call for assistance from an interpreter, special educator, or other professional while giving evidence.
- The cases must be disposed of within one year from the date the offence is reported.
Limitations of POCSO Act:
- The POCSO Act is only applicable to child survivors and adult offenders. For example, If two children have sexual relations with each other, or in case a child perpetrates a sexual offence on an adult, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, will apply.