Criminal Trident Pack: IPC, CrPC and IEA by Sr. Adv. G.S Shukla and Adv. Raghav Arora
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India has been witnessing an upsurge of sexual violence against children for some time now. Our rapidly expanding media sector has been reporting frequent cases every other day. All such cases have been promoting public anger amongst the scared families crying for the need of stringent efficiency in laws against such sexual offences targeting children around the country. 

Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is a mental or physical violation of a child with sexual intent. Such offence is generally committed by a person who is in the position of power and trust of a child. It is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation. The various effects of Child Sexual Abuse include depression, anxiety, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. It also often leads the victim’s future in jeopardy. 

Child Sexual Abuse includes molestation, rapes, sexual harassment, etc. It is a rather nerve chilling fact that thousands of boys and girls in India are being sexually abused within and outside their homes often by relatives or known people.

LAWS REGARDING CSA:

To overcome the growing menace of sex crimes against children in India, there is an entire legal framework of rights and punishments guaranteed to acknowledge the growing public concern over the issue. 

Situation before 2012:

Up until 2012, there were no apt laws in India to deal specifically with the crimes relating to Child Sexual Abuse. There was only one specific piece of child abuse act before 2012, namely the Goa Children’s Act 2003. All the other forms of Child Sexual Abuse came under the following sections of the Indian Penal Code:

  • Section 375: Rape
  • Section 354: Outraging the modesty of a woman
  • Section 377: Unnatural offences
  • Section 509: Word, Gesture, or Act intended to insult the modesty of a woman

However, these sections of the Indian Penal Code could not effectively protect the child from abuse due to various loopholes. These sections were not specific to the sexual abuse against children, they did not include the male victim, and there was lack of description of the offence itself under these sections.

Situation after 2012:

Due to tones of cases coming to light and the lack of laws for the protection of children and prosecution of the culprit in such cases of Child Sexual Abuse; the Parliament of India passed the ‘Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Bill, 2011’ regarding the Child Sexual Abuses on 22nd May 2012 into an Act. The POCSO Act received the President’s assent on 19th June 2012 and was notified in the Gazette of India on 20th June 2012.

Salient features of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012:

  • Under the POCSO act, Child is defined as a person below the age of 18 years
  • The act provides for a clear description of offences against children such as Penetrative Sexual Assault, Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, use of a child for Pornographic purposes
  • The act is a gender-neutral act and the consent of the child is also immaterial 
  • The act includes child-friendly procedures for reporting and recording of sexual abuse 
  • Section 19(1) of the act also makes it mandatory to report such offences
  • The act also provides protection to minors during the judicial process

Six types of Sexual Offences defined in the POCSO Act, 2012:

  1. Penetrative Sexual Assault (Section-3)
  2. Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault (Section-5)
  3. Sexual Assault (Section-7)
  4. Aggravated Sexual Assault (Section-9)
  5. Sexual Harassment (Section-11)
  6. Using child for Pornographic Purposes (Section-13)

Punishments listed under the POCSO Act, 2012:

  • Penetrative sexual assault: Not less than 7 years, this may extend to life imprisonment, and fine (Section 4)
  • Aggravated penetrative sexual assault: Not less than 10 years, this may extend to rigorous life imprisonment, and a fine (Section 6)
  • Non-penetrative sexual assault: Not less than 3 years, this may extend to 5 years, and a fine (Section 10)
  • Aggravated non-penetrative sexual assault: Not less than 5 years, this may extend to 7 years, and a fine (Section 10)
  • Sexual Harassment: 3 years and a fine (Section 12)
  • Use of minor for pornographic purposes: 5 years and a fine, and in the event of second conviction- 7 years and fine (Section 14(1))
  • Attempt of offence: 1 year and/or fine (Section 18)
  • Abetment of offence: Same as that of the offence (Section 17)
  • Failure to report an offence: 6 months and/or a fine (Section 21)

CONCLUSION:

Crimes relating to sexual abuse of a child have always had a shadow cast over them. It is essential that the parents or the guardians of the child be sensitive towards the delicacy of the situation of the child. Parents must create a healthy and protective environment for their children as well as guide them on how to protect themselves or confide in their parents when encountered with such situations.

The passing of the POCSO has also been a major step forward taken by the Parliament towards securing children’s rights and further protecting them against sexual abuse. The POCSO has made a significant contribution to tackling the problem of Child Sexual Abuse in India and it has further identified as well as criminalized a range of unacceptable sexual behaviours that pose a threat to children.


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