On the path of combating the increasing rate of child sexual abuse, WCD (Women and Child Development) Minister Smriti Irani, on 1st August, re-introduced the previous bill related to sexual crime against children on enhancing the punishment for the culprit, which included the death penalty. In addition to this, the bill also includes a punishment of up to 7 years for the offense of child pornography.
The amended bill highlighted the issues of sexual abuse by mentioning that “…there is a strong need to take stringent measures to deter the rising trend of child sex abuse in the country, the proposed amendments make provisions for enhancement of punishments for various offenses to deter the perpetrators and ensure safety, security and dignified childhood for a child,”
Mr. Virendra Kumar originally introduced the bill in January 2019, but it lapsed. But this time, the bill called for stringent punishment for aggravated sexual abuse committed upon children under Sections 4 (Punishment for penetrative sexual assault), 5 (Aggravated penetrative sexual assault) and 6 (Punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault) of the POCSO(Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act,2012.
Highlights of the Amended POCSO Bill 2019
- The bill, which was approved by Rajya Sabha, defined child pornography, and made it punishable.
- As per the new bill, “Whoever commits aggravated penetrative sexual assault shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall be not less than 20 years, but which may extend to imprisonment for life, which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of the natural life of that person and shall also be liable to fine or with death”.
- The new bill also gives power to the Centre to make rules “for the manner of deleting or destroying or reporting about pornographic material in any form involving a child to the designated authority.”
- It says that any person who commits child pornography should be punished with imprisonment for up to 7 years and a fine.
- The bill even highlighted the appropriate reason for the commission of such a crime. It said that the unequal balance of power leading to the gruesome act might detriment the child’s mind to believe that might is right, and thus ultimately, those victims become more abusive later in their life.
- Congress MP Mr. Ramya Haridas raised the famous Unnao rape case in the House, countering to which Mrs. Irani said that the bill is for punishing the offenders of such barbaric crime, and the same should not be viewed for any political or personal benefits.
- The bill is a gender-neutral one supporting the 39 percent of the total population of almost 43 crore children irrespective of their gender.
- Offering the Death Penalty to the offenders, Mrs. Irani said, “we want to provide added protection to children and in rarest of rare cases, the death penalty.”
- A major step taken in this regard is Capital punishment given in those cases where a juvenile is involved. The bill said that if the juvenile is above 16 years, the death penalty could be given if the juvenile justice board finds that the juvenile has an adult mind.
- Sharing the details of awareness programs related to sexual offenses against children, Mrs. Irani assured that CBSE would start awareness programs in schools making the children aware of good and bad touch. Around 40,000 teachers will be given the proper training.