Every day in the newspaper or TV we can see at least one news of a minor being raped or sexually abused. Even kids are not safe from this. In the cases of sexual abuse, not only girls but boys too are abused. Some people say that abuse happens with adult females is just because of their short and exposing clothes and their behavior in the public. But if we look it deeply, boys too get abused, and what about that girl who was just 6 months old. She was brutally raped and died because of it. What about the boy of 7 who was abused by his uncle and aunt.
More than 50% of the abusers are the ones who knew the child personally, be it uncle, cousin, father’s or mother’s close friend or anyone else. In most cases, this is done by someone who is very close to the kid.
Moreover, looking at society, no one easily accepts the fact that boys are abused too. They still have a mindset that only girls are being abused. Another false belief is society believes if any wrong thing happens with the kids, they will go to their parents and will tell them about it. But the reality is, in most cases, the culprit is the one who is really very close to the kid. And even that kid has no idea what’s going on. That kid thinks maybe he did something wrong. It takes very long to understand that they are not the wrongdoer.
What is child abuse?
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), ‘inappropriate sexual behavior with a child’ and ‘involving a child in sexual activity that he or she doesn’t fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or that violates the laws and social taboos of society.’
• Fondling a child’s genitals
• Making the child fondle the adult’s genitals
• The exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials.
• Intercourse, incest, rape, sodomy, exhibitionism, and sexual exploitation
• Inducement or coercion of child in unlawful activity.
• The exploitative use of a child in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices
Why was POCSO enacted?
Many have a question that even after having IPC, why we needed it? It’s true that IPC was compiled very nicely. But IPC doesn’t deal with sexual assault, sexual harassment, pornography, and sexual violence against boys. If such crimes happened with boys, the case was filed under Section 377 of IPC and it was very difficult to prove such crimes. IPC didn’t include these as crimes. On each passing day, these cases were increasing very rapidly, but it was hard to prove because it was not rape.
India is a signatory to UNCRC (United Nations Convention of Rights of Children, Hence the POCSO Act was enacted to ensure a child-friendly procedure right from the stage of filing the report, as well as it fulfills the constitutional mandate of Article 15 (3), which talks about protection of women and children.
Salient features of this act
1. This act covers all types of offenses related to abuse in detail and didn’t leave any offense.
2. Every person under 18 will be considered a child.
3. Victim will be provided compensation.
4. Only the courts which are authorized will hear the cases related to POCSO. No other court is permitted the same.
5. The concept ‘Innocent Till Proven Guilty’ doesn’t apply in this act. If the complaint is registered, the person will be treated as the culprit.
6. The procedure is completely child-friendly. Everything procedure is done considering that the child doesn’t feel bad or uncomfortable.
7. If the child is abused at home, then the child will be relocated to a safe and new place by the Child Welfare Commission.
8. If the child needs medical consultancy, then the government or private or both hospitals will help the child without registration of case and culprit and the first aid will be given free of cost.
9. If anyone files a wrong case, just to defame the person, then that person will be treated as guilty and the case will take place against him.
10. Filing a case is mandatory. If a person knows that someone is being sexually abused or will be abused in the future and he didn’t report against it, then the case can be done against him too.
Who are the offenders?
Gender is not considered in this. Both male and female can be held as culprits.
An offender can be relative, Public Servant, Police, Member of Armed/Security Forces, Management/Staff of Jails and/or custodial institutions/Staff of hospital, educational or religious institution, the person in the position of Trust or Authority, Owner, Management or staff of institution providing services to the child or a Juvenile can also be an offender.
Punishment if found guilty
1. Penetrative sexual assault (section 3), includes penetration (of any object or body part) into any private parts or mouth of the child, manipulating any body parts of the child, making the child penetrate the offenders or any third person’s body where punishment can be from 10 years to life imprisonment.
2. The penetrative assault becomes aggravated sexual assault (section 5) when the abuser is in the position of authority or position of trust or if the victim is related by blood or if the victim becomes pregnant, or if the child suffers injuries, or due to the penetrative assault.
3. The offense of sexual assault (section 7), occurs when the abuser fondles the private part of the child or makes the child fondle the private part of the offender. This offense is touch-based and includes the sexual intent of the offender.
4. The sexual assault becomes aggravated (section 9 sexual assault) depending on the relation of the abuser with the victim, nature of the assault, and impact of the assault.
5. Sexual harassment (section 11) is non-touch based, sexual intent is required, there could be sexual content shared or shown to the victim over messages or other forms of communication. Any form of vulgar or abusive gesture is also considered too sexual harassment.
6. Using the child for pornographic purposes (section 13), where storing any nude pictures of the child or filming of the nude child is considered to be an offense.
7. Abetment (encourage to commit offense) and attempt to commit an offense under POCSO is also punishable. Abetment will be punished with the same consequences as the offender and Attempt to Commit will be punished with half punishment as compared to the offender.
8. A child can also be punished for offense, concerning the Juvenile Justice Act. Under the recent amendment of the Juvenile Justice Act, if the child has committed an offense that carries more than 7 years of Punishment, then that case will be heard by the Children’s Court and punishment will be given as prescribed under the POCSO Act. If the offender is under 16, then the minimum punishment is 20 years along with fine.