Ten years after the enactment of The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, which deals specifically with child sexual abuse, an analysis of POCSO cases across India has found gaps in its implementation – including increasing pendency of cases and a high rate of acquittals.
GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to Children, Government Interventions and Policies, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of Government Policies)
Dimensions of the Article:
- Key findings on crimes against children
- About Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012
- Salient features of the Act
- Contention/Criticisms around implementation of POCSO
- About POCSO Amendment Act 2019
Key findings on crimes against children
- The analysis has found that 43.44% of trials under POCSO end in acquittals while only 14.03% end in convictions. For every one conviction in a POCSO case, there are three acquittals.
- Acquittals are significantly higher than convictions for all the states studied.
- For instance, in Andhra Pradesh, acquittals are seven times more than convictions;
- In West Bengal, acquittals are five times more than convictions.
- In Kerala, the gap between acquittal and conviction is not very high with acquittals constituting 20.5% of the total disposals and convictions constituting 16.49%.
- Out of 138 judgements looked at in detail by the study, only in 6% of the cases were the accused people strangers to the victim.
- While in 44% of the cases, the relationship between the victim and accused had not been identified, 22.9% accused were known to the victims, 3.7% were family members and 18% of cases had a prior romantic relationship.
- As per data published by the National Crime Record Bureau in 2021, in 96% of the cases filed under the POCSO Act, 2012, the accused was a person known to the child victim – in 48.66% of cases, the accused is either a friend or a romantic partner of the victim.
- In these 138 cases, the study has found that 5.47% of victims were under 10 years of age, 17.8% between 10-15 years and 28% between 15-18 years.
- The age of the victim in 48% of cases was not identified.
- While the age of the accused was not identified in 63.6% of cases, in the rest around 11.6% of accused were between 19-25 years of age and 10.9% were between 25-35 years; 6.1% of accused were between 35-45 years and 6.8% were more than 45 years old.
About Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012
- The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 was enacted to provide a robust legal framework for the protection of children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography, while safeguarding the interest of the child at every stage of the judicial process.
- The framing of the Act seeks to put children first by making it easy to use by including mechanisms for child-friendly reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and speedy trial of offences through designated Special Courts.
- The Act provides for a variety of offences under which an accused can be punished. It recognises forms of penetration other than penile-vaginal penetration and criminalises acts of immodesty against children too. Offences under the act include:
- Penetrative Sexual Assault: Insertion of penis/object/another body part in child’s vagina/urethra/anus/mouth, or asking the child to do so with them or some other person
- Sexual Assault: When a person touches the child, or makes the child touch them or someone else
- Sexual Harassment: passing sexually coloured remark, sexual gesture/noise, repeatedly following, flashing, etc.
- Child Pornography
- Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault/ Aggravated Sexual Assault
Salient features of the Act
- The act is gender-neutral for both children and for the accused.
- With respect to pornography, the Act criminalises even watching or collection of pornographic content involving children.
- The Act makes abetment of child sexual abuse an offence.
- Defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age
- Provides for mandatory reporting of sexual offences, keeping with the best international child protection standards.
- Police cast in the role of child protectors during the investigative process: 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.
- Provisions for the medical examination of the child in a manner designed to cause as little distress as possible
- Provision of Special Courts: that conduct the trial in-camera and without revealing the identity of the child, in a child-friendly manner.
- Timely disposal of cases: A case of child sexual abuse must be disposed of within one year from the date the offence is reported.
- Recognition to a wide range of form of sexual abuse against children: as punishable offences.
- People who traffic children for sexual purposes are also punishable under the provisions relating to abetment in the Act. The Act prescribes stringent punishment graded as per the gravity of the offence, with a maximum term of rigorous imprisonment for life, and fine.
- Child-friendly process: It also provides for various procedural reforms, making the tiring process of trial in India considerably easier for children. The Act has been criticised as its provisions seem to criminalise consensual sexual intercourse between two people below the age of 18.
Contention/Criticisms around implementation of POCSO
Criticism in Definition of child
- The Act defines a child as a person under the age of 18 years. However, this definition is a purely biological one, and doesn’t take into account people who live with intellectual and psycho-social disability.
- A recent case in SC has been filed where a women of biological age 38yrs but mental age 6yrs was raped.
- The victim’s advocate argues that “failure to consider the mental age will be an attack on the very purpose of act.”
- SC has reserved the case for judgement and is determined to interpret whether the 2012 act encompasses the mental age or whether only biological age is inclusive in the definition.
Issue with the Mandatory Reporting feature
- According to the Act, every crime of child sexual abuse should be reported. If a person who has information of any abuse fails to report, they may face imprisonment up to six months or may be fined or both.
- Many child rights and women rights organisation has criticised this provision. According to experts, this provision takes away agency of choice from children.
- There may be many survivors who do not want to go through the trauma of criminal justice system, but this provision does not differentiate.
- Furthermore, mandatory reporting may also hinder access to medical aid, and psycho-social intervention.
- It contradicts the right to confidentiality for access to medical, and psychological care.
Contradiction with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
- The POCSO Act was passed to strengthen legal provisions for the protection of children below 18 years of age from sexual abuse and exploitation.
- Under this Act, if any girl under 18 is seeking abortion the service provider is compelled to register a complaint of sexual assault with the police.
- However, under the MTP Act, it is not mandatory to report the identity of the person seeking an abortion.
- Consequently, service providers are hesitant to provide abortion services to girls under 18.
Issue with Legal Aid
- Section 40 of the Act allows victims to access legal aid. However, that is subject to Code of Criminal Procedure.
- In other words, the lawyer representing a child can only assist the Public Prosecutor, and file written final arguments if the judge permits.
- Thus, the interest of the victim often go unrepresented.
Issue with Consent
- The law presumes all sexual act with children under the age of 18 is sexual offence.
- Therefore, two adolescent who engage in consensual sexual act will also be punished under this law.
- This is especially a concern where adolescent is in relationship with someone from different caste, or religion.
- Parents have filed cases under this Act to ‘punish’ relationships they do not approve of.
About POCSO Amendment Act 2019
- Increases the minimum punishment (including death penalty) for penetrative sexual assault, aggravated penetrative sexual assault.
- The earlier amendment allowed the death penalty only in cases of sexual assault of girls below 12 years but now it will be applicable to boys also.
- Adds assault resulting in death of child, and assault committed during a natural calamity, or in any similar situations of violence into Aggravated penetrative sexual assault.
- Tightened the provisions to counter child pornography. While the earlier Act had punishment for storing child pornography for commercial purposes, the amendment includes punishment for possessing pornographic material in any form involving a child, even if the accused persons have failed to delete or destroy or report the same with an intention to share it.
- The Act defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a child including photograph, video, digital or computer-generated image indistinguishable from an actual child.
-Source: Indian Express
Recently, India’s first privately developed launch vehicle, Vikram-S, blasted off on its maiden flight from the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO’s) Sriharikota .
GS III: Science and Technology
Dimensions of the Article:
- About Vikram-S
- Prarambh mission
- Vikram-S is India’s first privately developed rocket and is all set to be launched as part of the Prarambh space mission.
- It is a single-stage sub-orbital launch vehicle which would carry three customer payloads.
- Sub-orbital flight are those vehicles which are travelling slower than the orbital velocity – meaning it is fast enough to reach outer space but not fast enough to stay in an orbit around the Earth.
- It would help test and validate the majority of the technologies in the Vikram series of space launch vehicles.
- It was developed by the Hyderabad-based Skyroot Aerospace.
- The Prarambh mission is aimed at carrying three payloads into space, including a 2.5-kilogram payload that has been developed by students from several countries.
- Skyroot’s launch vehicles are named ‘Vikram’ as a tribute to the founder of the Indian space program and renowned scientist Vikram Sarabhai.
- The Prarambh mission and the Vikram-S rocket were developed by the Hyderabad-based startup with extensive support from Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and IN-SPACe (Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre).
-Source: Indian Express
North Korea said it test fired its massive new Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), in what analysts said may be the first successful launch of the system after doubts were raised about earlier claims.
GS III: Science and Technology
Dimensions of the Article:
- How big is North Korea’s Hwasong-17 ‘monster missile’?
- How far can it fly?
How big is North Korea’s Hwasong-17 ‘monster missile’?
- The Hwasong-17 is nuclear-armed North Korea’s biggest missile yet, and is the largest road-mobile, liquid-fuelled ICBM in the world.
- Its diameter is estimated to be between 2.4 and 2.5 metres, and its total mass, when fully fuelled, is likely somewhere between 80,000 and 110,000 kg, according to 38 North, a U.S.-based programme that monitors North Korea.
- Unlike North Korea’s earlier ICBMs, the Hwasong-17 is launched directly from a transporter, erector, launcher (TEL) vehicle with 11 axles, photos by state media showed.
How far can it fly?
- The missile launched, flew nearly 1,000 km (621 miles) for about 69 minutes and reached a maximum altitude of 6,041 km, state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.
- Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the weapon could travel as far as 15,000 km (9,320 miles), enough to reach the continental United States.
- The Hwasong-17’s size has prompted analysts to speculate that it will be designed to carry multiple warheads and decoys to better penetrate missile defences.
- Some observers said that the satellite technology that North Korea claimed to have tested in the Feb 27 and March 5 launches could also be used for a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) system, potentially allowing a single missile to drop nuclear warheads on different targets.
-Source: Indian Express
Recently, events to commemorate the martyrdom of Uda Devi, a freedom fighter from the Pasi community, were held at various places in Uttar Pradesh, including Sikandar Bagh in Lucknow. Dalit men and women from UP as well as Madhya Pradesh, Bengal, and Bihar gathered to pay homage to Uda Devi.
GS I: Personalities in News
Who was Uda Devi?
- Uda Devi is remembered not only for her stories of valour but also for her skill as a leader who managed to mobilise people — specially Dalit women — to take up arms against the British.
- Born in Ujirao, Lucknow, she was part of the royal guard of Begum Hazrat Mahal of Awadh.
- Her husband, Makka Pasi, worked as a foot soldier in the army of Awadh’s Nawab, Wajid Ali Shah.
- Hazrat Mahal’s palace had several women belonging to marginalised communities, and their occupation was mostly to take care of the needs of the royalty.
- Some of them, who showed promise, were also trained as warriors. Uda Devi was one of them.
- Amid the revolt of 1857, at Chinhat near Ismailganj, a battle was fought between the army of Lucknow and the British troops led by Henry Lawrence, in which Makka Pasi lost his life.
- The death of her husband spurred Uda Devi on to take up a more active role in the mutiny.
- On November 16, 1857, Uda Devi was among the soldiers who clashed with the British regiment stationed near the Gomti River.
- Although not much of the fight has been documented in history, it is said that Uda Devi killed at least three dozen British soldiers from atop a tree before she could be spotted.
- A battalion shot this mysterious killer down and she landed on the ground, covered in blood. It was only when her helmet was removed that people realised that a woman was responsible for the killings.