Firstpost Explains: How POCSO got more teeth after Cabinet nod to include death penalty for child abuse

In an effort to combat cases of child sexual abuse, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments in the POSCO Act by specifying death penalty as the punishment for sexual assault against minors. The amendments in the act also provide for imprisonment and fines to prevent child pornography.

 Firstpost Explains: How POCSO got more teeth after Cabinet nod to include death penalty for child abuse

Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad addresses reporters after Union Cabinet gave its nod to amend provisions of the POSCO ACT. PTI

What is the POSCO Act?

The Protection of Children from Sexual Abuses (POSCO) Act, 2012 came into existence to address the issue of sexual abuse against children by providing strict legal provisions. The act defines a child as someone below 18 years of age and places emphasis on the well-being of the child to ensure her/his all-round development.

It highlights various forms of sexual abuse including penetrative, non-penetrative, as well as sexual harassment, pornography, and child trafficking. Punishment under the Act is as per the gravity of the offence and can range from life imprisonment to fine.

Punishment for Offences in the Act

Section 3 of the Act deals with 'penetrative sexual abuse' while Section 4 specifies imprisonment for the offense which may range from seven years to life imprisonment. 'Aggravated penetrative sexual assault' is mentioned in Article 5. The punishment for this form of offense is imprisonment ranging from ten years to life imprisonment, states Article 6.

Section 7 deals with 'sexual assault' or sexual contact without penetration. Section 8 states that the punishment for such offense is not less than three years and may extend to five years, and fine. Section 9 addresses 'aggravated sexual assault' while Section 10 states the punishment for such an offense ranges from five to seven years, and fine.

'Sexual harassment' of the child is mentioned in Section 11 while Section 12 states the punishment for such an offense is three years and a fine. Section 13 deals with the 'use of children for pornographic purposes'. Section 14 states that the punishment for such offense is five years and fine in case of a subsequent conviction.

Amendments in the POSCO Act

The Union Cabinet has approved amendments in certain provisions of the POSCO Act, 2012 to combat growing instances of child sexual abuse and address any vagueness pertaining to the Act.

“To discourage the trend of child sexual abuse by acting as a deterrent Section-4, Section-5 and Section-6 are proposed to be amended to provide the option of stringent punishment, including death penalty, for committing aggravated penetrative sexual assault on a child to protect the children from sexual abuse,” the government said in a statement after the Cabinet meeting.

Amendments have also been proposed in Section 9 of the Act for the protection of children from sexual offenses in cases of natural disasters and other situations where children are administered any substance, making them attain ''early sexual maturity for the purpose of penetrative assault''.

“Section-14 and Section-15 of the POCSO Act are proposed to be amended to address the menace of the child pornography,” the government said. A fine can be levied on any person for not deleting or reporting pornographic material involving a child. The punishment may even be in the form of a jail term. The amendments in the Sections 4, 5, 6, 9, 14, 15 and 42 of the POCSO Act have been proposed to deal with various “aspects” of child sexual abuse in an “appropriate manner.”

"This is a wholesome initiative, whereby the entire POCSO architecture is not only strengthened but also enlarged, so that artificial medicines or hormones could not be abused to kill the childliness of a child. An unfortunate thing was going on in the country that children were being administered hormones to make them artificially major," Union Law Minister Ravishankar Prasad told reporters.

Updated Date: Jul 11, 2019 16:39:25 IST