No plan to revise age of consent, Centre tells RS
Why in News?
- The government does not yet have a plan to revise the age of consent under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 despite appeals from the judiciary to lower it from the current 18 years to 16 years.
About the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act:
- The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development led the introduction of the POCSO Act in 2012.
- The Act was designed to protect children from sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography offences, as well as to provide for the establishment of Special Courts for the trial of such offences.
- The Act was amended in 2019 for enhancing the punishments for specific offences in order to deter abusers and ensure a dignified childhood.
- A gender-neutral law: The POCSO Act establishes a gender-neutral tone for the legal framework available to child sexual abuse victims by defining a child as “any person” under the age of 18.
- Not reporting abuse is an offence: Any person (except children) in charge of an institution who fails to report the commission of a sexual offence relating to a subordinate is liable to be punished.
- No time limit for reporting abuse: A victim can report an offence at any time, even a number of years after the abuse has been committed.
- Maintaining confidentiality of the victim’s identity: The Act prohibits disclosure of the victim’s identity in any form of media, except when permitted by the special courts established under the act.
New obligations under the POCSO Rules 2020:
- Any institution housing children or coming in regular contact is required to conduct a periodic police verification and background check of every employee.
- Such an institution must impart regular training to sensitise its employees on child safety and protection.
- The institution has to adopt a child protection policy based on the principle of zero tolerance for violence against children.
POCSO Act’s performance in comparison to global standards:
- A 2019 Economist Intelligence Unit report ranked India’s legal system for safeguarding children from sexual abuse and exploitation as the best of the countries surveyed.
- On this metric, India outranked the United Kingdom, Sweden and Australia.
- Despite the existence of such comprehensive child sexual abuse law, the scale of such abuse is staggering.
- According to a recent survey, one in every two children is a victim of sexual abuse in India.
- Furthermore, in the vast majority of cases, the perpetrators are known to the victim, causing the victim to be hesitant to approach authorities for redress.
- Incidents of child abuse have also risen exponentially since the Covid-19 pandemic, with the emergence of new forms of cybercrime.
- The general level of awareness or knowledge on the part of minor girls and boys of the POCSO Act remains severely inadequate in the country.
- Child marriage is common among certain tribal groups in the country, resulting in the criminalisation of 17-18 years old youths due to a lack of knowledge of the POCSO Act.
- Recently, the Karnataka HC has directed the State Education Department to set up a mechanism for educating students, at least from Class IX onwards about the act and its provisions.