The POSCO Act
According to the data by the National Crime Record Bureau, 109 children in India face some form of child sexual abuse every day. It also shows a sharp rise in crimes against children on a year-to-year basis and that the majority of the cases are often perpetrated by someone known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility.
To tackle the menace of Child Sexual Abuse cases, new legislation called the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act), was introduced in 2012. It was further amended in 2019. It is a comprehensive law that criminalizes a range of acts including child rape, harassment, and exploitation for pornography. It requires the setting-up of special courts to facilitate speedy trials.
The POCSO Act, not only has provisions after a crime is committed but also includes under its definition incidents of child harassment via sexting or cyberspace through repeated or constant stalking, watching, or contacting a child either directly or through electronic media. All sexual acts described under POCSO are, without exception, considered to be criminal offenses if they involve a ‘victim’ under the age of 18 years. The POCSO Act directs the Special Court is required to complete the trial within a period of 1 year, if possible. The media has been barred from disclosing the identity of children who have been sexually abused without the permission of the Special Court. The punishment for breaching this provision is imprisonment of 6 months to 1 year. The act instructs the Government to spread awareness and to make people understand the provisions of the POCSO Act.
The implementation of the POCSO Act, 2012 is monitored by the National Commission and State Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights.
The POCSO Act was made stricter in 2019 by including a proposed amendment to introduce the death penalty. It specifically defines “child pornography” and also, widened the scope of “aggravated sexual assault.” and provides for the protection of children from sexual offenses during a natural calamity, etc.
POCSO Act has undoubtedly made a significant contribution in tackling the problem of child sexual abuse in India. However, certain controversies regarding the act like inflexibility regarding the age of consent for sex under 18 years of age, mandatory reporting obligations, and provisions of the death penalty are prevalent.
The act has been quite successful in bringing consciousness among the masses, educating the public, and sensitizing the criminal justice system. To improve the rate of conviction, a more transparent process, quick prompt by police, and boost up of both investigation and trial in court is needed.