CHILDLINE India Foundation » DOCUMENTS & REPORTS » Cause Viewpoint » The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, Passed.
In a landmark moment in India's history, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 was passed by the Lok Sabha on 22nd May, 2012.
The Bill was first presented in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha and then referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee. The Standing Committee had submitted their report on the 21st of December, 2011. The Rajya Sabha gave its nod in May this year.
The Bill which remained pending for a long time is a necessity in a country where 40 percent of the population is below the age of 18. Also, in the absence of stringent laws against Child Sexual Abuse (CSA), over 53 per cent children surveyed in 2007 stated that they had experienced one or more forms of sexual abuse.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 has been drafted to specifically address the issue of sexual offences committed against children, which until now had been tried under laws that did not differentiate between adult and child victims.
The punishments provided in the law are also stringent and are commensurate with the gravity of the offence. The offence is considered 'aggravated' if committed by a person in a position of authority such as a public servant or member of the security forces.
The law defines a child as anyone below the age of 18 years and does not differentiate between a boy or girl child victim. The law has also taken a big step forward in including not only penetrative assault under the ambit of sexual abuse but also expanded the definition to include visual, verbal and physical sexual abuse as well.
Punishment for Offences covered in the Act are:
Various child friendly procedures are put in place at various stages of the judicial process for reporting of the crime, recording of evidence, investigation and trial of offences in this Act. The possibility of establishment of Special Courts for trial of offences under the law has also been provided for. Also, the Special Court is to complete the trial within a period of one year, as far as possible. Disclosing the name of the child in the media is a punishable offence, punishable by up to one year.
The law provides for relief and rehabilitation of the child, as soon as the complaint is made to the Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU) or to the local police. These agencies are required to make immediate arrangements to give the child adequate care and protection such as admitting the child into a shelter home or to the nearest hospital within twenty-four hours of the report. The Child Welfare Committee (CWC) is also required to be notified within 24 hours of recording the complaint.
Child friendly procedures incorporated in the Act:
An important step forward is also the recognition of the intent of committing an offence, which has also been provided for with the possibility of punishment of up to half the punishment that has been provided for the actual committing of the crime. Abetment of the offence is also considered punishable for their role in aiding the sexual abuse of a child.
The burden of proof lies on the accused in any case of Child Sexual Abuse.
However, for preventing the misuse of the law, there is also a punishment provided for making a false complaint or providing false evidence. It remains to be seen how this provision is utilised in the future.
A duty on the Central and State Governments is to spread awareness through media including television, radio and the print media at regular intervals to make the general public, children as well as their parents and guardians aware of the provisions of this Act.
It is a mandate of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and State Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) to monitor the implementation of the Act.
*The President's signature is still pending. Only after the signature will the Bill be actually considered a Law.