RSTV SUMMARY – 12TH JULY, 2019

moderator
By moderator July 15, 2019 12:48

The Big Picture – Sex Abuse and Safeguarding our children

The Central govt and the Supreme Court, both have taken firm steps to tackle the rising number of sexual offenses against children. Earlier this week, the Union cabinet approved amendments to strengthen the POCSO Act by including the 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. The Govt. 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. The trial has commenced in only 6449 cases out of which only 4 percent have been decided by trial courts.

What are the salient aspects of the law?

  • The death penalty has been introduced for the first time in the history of sexual assaults against children.
  • Aggravated sexual assaults are defined as the sexual assaults committed by people who are in positions of trust and authority for the child. The bill has specified not less than 20 years of rigorous imprisonment extending up to the rest of the natural life of the convict or death plus fine for aggravated sexual assaults. The original POCSO Act only specified not less than 10 years of rigorous imprisonment for such crimes.
  • Penetrative sexual assaults on children less than 16 years of age will be punishable with not less than 20 years of rigorous imprisonment extending up to the rest of the natural life of the convict.
  • The bill also defines child pornography for the first time as existing laws like the IT Act do not cover sexually explicit photographs of children. 
  • Unlike in other cases where the accused is innocent until proved guilty, POCSO says the accused is guilty until proved innocent.

Challenges

  • Even the severity of the law has increased and the society is becoming more literate day by day, the number of sexual assaults on children has never gone down.
  • There is a lack of social awareness on the intensity of the crimes committed against children.
  • Most of the people are also not aware of the existence of a POCSO law for children.
  • Even though the crime would be committed several times, the death penalty can be given only once which may not deter criminals from repeating the crime.
  • In spite of mentioning a timeline for carrying out the trial in one year, the trial for rape cases like Kathua took 16 months to complete.
  • The POCSO Act also allows judges to announce interim medical compensation for relief to victims. But, so far, judges have not exercised this discretion to empathize with the children who have gone through so much of trauma even to give the medical compensation stipulated in the Act. 
  • Also, there have been cases where medical compensation reached the victim after the death of the victim.
  • Sometimes, cases are also politicized by giving more attention to some cases than others for election gains or to give it a communal angle.
  • The POCSO Act requires a case to register within 30 days which never happens.
  • The rate of convictions under the POCSO Act has been very low, about 32% on an average for the past five years and the pendency of cases is 90%.

Way forward

  • The cases involving sexual assaults on children should be quickly punished. Fast track courts should be established for dealing with such cases. 
  • Awareness should be generated among children and people about the severity of the law against such crimes. Great personalities like Bollywood icons may come forward with great movements to have a larger influence on people.
  • Children should be made aware of the difference between the ‘good touch’ and the ‘bad touch’ and made to complain against any kind of assault on them even if it is their own parent or relative.
  • Police officers should be trained to handle such cases sensitively and a children’s cell similar to the women’s cell itself may be established to deal with children’s cases exclusively.
  • FIR’s against sexual assault of children should be registered within the timeline mentioned in the POCSO Act. 
  • The judiciary should take cognizance to expedite the cases involving sexual assaults of children and should award medical compensation at the appropriate time which is a relief not only for the victim but also the family of the victim.
  • There should be an accountability mechanism to hold the police and the judiciary accountable regarding the registration and investigation of the case and awarding of medical compensation within the timeline.
  • Each and every case against children requires media glare rather than a few of the cases in which the society gets enraged.
moderator
By moderator July 15, 2019 12:48