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Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 (POCSO Act)

The POCSO Act was passed by the Parliament in 2012 to protect minors from crimes like child pornography, sexual assault, and harassment. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act is its POCSO full form. Under the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the Act was passed in 2012.

What is POCSO Act?

To make our nation’s children’s surroundings safer, the POCSO act 2012 was a significant step. It was implemented to safeguard kids from child pornography and other sexually explicit crimes including sexual harassment and abuse. In order to deal with such offences more effectively, this act calls for the establishment of Special Courts.

Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act ( POCSO ACT)
POCSO Act Full Form Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act
Year November 14, 2012
What does the POCSO act stand for? An Act to Prevent Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, and Pornographic Offences Against Children and Establish Special Courts to Try Such Offences and Matters Related Thereto or Incidental Thereto
POCSO Act Age Limit Under this law, minors under the age of 18 are protected.
POCSO Act Punishment The minimum punishment under the act is 10 years.

POCSO Act Provision

Monitoring and enforcing this law are the responsibilities of the Standing Committee for the Protection of Children’s Rights (SCPCR) and the National Commission for the Protection of Children’s Rights (NCPCR). It provides the generally recognised definition of a child, which includes kids of both sexes and everyone under eighteen.

Crimes should be reported, evidence gathered, inquiries made, and trials conducted in a child-friendly manner. Hearing the child’s testimony, ideally by a female police investigator not below the rank of sub-inspector, in their home or another venue of their choosing. A youngster cannot ever be kept overnight in a police station.

Interpreters need to be present to break down language barriers. An exceptional teacher or someone familiar with the child’s speaking style should be current if the child is disabled. The statement made by the youngster should be recorded verbatim. When recording the children’s testimony, the law enforcement official should be dressed casually to lessen their fear of police.

The offence and the child’s mental health should be considered when determining the severity of the fine and penalty. It creates specialised courts to handle the prosecution of such offences. The trial should be taken quickly and concluded within a year. The child will not be the target of an aggressive interrogation or verbal abuse. The child’s physical examination must occur before the legal guardian or another person with the child’s trust and respect. Long-term and brief therapy is offered through the Child Welfare Committee and the Juvenile Court Commission.

Check out the linked article on the UPSC CSE Syllabus 2024 here!

POCSO Act Importance

India has one of the largest populations of people under 18; the 2011 census indicated that there were 472 million such people in the country. Extending protection to this group of people who are already vulnerable is crucial to the nation’s functioning.

If Article 21 is carefully analyzed, one of the guarantees the State must uphold is the protection of children. India also ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Specific regulations must be implemented to protect children’s interests and their carefree childhood.

Before the POCSO Act’s implementation, the Constitution’s provisions for handling sexual offences against children were woefully inadequate. The Goa Children’s Act of 2003 was the only law to address child abuse specifically. These sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) handled the prosecution of all sexual offences and wrongdoings committed against children.

  • IPC (1860) 377- Unnatural offences
  • IPC (1860) 375- Rape
  • IPC (1860) 354- Outraging the modesty of a woman

Since this strategy had plenty of problems, few rules specifically catered to the children’s best interests. It had several flaws that made it impossible to provide children with the adequate and effective protection they needed, notably the fact that IPC 375 does not shield male victims from sexual offences involving penetration. 

The Constitution’s definition of “modesty” is distinctly ambiguous. Because it is not a compoundable offence, its violation has little impact on a punishment. Additionally, it doesn’t protect a boy’s modesty. ‘Unnatural offences’ were not defined under IPC 377, overturned in the historic 2018 decision. It was restricted to the sexual act of the attacker and did not consistently criminalize sexual acts against children.

These inconsistencies and inadequate safeguards justified the desire for reform, which was motivated by the need to protect children from such crimes. Consequently, the POCSO Act was put into effect.

Check out the linked article on the Constitution Day of India here!

POCSO Act Constitutional Provision

Every child is guaranteed the right to live a life of dignity and the right to privacy under Articles 21 and 24, as well as the rights to equality under Articles 14 and 15, protection from discrimination under Article 15, and protection from exploitation under Articles 23 and 24 of the Indian Constitution. It establishes the right to an elementary education under Article 21A for children between six and fourteen.
The Directive Principles of State Policy’s Article 39(f) requires state governments to ensure that children have equitable access to opportunities and resources to enjoy childhood and adolescence free from exploitation.

POCSO Act Salient Features

POCSO act age limit are those who are under the age of 18 according to the statute. This act has a gender-neutral position; hence the issue of gender exclusion in the prior acts was completely ignored. This law defines sexual abuse in a variety of ways that go beyond pornography, harassment, and penetrative or non-penetrative offences.

If the child is mentally ill and/or the perpetrator comes from a place of power and/or trust, such as a family member, doctor, teacher, etc., these crimes would be seen as “aggravated.” Since the POCSO act statute permits a police officer to intervene in the capacity of a child protector throughout the inquiry, it is crucial to prevent “re-victimization” of the kid within the legal system.

The inquiry procedure must be as kid-friendly as possible, and justice must be swiftly administered within a year of the incident being reported. Under this act, “Special Courts” have been established, which will only handle these offences with the care and sensibility they require. The 45th section of the statute grants the central government the power to enact regulations.

The responsibility for overseeing the application of the provisions of the act has been delegated to the State Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights (SCPCRs) and the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). These two powers both have a legal basis. According to section 42A, instances where one provision conflicts with another would be resolved in favour of the POCSO Act. The act mandates that sexual offences be reported. The use of these laws improperly for the aim of defaming a person is prohibited.

POCSO Act General Principle

The 2012 Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act included 12 fundamental concepts. All parties, including the state governments, child welfare committees, the Special Courts, and the Police, must abide by these. The following is a list of these 12 guiding concepts;

  1. Best Interest of the Child: The child’s holistic growth is the most important aspect of the procedure.
  2. Right to Life and Survival: The child shall be protected from all forms of psychological, physical, emotional, and mental harm in the most effective way possible.
  3. The right to be shielded from discrimination: Discrimination on any basis shall not accompany the administration of justice. It needs to be clear.
  4. Right to be treated with respect and compassion: Under the terms of the POCSO Act, victims must be given careful consideration at all times.
  5. Right to information: Children who are witnesses or victims of crimes should be given a full explanation of the legal process.
  6. Right to specific preventative measures: Because it’s more likely for abused children to experience abuse again than it is for them not, and because prevention is preferable to treatment, this act took preventive measures very seriously.
  7. The right to competent assistance: The legal system may be traumatic for a person in many ways, which is why many crimes go undetected since the emotional and financial costs are frequently too significant. Because of this, the statute includes legal, medical, counselling, psychological, and economic provisions.
  8. Children have the following rights: The right to be heard and to express opinions and concerns them.
  9. Right to be safeguarded from hardship during the justice process: When a kid is involved in the legal system, there is a very real secondary victimisation that takes place. We want to minimise this.
  10. The POCSO Act of 2012 mandated that a child’s identity and privacy be secured at all phases of the trial, pre-trial, and post-trial because cases might become very public.
  11. Right to compensation: A child’s relief and rehabilitation must be reimbursed.
  12. Right to safety: Whether during or after a trial, the protection of children is essential.

POCSO Act Issues

Sexual assault is a multi-faceted problem. The problem of child sexual abuse gets even more complex. In more ways than one, it is harmful to the child. Along with other factors, it impacts their behaviour, physical health, and mental health. The spread of child abuse has multiplied with the development and accessibility of technology and the internet. Bullying, online harassment, and child pornography are recent issues.

Despite the POCSO Act’s rapid enactment in 2012, its implementation has been sluggish, failing to achieve its intended goal of safeguarding children from various forms of sexual assault. The following is a list of the causes;

  • Conviction Rate: The POCSO legislation has a low conviction rate. Only roughly 32% of all reported cases reach the point of being convicted. Under this act, around 90% of patients are still open.
  • Delay in Judicial Action: According to the Act, all cases must be concluded within a year of the crime’s reporting. A lengthy case like the Kathua Rape case took 16 months to conclude.
  • Discrimination against Children: The rules only consider the biological age, not the mental age, when making assumptions. Consequently, there are numerous age-related difficulties.

Check out the linked article on the Constitution of India for UPSC!

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Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) FAQs

What is a child under Pocso act?

Under the Act the child is described as any person below the age of eighteen years, criminalising any type of sexual relationship with a person below 18 years of age.

What is the Pocso Act 2006?

The Act stipulates 18 years as the minimum marriageable age for women, while for men it is 21 years. The Act punishes child marriage with “rigorous imprisonment which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees or with both.”

What is the age of Pocso children?

The POCSO Act has raised the “age of consent” from sixteen years to eighteen years. Such increase has resulted in consensual sexual activity, where one of the parties is an adolescent being criminalised.

What are the general principles of Pocso act?

• Right to be protected from discrimination.
• Right to special preventive measures.
• Right to be informed.
• Right to be heard and to express views and concerns

What is Section 12 of the Pocso Act?

Section 12 of the POCSO stipulates that whoever commits sexual harassment upon a child shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years"

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