Video Summary

[RSTV The Big Picture] POCSO & Exclusive Courts

The child sexual abuse is an under-reported offence in India, which has reached epidemic proportion. The time has come to "introspect" on the "effectiveness" of the law to protect children from sexual abuse and what has been achieved in the nearly six years since the enactment of the POCSO Act.
By IT's Video Summary Team
August 03, 2019

Contents

  • Why it was in news?
  • IT’s Input
  • Reason behind large child abusive cases in spite of POCSO act
  • Are fast track courts enough to address POCOSO violations?
  • Challenges and Suggestions
  • Should Death penalty be given for POCSO violators?
  • Conclusion
  • Key Facts

 

[RSTV The Big Picture] POCSO & Exclusive Courts

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Why it was in news?

  • The Supreme Court directed the Centre to set up a dedicated special court in every district which has over 100 cases under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) pending.
  • The apex court gave this mandate with a deadline of 60 days, as it was concerned about the slow pace at which child sexual abuse cases are being dealt with.
  • Currently, 1.5 lakh POCSO cases are pending in 670 designated courts and only 3% victims in POCSO cases received compensation in 2015, which increased to only 4% and 5% in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
  • To address this, the apex court asked for the Centre to set up special courts, which should be funded by the Centre as well.

IT’s Input:

About the POCSO Act:

  • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012 was formulated in order to effectively address sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children.
  • The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age.
  • It defines different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative assault, as well as sexual harassment and pornography. It deems a sexual assault to be “aggravated” under certain circumstances, such as when the abused child is mentally ill or when the abuse is committed by a person in a position of trust or authority like a family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor.
  • The Act casts the police in the role of child protectors during the investigative process. Thus, the police personnel receiving a report of sexual abuse of a child are given the responsibility of making urgent arrangements for the care and protection of the child, such as obtaining emergency medical treatment for the child and placing the child in a shelter home, and bringing the matter in front of the CWC, should the need arise.
  • The Act further makes provisions for avoiding the re-victimisation of the child at the hands of the judicial system.
  • It provides for special courts that conduct the trial in-camera and without revealing the identity of the child. Hence, the child may have a parent or other trusted person present at the time of testifying and can call for assistance from an interpreter, special educator, or other professional while giving evidence.
  • Above all, the Act stipulates that a case of child sexual abuse must be disposed of within one year from the date the offence is reported.
  • The Act also provides for mandatory reporting of sexual offences. This casts a legal duty upon a person who has knowledge that a child has been sexually abused to report the offence; if he fails to do so, he may be punished with six months’ imprisonment and/ or a fine.

Reason behind large child abusive cases in spite of POCSO act:

  • The Indian judiciary permits each criminal to have a fair trial. This judicial system has led to the large pendency of cases in the court, including POCOSO act violation cases.
  • As per a 2006 survey, 88% children under the survey reveals that they have been physically abuse by their parents. It is practically impossible for the children to report such cases against the persons who are closest to them decreasing the reporting of such cases.
  • In the fast changing scenario of the society, interacting too much with each other (for instance, parents and child) may lead to gap in understanding of each other. This may result in such crimes from the family people known around children.
  • Moreover, people think that he/she can get away with the law as it would take too much time for court decision to come.
  • Social media exposure is also one of the reason for high number of child abuses.
  • Sometimes, the kind of intake food being taken, hampers the biological and mental makeup of human body which in turn shows the way people interact with each other, in which, children are most vulnerable group.
  • Some children are being threaten or scared by saying them that the complaining to the police will get you in more trouble than what is currently he/she is facing.

Are fast track courts enough to address POCOSO violations?

  • Previously, the government had established the fast track courts for heinous crimes against women such as rape. Especially after Nirbhaya case (Delhi 2012), the government has made sure that there are enough fast track courts for rapists.
  • However, having fast track courts is not enough. There must be special coaching/training provided to the judges regarding dealing with specific crime for which the fast track courts have been set up.
  • The judges should be sensitized about the law regarding the criminology, the psychology of the criminal who commits crime, latest law and sensitivity of the crime.
  • To save time, these training should be given side by side while handling a case as the training cannot be provided at the expense of holding a case.
  • Also, there needs to be at least one lady judge as it is more comfortable for a child victim to open up his/her problem to a lady.

Challenges and Suggestions:

Hard to comprehend by children:

  • Children are not able to comprehend many of the ads and campaigns related to the abuses.

Suggestion:

  • There is a need for multi-pronged approach for spreading awareness on sexual offenses. This include the spreading of right information to the children in which they can understand.
  • For example, POCOSO act can be the part of their school curriculum in which the teacher can use his/her ‘teacher-student interaction advantage’ to impart knowledge on child abuse.

Nonfunctional village level child protection committees:

  • At the village level, there are child protection committees, however, not many of them are constituted or functional.

Suggestion:

  • An NGO named ‘Save the children’ is making active efforts in Jharkhand and West Bengal for making village level child protection committees functional.
  • The job description of the child protection officials including their role and how can they put cases on fast track are lacking. Hence, it needs to be strengthened.

Less awareness:

  • The awareness about child sexual abuse is lacking in parents, teachers and even among people of armed forces and doctors. Many adults have even did not heard about POCSO act.
  • In most of the remote villages, there is absence of training on how to act against child abuse. Also, the school syllabus does not shed any light on various aspects of child abuse.
  • In these remote villages, even the criminal and victim, both don’t understand what is a child abuse and how to draw a line between what is right and what is wrong.
  • This lead the society in a situation where some metropolitan cities have full awareness on child abuse while remote villages have none.
  • Even after the Nirbhaya case which widen the definition of rape and made punishment more stringent, there are almost rape cases as well as violation of POCSO act every day.

Suggestion:

  • A child should be taught, at the age of nearly 8 years, about the distinction between good touch and bad touch.
  • Hence, the state and central government should take child awareness campaign very seriously. Also, the civil society should also take initiatives by conducting social workshops and interactions. (For example, anti-smoking campaign being shown before any movie in theatres).

Other suggestions:

  • On the lines of Justice delayed is justice denied, India should keep a balance between the speedy trial of violation cases and the ensuring no innocent person is punished.
  • Children should be empowered to speak up against abuse.
  • The parents need to be communicative to children to know the situation of the child whether he/she is facing abuse.
  • Both men and women should be equally treated in addressing cases related to sexual offences.
  • There has to be check on the internet about the child pornography sites which needs to be banned.
  • Some state government are proving as a good example of protection against abuse. For example, the SHE police teams in Hyderabad, which is a mobile police van, curbs eve teasing and provides safety to women in the city. This type of efforts put faith in children who are facing violence.

Should Death penalty be given for POCSO violators?

  • If the violator is from the family of the child, then the death penalty will prove more deterrent as the child will try to defend their family member. This put further pressure on the child.
  • Moreover, this can lead to less reporting of the POCOSO violations.

Conclusion:

  • The POCOSO act is very strong in itself in providing the punishment to the violators. Even the death penalty for violation is being considered in case of aggravated sexual assault.
  • The awareness is the most important thing in addressing child abuse issues that includes communication between the parents and child on how child is feeling inside and outside.
  • There should also be focus on the rehabilitation and counselling of children who have faced the child abuse.

Key Facts:

  • The Beijing Declaration resolution was adopted by the UN at the end of the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. The resolution adopted to promulgate a set of principles concerning the equality of men and women.
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