From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : POCSO Act, Definition of Child
Mains level : Preventing child abuse
Stringent punishments under POCSO Act
- In a historic decision to protect the children from Sexual offences, the Union Cabinet chaired by PM Modi has approved the Amendments 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.
- An amendment has also been approved to Section 4 of the POCSO Act so as to increase the minimum punishment to ten years, from the existing seven years.
- For ‘penetrative sexual assault’ of 16 to 17 year olds and if the child is below the age of 16 years the punishment extends to a minimum of 20 years.
- The maximum term of life imprisonment in such cases has been retained.
- Moreover, the definition of ‘sexual assault’ has now been expanded to include administration of hormones to children to make them appear more sexually mature for the sake of commercial sexual exploitation.
Why such move?
- As per the last available data from the National Crime Records Bureau 2016 of child rape cases came up before the courts under the POCSO Act read with Indian Penal Code Section 376.
- Less than three per cent cases ended in convictions, pointing to the need for better access to justice for all, and not just more stringent conviction in a small percentage of cases.
- 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.
About POCSO Act
- The POCSO Act, 2012 was enacted to Protect the Children from Offences of Sexual Assault, Sexual harassment and pornography with due regard for safeguarding the interest and well-being of children.
- The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age, and regards the best interests and welfare of the child as matter of paramount importance at every stage.
- The act aims to ensure the healthy physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of the child.
- The act is gender neutral.