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RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- SEX ABUSE AND SAFEGUARDING OUR CHILDREN


RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- SEX ABUSE AND SAFEGUARDING OUR CHILDREN


Introduction:

Centre government and Supreme Court both have taken firm steps to tackle the rising number of sexual offences against children. Earlier this week Union cabinet approved amendments to strengthen the POCSO Act by including death penalty for aggravated sexual assault on children. Section 14 and 15 of the POCSO Act 2012 will also be amended to address the menace of child pornography. Government has also informed the parliament that 1023 fast track courts will be set up in the country for speedy trial of cases of sexual assault on women and children .

Supreme Court has also registered a PIL suo moto to shape a concerted and clear national response displaying zero tolerance towards sexual assault of children. As per the data collected through all high courts 24,212 FIRs have been registered from 1st January to 30th June this year across the country on incidents of child rape. Trial has commenced in only 6449 cases put of which only 4 percent have been decided by trial courts.

 

Amendments in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012:

 Key changes proposed:

  • It will make punishment more stringent for committing sexual crimes against children including death penalty.
  • It includes provision of death penalty in cases of sexual offences against children.
  • The amendments also provide for levy of fines and imprisonment to curb child pornography.
  • Amendments are also proposed to protect children from sexual offences in times of natural calamities and in other situations where children are administered, in any way, any hormone or any chemical substance, to attain early sexual maturity for the purpose of penetrative sexual assault.

 

Impact:

  • 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.

 

POCSO Act:

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012 was formulated in order to effectively address sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children.

 

Role of police: The Act casts the police in the role of child protectors during the investigative process. Thus, the police personnel receiving a report of sexual abuse of a child are given the responsibility of making urgent arrangements for the care and protection of the child, such as obtaining emergency medical treatment for the child and placing the child in a shelter home, and bringing the matter in front of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), should the need arise.

 

Safeguards: The Act further makes provisions for avoiding the re-victimisation of the child at the hands of the judicial system. It provides for special courts that conduct the trial in-camera and without revealing the identity of the child, in a manner that is as child-friendly as possible. Hence, the child may have a parent or other trusted person present at the time of testifying and can call for assistance from an interpreter, special educator, or other professional while giving evidence. Above all, the Act stipulates that a case of child sexual abuse must be disposed of within one year from the date the offence is reported.

Mandatory reporting: The Act also provides for mandatory reporting of sexual offences. 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.

 

Definitions: The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age. It defines different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative assault, as well as sexual harassment and pornography. It deems a sexual assault to be “aggravated” under certain circumstances, such as when the abused child is mentally ill or when the abuse is committed by a person in a position of trust or authority like a family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor.

 

Challenges:

  • Lack of social awareness among the masses.
  • There is advancement of law but it appears that it has no impact because the number of cases is multiplying.
  • Problem with implementation of the law.
  • Politicization of rape cases on communal grounds.
  • As mentioned the rate of conviction under the POSCO act is only 32% as that of past 5 years and pendency is 90%
  • Judges donot use the power to announce medical interim compensations to the victims.
  • In a 2017 report, “Everyone Blames Me,” Human Rights Watch found that survivors (of the crime), particularly among marginalized communities, still find it difficult to register police complaints.
  • Every case desires media attention equally and not only Unnao and Kathua rape cases.

 

Way Forward:

  • Massive awareness should be created among the masses about child’s dignity and about the law in place.
  • Along with fast track courts, proper infrastructure and judges capacity should be looked upon.
  • Need of ground level work.
  • Speedy delivery of justice.
  • Proper police training and a dedicated children cell at stations as that of a women cell.
  • Need of accountability at each and every level.
  • Many Indians – men and women – refuse to believe that sexual violence is a serious problem eating away at India’s vitals. It is essential to recognise that the crisis lies in the precise manner in which the existing criminal justice system unfolds.
  • Instant medical relief and compensations should be provided to the victim.
  • Strict action must be taken against the police officer found guilty of obstructing the probe or colluding with perpetrators of such cases.
  • Providing sex education to children, which is neglected in India. This makes them more aware of various protective laws, good touch-bad touch etc.

 

Conclusion:

Society itself will have to take the responsibility of giving it the right direction. Without this, we cannot achieve all the promise 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.

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