It is estimated that about 53% of children in India face some form of child sexual abuse. The health and security of the country’s children is integral to any vision for its progress and development.
Child sexual abuse laws in India were recently enacted to protect the interest of children, especially girl child. Prior to this, the Goa Children Act, 2003 was the only specific relief against child abuse.
Child sexual abuse was prosecuted under the following sections of Indian Penal Code:
I.P.C. (1860) 375 – Rape
I.P.C. (1860) 354 – Outraging the modesty of a woman
I.P.C. (1860) 377 – Unnatural offences
I.P.C. (1860) 511 – Attempt
There were following loopholes for application of IPC to child abuse:
IPC 375 doesn’t protect male victims or anyone from sexual acts of penetration other than ‘traditional’ peno-vaginal intercourse.
IPC 354 lacks a statutory definition of ‘modesty’. It carries a weak penalty and is a compoundable offence. Further, it does not protect the ‘modesty’ of a male child.
In IPC 377, the term ‘unnatural offences’ is not defined. It only applies to victims penetrated by their attacker’s sex act, and is not designed to criminalize sexual abuse of children.
Need of the hour
Considering the loopholes, it became utmost important for the judiciary to implement a specific Act to particularly protect the children of our nation. In 2011, the Parliament of India passed the ‘Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Bill, 2011’. It was enacted as an Act in 2012 and is commonly known as POCSO Act.
Provisions of the Act
This Act is very helpful as it provides relief to the victims. Child protectors are also provided, if required. Further, it is necessary for the police to bring the matter to Child Welfare Committee within 24 hrs of receiving such report.
The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age and regards the best interests and well-being of the child as being of paramount importance at every stage. It defines different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative assault, as well as sexual harassment and pornography, and 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 vis-a-vis the child, like a family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor. People who traffic children for sexual purposes are also punishable under the provisions relating to abetment in the Act.
Punishment and Compensation
The punishment imposed upon the guilty is also extreme with a maximum term of rigorous imprisonment for life and fine. The Act also provides female doctors for a girl-child. The proceedings are carried out in-camera but the identity of the child is completely protected. Rehabilitation of the victim is taken care of.
Another important provision in the Act is that it provides for the Special Court to determine the amount of compensation to be paid to a child who has been sexually abused, so that this money can then be used for the child’s medical treatment and rehabilitation.
It could be summarized that this Act is a wonderful piece of legislation for children and prevention of child abuse.