RS passes bill amending POCSO Act: Derek O'Brien shares trauma of sexual assault, Smriti Irani lauds TMC leader's courage

"Over six lakh sexual offenders have been registered under the National Sexual Offenders Registry (NSOR) in India" — the Minister of Women and Child Development Smriti Irani told the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday while discussing The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Upper House of the Parliament has passed the amendment legislation.

Irani further asserted on the importance of defining aggravated penetrative sexual assault under the POCSO Act. Proposal to teach children about "good touch and bad touch" has been discussed with the HRD Minister, Irani said.

POCSO Amendment Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha by Irani on 18 July, 2019. The Bill amends the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. The Act seeks to protect children from offences such as sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography.

At least, 28 members spoke in favour of the amendment.

I was sexually molested when I was 13: Derek O'Brien tells Rajya Sabha

All India Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien said that prevention of such offences should be looked into. Most cases begin at home with a relative where the family tells the victim to remain silent, he said.

"We should encourage families to come out and speak about this," O'Brien added. Speaking about his own experience of sexual assault when he was 13-years-old, the TMC leader added that it took him many years to tell others about the experience.

"I was sexually molested when I was 13-years-old. The more people will talk about it, the more children will be safe," he added.

 RS passes bill amending POCSO Act: Derek OBrien shares trauma of sexual assault, Smriti Irani lauds TMC leaders courage

File image of Smriti Irani. PTI

O'Brien said that the government must encourage families to report such cases and talk about the same. Punishment is important but the government must address the root of the issue, he says.

Recounting O'Brien's abuse that he faced during his teens, Irani stressed how such incidents leave an imprint on mind. "After 46 years of the incdient, Derek revealed to the world what happened to him. We should applaud this," said Irani.

PDP leader from Jammu and Kashmir Nazir Ahmed Laway said that when a girl child is raped and murdered, it should be considered a case of double murder because not only the child, but her family and the nation are also murdered. Hence the strictest punishment should be meted out to the perpetrator of such offences. Laway said that he was standing in the Parliament for all the mothers of the nation.

TDP member from Andhra Pradesh Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar said that mere legislation is not effective in such cases. The government should make sure it is implemented as well. He said sexual offences against children should be made the rarest of rare cases. "In the cases of the possession of pornography, minimum punishment should be meted out instead of just a mere fine," he said.

Kumar said a number offences against children go unreported. Moreover, thousands of cases are registered but police charges no one, he said. In the absence of a chargesheet, the courts cannot proceed. The government should ensure that the chargesheet is created by the respective police station when such cases come up.

He also added that special courts or fast-track courts should be implemented under the POCSO Act. Apart from the investigation and the court proceedings that take place, the government must also concern itself with the rehabilitation of the victim, he said.

NCP's Vandana Chavan said that the conviction rates under the POCSO Act are extremely low. On the other hand, the pendency or the waiting period for a settlement is extremely high. Although there is a clause in the Act that enables the constitution of special courts to deal with such cases and that such cases have to completed within a period of one year, pendency rates are high, she said.

Chavan also brough to notice the fact that session courts are given the status of the special courts. Because of the same, such courts continue with their day-to-day work and only once in a while undertake cases that come under the POCSO Act. Hence, courts only dedicated to cases under the Act must come into being, she said. She added that such courts must maintain a child-friendly atmosphere. At present, even the questions asked to the child are not child-friendly and instead tend to add to the trauma.

Chavan further added that the government must take strict action to ensure that the identity of the child is protected. Moreover, the government must also look into the question of rehabilitation.

Over 6 lakh sexual offenders registered under NSOR: Smriti Irani

Addressing the Rajya Sabha, Irani said that she will bring in an amendment with regard to the communal and sectarian aspects of such crimes. Recognising the fact that justice delayed is justice denied, she said that the government has decided to implement constitution of 1,023 fast-track courts to deal with pending causes under the POCSO Act and cases dealing with violence against women. She also said that the establishment of these courts will be done within one financial year to ensure justice is delivered.

"I would like to inform the House that over six lakh sexual offenders have been registered under the National Sexual Offenders Registery," Irani informed the House.

Replying to Chavan's queries about session courts converting into courts that deal with cases under the POCSO Act, Irani said that the new courts that are to be implemented will only work on such cases. Irani further added that death penalty is only an option, and the government leaves it to the discretion of the courts. She said we can rely on the wisdom of the court to use the death penalty in the rarest of rare cases.

What is POCSO (Amendment) Bill 2019?

The Bill increases the minimum punsihment for 'penetrative sexual assault' from seven years to ten years, adding that if a person commits penetrative sexual assault on a child below the age of 16 years, he will be punishable with imprisonment between 20 years to life, with a fine.

Adding two more grounds to the defintion of 'aggravated penetrative sexual assault', the Bill includes, assault resulting in death of child, and assault committed during a natural calamity, or in any similar situations of violence. The Bill also increases minimum punishment from ten years to 20 years, and the maximum punishment to death penalty.

The Bill now also include administrating or help in administering any hormone or any chemical substance, to a child for the purpose of attaining early sexual maturity, as an aggravted penetrative sexual assault.

The Bill 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 and enhances the punishment for certain offences.

Updated Date: Jul 24, 2019 19:34:47 IST