In Focus: Protection of Children from Sexual OffencesPOSCO Act 2012

In Focus: Protection of Children from Sexual OffencesPOSCO Act 2012:

  • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act or the POCSO Act was enacted in 2012 to provide a robust legal framework for the protection of children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography, while safeguarding the interests of children at every stage of the judicial process.
  • The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age, and regards the best interests and welfare of the child as matter of paramount importance at every stage, to ensure the healthy physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of the child.
  • The act is gender neutral.

POCSO (Amendment) Act 2019:

  • The amendments cover 21 kinds of sexual crimes that come under the definition of aggravated penetrative sexual assault against children.
  • The definition of ‘sexual assault’ has now been expanded to include administration of hormones to children to make them appear more sexually mature for the sake of commercial sexual exploitation.
  • The POCSO amendments also make punitive measures more stringent in cases of child pornography.
  • The amendment has also added an additional category of sexual assault of children who are victims of calamities or natural disasters which now is liable for maximum term of life sentence or death penalty.
  • Increase in punishment:
    • Increase in the minimum punishment from seven to ten years for ‘penetrative sexual assault’ of 16-17 year olds
    • Increase in the minimum punishment to 20 years for ‘penetrative sexual assault’ of child below the age of 16 years
    • The maximum term of life imprisonment in such cases has been retained.

  • The act also provides for death penalty for aggravated sexual assault. This includes
    • Cases of child rape by police, armed forces, relatives, public servants or management of remand/protection homes and healthcare personnel
    • Sexual assault using weapons
    • Rape of children with mental/physical disabilities
    • Children harmed in sexual organs, impregnated etc.

POCSO Rules, 2020:

  • The Union government has notified the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Rules, 2020 which enables implementation of 2019 amendments to the Act.
  • The rules for the first time defined child pornography and provided for crackdown for possession of pornographic material involving children.
  • Significant additions in the new rules
    • Zero-tolerance to violence against children:
      • The rules specify that state governments must formulate a child protection policy based on the principle of zero-tolerance to violence against children.
      • The policy shall be adopted by all institutions, organisations, or any other agency working with children.

    • Compensation to the victim child:
      • It empowers the Special Court to pass an order for interim compensation to meet the needs of the child for relief or rehabilitation at any stage after registration of the First Information Report (FIR).
      • The State Government shall pay the compensation ordered by the Special Court within 30 days of receipt of such order.

    • It makes accountable those platforms on which child pornography is circulated.

  • Create widespread awareness
    • Imparting age-appropriate child rights education:
      • The state government will have to prepare age-appropriate educational material and curriculum for children, informing them about various aspects of personal safety, including measures to protect their physical and virtual identity.

    • Mandatory police verification of staff in schools and care homes:
      • Any institution housing children or coming in regular contact with children including schools, crèches any other facility must ensure a police verification and background check of every staff member on periodic basis.

News Summary:

  • As per the NCRB’s “Crime in India” 2019 report, crimes against children increased by 4.5 per cent in 2019 as compared to 2018.
  • In its report, NCRB stated that as many as 1.5 lakh crimes against children were reported in 2019 in the country.
    • Out of this, 31% cases of crimes against children were registered under the POCSO Act.
    • 47% were related to kidnapping and abduction

  • This amounts to an 18.9% rise in cases filed under the POCSO over this period.
  • Cases filed under Pocso Act have steadily grown over the years, indicating better enforcement of the amendments in Pocso Act by addition of certain grounds for the cases to be registered under the Act.

States with most crime against children:

  • Maharashtra accounted for 13.2% of the total crimes against children reported in 2019, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh whose share was 12.8% each.
  • Delhi had the second highest rate of crime against children (cases per lakh population) at 139.